LABELS: Channel Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Gerhild Romberger (contralto); Cantemus Children’s Choir; Bavarian Radio Chorus; Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CCS SA 38817 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Don’t be put off by the less than cosmic horns at the start of this Third: it goes on to be as vivid a performance as one would expect from this source. That stylishly lazy trombone, a dying monster, is emblematic of the characterising licence the conductor gives to his splendid Budapest players: down to silky, pianissimo double basses and up to poignant piccolo, they underline a relationship that’s developed over the years, one of trust and respect. The flowers of the field and the beasts of the forest have never been more vividly characterised, while Nietzsche’s midnight ode is graced by the contralto of choice for Mahler symphonies at the moment, Gerhild Romberger, and the ladies of the Bavarian Radio Choir and Cantemus Children’s Choir deliver their matutinal bellsong with fresh vitality.
After Bernard Haitink’s recent lofty, objective view of the first movement’s extreme contrasts (Orchestral Choice in the May issue), Fischer takes us back to a more harum-scarum dramatisation. But Haitink’s standards in the final hymn were always going to be hard to beat. I like a slow finale with reasonable forward movement to it, and Fischer certainly sculpts towards shattering peaks and collapses; but it sounds a little self-conscious. Competition is tough, and that ultimately means this doesn’t make the top half-dozen. Always alive, though, always interesting, vivid in sound.