LABELS: Oehms Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler: Symphony No. 7
WORKS: Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Gurzenich-Orchester Köln/Markus Stenz
CATALOGUE NO: OC 652
Markus Stenz’s Cologne Mahler Symphony cycle, nearing its completion, has been the most experimental and in many ways the most revelatory of the past few years. It’s now reached this most unpredictable of all the Mahler Symphonies. A test-case for orchestral and recorded sound, the Seventh has had plenty of hard-working advocates recently – Riccardo Chailly and Mariss Jansons in Amsterdam, Jonathan Nott in Bamberg, Michael Tilson Thomas in San Francisco and, most outstanding of all but on DVD only, Claudio Abbado with his superlative Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
It speaks volumes for what Stenz has achieved with the always Mahler-friendly Gürzenich Orchestra that their daylight, Meistersinger-on-acid finale is as tumultuously liable to lose its balance, while never quite doing so, as Abbado’s. The brass, with first trumpeter splendid from the start, keeps its head; personable wind and lilting strings offer quirky charm. The very different night-processionals of the first two movements are keenly focused and coralled against luminous landscapes; the scherzo delivers vivid shocks and slaps and the mechanical serenade of the second nightmusic asks all the right questions at a brisk pace. Above all, Stenz makes no moves unlicensed by the demanding score, and his ear for immaculate balances is reflected in a recording which keeps everything in natural perspectives. There are a couple of tuning and turning blips from the characterful tenor horn and the first horn, but they hardly matter. You need more than one recording of this extraordinary Janus-headed work in your library, and this should be among them.