Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
An assertive, often driving Third from the Soviet Union
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 04/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm sure that I'm not the only record collector who has postponed listening to Mahler from Russia, even under an esteemed conductor like Kiril Kondrashin. I always feared that the Moscow Phil. would play Mahler like Shostakovich, with rough edges, brawn over finesse, and a lack of Viennese style. And so they do in this Mahler 3rd (which Amazon shows as unavailable, but it can be had online or in various Melodiya issues). Nobody should come close to this recording who identifies with Karajan's smooth, ultra-sophisticated performances. The good news is that Kondrashin puts an individual stamp on the symphony, so lovers of Bernstein's approach will be intrigued.
The first movement of the Third is so massive that few conductors can do much more than stand back and direct traffic, but Kondrashin sets a tough, propulsive course, with abrut accents and little regard for tenderness. Somehow this suits a bleak Soviet view of the world (I know I'[m projecting), and his Moscow forces play with commitment and a fair degree of skill. In addition, the sonics as downloaded from Napster are more than acceptable.
After the rough march of the opening movement, Kondrashin isn't likely to be delicate in the Scherzando second movement. It's true, he eschews delicacy for straight-ahead momentum, but the mood isn't coarse or impatient. Like Bernstein, Kondrashin has points to make in nearly every bar, which is of primary importance if you want to keep the listener's attention (this lsitener, at least). There are enough idiosyncratic touches here to remind one of Scherchen. The third movement is based on a Wunderhorn song, which prompts most conductors to make it bucolic and jolly -- not Kondrashin, who rushes in headlong and asks for no nature painting or birdcalls. It's an eccentric viewpoint but effective on its own unsentimental terms. Kondrashin makes a mistake, though, by not slowing down for the dreamy, hauanting posthorn solo. There's too much sustained hysteria.
There's no relaxation in the fourth movement, which Kondrashin pushes rather relentlessly. The (unnamed but excellent) mezzo has a forceful voice, and her approach to Neitzsche's "O Moensch" poem is not so much elegaic as sternly warning. by this point Kondrashin's assertiveness has begun to wear thin, and the total lack of nuance in the fifth movement, combined with a hearty choir, evokes a peasant harvest song -- not Mahl'ers intention.
Performances of the Mahlr Third rise or fall on the Adagio finale, a precursor to the Ninth and almost as moving. Kondrashin's 20-min. timing is fast enough to feel impatient, but thre's room for sn interpretation that emphasizes flowing song over rapt inwardness. It's fitting that Kondrashin keeps up his intent to the very end, even if his account lacks in repose. Overall, his Third is never less than intriguing, a fascinating look at a time when Mahler was just beginning to be felt in Russia.