Mahler: Symphony No. 3

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WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Mihoko Fujimura (mezzo-soprano); Bamberg Symphony/Jonathan Nott


An Englishman conducting a German orchestra goes straight into the top ten of Mahler recordings. Sound familiar? Well, this time Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic cede the gold medal to Jonathan Nott and his Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in the third and so far greatest instalment of their ongoing Mahler cycle. He is as attentive to every dynamic in this extraordinary score as Rattle (with the CBSO), Leonard Bernstein or Claudio Abbado, which means real extremes in the opening canvas. Nott has one even greater asset: a recorded spaciousness which lets every ensemble and solo spiritually resound. That’s in evidence from the first magnificent horn cry, to the infinite depth of the truly noble timpani – magnificent throughout – at the end. Mahler wanted to reclaim the Third, like its predecessor, as pure music after first drafting a detailed programme for the Symphony.


But Nott rejects abstraction, finding tangible vocal expressivitiy in every little counterpoint and detail. Above all, it’s nature that cries out in the dewy-eyed marches of the first movement, the insect buzzes across the meadow of the minuet and the scherzo’s competing woodland voices, all stilled by one nobler than the rest (Markus Meister’s posthorn is loud, unaffected and clear but from a magical distance). Mezzo-soprano Mihoko Fujimura’s voice is mysterious but young and fresh, and complemented by the ideal upward cries from the oboe in the Midnight Song. The great slow-movement finale, a final hurdle at which so many fall, is equally spellbinding – a profound, intense meditation. For me, this recording is right at the top of a list that includes performances under Jascha Horenstein and the conductors mentioned above. David Nice