Mahler: Mahler: Symphony No. 3

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WORKS: Mahler: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: RCO Live 10004 (hybrid CD/SACD)


The May Day marchers, forest beasts and morning bell-ringers of Mahler’s most comprehensive symphonic canvas should all let their hair down at times. It’s a fault of Mariss Jansons’s sleek Third Symphony that they’re just too stylish to have a bad hair day. That said, there’s much to admire about the sophisticated Concertgebouw colouration, and how well it works in the fabulous hall as recorded here. You know you’re in good company as the eight horns bellow into resonant space at the start. Muted trumpets cut like a knife. But the intervening bass drum articulation of the same semiquaver triplet rhythm isn’t as clear as it is with Sir Simon Rattle or Claudio Abbado, and the stirrings to brighter life are sleepier than they should be.


In the first three movements, the elegiac tone is moving, starting with a cor anglais solo fit for one of Shostakovich’s symphonic laments. That same melancholic mood naturally dominates in the setting of Nietzsche’s midnight song. The oboe judges the controversial upward cries of nature just right. The cries of a wounded heart come off best in a sometimes over-articulated final hymn to divinity; what a shame Jansons adopts the kind of overdrive at the last climax that marred the slow movement of his Sixth; this one needs more space after what has gone before. Sonically, though, it ranks among the best. David Nice