Mahler: Totenfeier

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Totenfeier; Symphony No. 10 – Adagio; Blumine; Symphony No. 3 – ‘What the Wild Flowers Tell Me’ (arr. Britten)
PERFORMER: Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 216 5756

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The ‘four movements’ of this disc’s title betoken neither a collection of your favourite Mahler nor a sequence of newly unearthed discoveries.

Each of Paavo Järvi’s interesting choices, presented in a contestable order, has an independent life of its own, though I doubt if Britten would have expected his paring-down of the Third Symphony’s ‘What the wild flowers tell me’ to survive the needs-must occasion for which it was made; Järvi at any rate brings pin-point delicacy to the wind that shakes the meadow.

The ‘funeral feast’ that soon found a place as the opening movement of the Second Symphony, and which follows the same course until 12 minutes into the movement, receives a stern, solid interpretation that starts with ideal projection from cellos and basses.

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If the collective Frankfurt strings don’t quite have the radiance of the best in the death-hymns of the Tenth’s Adagio, Järvi succeeds better than many other maestros in highlighting the fractures which lead to Mahler’s most agonising dissonance. Curiously, I relished most the ‘Blumine’ movement discarded after early hearings of the First Symphony: once past an ideally cool trumpet solo, there’s a romantic ache here that I haven’t heard in any other performance. The beautifully balanced sound is an absolute pleasure throughout. David Nice