Mahler: Symphony No. 7; Symphony No. 10 (Adagio)

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COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Symphony No. 7; Symphony No. 10 (Adagio)
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Bernard Haitink
CATALOGUE NO: 434 997-2 DDD
Conductor Gilbert Kaplan has dedicated much of his life to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, but for many of us the ambiguous Seventh is the one which can never yield up all its secrets. Too exposed in its forward-looking scoring to let sloppy preparation pass muster, it has had few, if any, mediocre recordings.

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Both these newcomers should serve as good companions on repeated listening. Haitink and the Concertgebouw had already recorded the symphony twice; so while Bernard has had to start afresh in Berlin – it sometimes shows – Chailly has been able to hone Concertgebouw nuances and textures to glinting perfection.

With Chailly, the evocative first ‘Night-music’ and the haunted ballroom Scherzo have more atmosphere, as well as more woodwind character. Haitink’s initial gearing up for the morbid first-movement marching, as well as his more detached blend of moonshine and menace in the Andante amoroso, reveal the greater experience. The Berlin brass sound uniquely brilliant at the start of the problematic finale, but Haitink’s inclination to take those ceremonials at Meistersingerish face value worked better with his more amiable Amsterdamers, who now so brilliantly reflect Chailly’s contemporary sense of irony.

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Chailly’s choice of companion piece should definitely have the edge. The Dutch composer Alphons Diepenbrock’s setting of one of Nietzsche’s apostrophes to nature initially shares the selectively scored gloom of Mahler’s near-contemporary symphony before the textures thicken in time-honoured, late Romantic style. Chailly encourages the Concertgebouw and baritone Håkan Hagegård to sustain luminous, clear-balanced faith.