Mahler Symphony No.7

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gustav Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No.7
PERFORMER: Bamberg Symphony/Jonathan Nott

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Mahler’s Symphony No. 7, with its haunting orchestral colours, never seems to enjoy a less than immaculately prepared interpretation on disc these days, and Jonathan Nott’s is the latest in a hard-to-choose-from field. Every Bamberg soloist, from the artistic tenor horn solo right at the start, is given room to breathe; it helps that Nott takes measured steps with the first two movements’ nocturnal parades, steering the first by careful degrees to a masterful climax at the two-thirds mark. The human touch between all that marching registers shyly as introspective chamber music, while the trios of the two ‘night musics’ are luminously distinguished by trilling woodwind and an especially expressive cello solo.

Hieronymous Bosch-like monsters duly creep and burp through the macabre central waltz, and there’s more shadowy menace than usual between the lines of the fourth movement’s ever-fascinating clockwork serenade. Whether or not you believe in the sudden garish sunshine of the finale’s civic carnival, you have to admire the way Nott and the Bambergers negotiate the hurly-burly with supreme skill; the balance between ordered chorales, teasingly gracious minuets and those moments where the stateliness totters is ideal. As with other instalments in this Mahler cycle, the sound is free and natural, helping with textures that range from shrilly penetrating to gruff and baleful, laying on the bells justifiably thick in the final gallimaufry. This performance may not be quite as incandescent as the same team’s recent Third Symphony, but it’s still well up to the overall standards of Bamberg’s Mahlerian success story.

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David Nice