Mahler: Symphony No. 7

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Simax
WORKS: Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Oslo PO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1271

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 Burgeoning small-label releases of live orchestral performances leave us with a strange coincidence here: two CDs featuring Mariss Jansons in Mahler’s Seventh, but with different orchestras and recorded seven years apart. For all his rigorous training, the Oslo Philharmonic was never going to be quite up to the standard of the great central European orchestras, and apart from a better tenor tuba player in the solo at the start of the symphony, the Bavarians have the edge in every department.

Jansons has also curbed his extremes since the 2000 Oslo performance. I’m still not quite
easy with his battle between hectic and unduly slow in the first movement, but the lyrical subject group, while it never goes with the sweep Mahler had in mind, works better with the sympathetic strings of the Bavarian Radio SO. The first ‘nightmusic’ in both cases benefits from the hard work of Jansons the soundmaster, with downward plunges phenomenally clear and luminous woodwind trilling; but the central ghosts’ high noon sounds more atmospherically shadowy in Munich and the moonlit serenade is more inclined to sing.

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Both accounts of the Rondo-Finale make the best possible case for Mahler’s clear-sighted depiction of communal exuberance. There’s no sense of one more round dance too many towards the end, since Jansons’s judgment in tempo co-ordinations is superb here, and while the Bavarian trumpets ring out their high Cs more fearlessly than their Oslo counterparts, I sense an even greater sense of underlying live excitement in the earlier version. The engineering in both cases is superb: Simax give us an astonishingly resonant tam-tam, BR Klassiks capture the full warmth of the Bavarian ensemble with its gorgeous brass edge in SACD sound. I’ll be keeping both for the five-star finales, but the BRSO Seventh is the best all round. David Nice