WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Hanna Schwarz (contr.); New London Children’s Choir, Women of the Philharmonia Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 447 051-2 DDD
One Mahler cycle draws to a close in higher spirits than it began, another kicks off with no good omens for the future. I hoped Harmonia Mundi’s new ‘Saison russe’ project would reinstate Svetlanov and his orchestra as the great team they can still be, but neither is on focused form. Russian horns are unlucky to have the first word; the strings sound uncharacteristically undernourished in minuet and scherzo, and wrong notes as well as the occasional wrong entry abound. Svetlanov remains that inscrutable eccentric who sometimes switches to autopilot: ‘What the wild flowers tell me’ is absolutely nothing, at intolerable length, while the posthorn serenader and a faceless midnight mezzo have no room to manoeuvre. Only the suitably cheeky Ostankino Choir ladies and the sumptuous closing bars, cutting through the murk of the recording, banish despondency.
Sinopoli’s delights are less fleeting. Summer’s joyful march has an aptly homespun style; a pity he doesn’t always trust the spaces around it. And a forward-moving finale tends, initially at least, to the matter-of-fact – an interesting alternative to any anticipated preciousness. Above all, this is a reading rich, as ever, in detail and hard to gauge in overall conception, though the Philharmonia brass and woodwind captivate the listener even when the interpretative point remains obscure. David Nice