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Symphony 3
Mahler, Lang, Cgb
Symphony 3
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (3) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #2

There are lots of excellent Mahler 3rds in the catalogue, and a few great ones. Chailly's is one of the great ones. He leads this all-encompassing work with mastery of structure, close attention to the score?s plentiful in...  more »


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All Artists: Mahler, Lang, Cgb, Chailly
Title: Symphony 3
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Decca
Release Date: 5/11/2004
Genre: Classical
Style: Symphonies
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 028947551423

There are lots of excellent Mahler 3rds in the catalogue, and a few great ones. Chailly's is one of the great ones. He leads this all-encompassing work with mastery of structure, close attention to the score?s plentiful instructions, and brings out the orchestral details that often go missing. He also has the benefit of a great Mahler orchestras. the Royal Concertgebouw, whose playing here is beyond praise. The fabulous Dutch winds have never sounded better, investing their many solo turns with idiomatic perfection. The important brass section is weighty, the posthorn solo done with moving lyricism. The strings are simply radiant, as is the chorus and the important vocal contribution of mezzo Petra Lang. The engineers match the playing, providing sound that's thrilling in its impact and presence in both SACD and standard CD. A bonus is Chailly's expert reading of Mahler's arrangement of movements from Bach's 2nd and 3rd Suites. If you love Mahler, you must have this set, even if your shelves are bulging with other versions of the Mahler 3rd. --Dan Davis

CD Reviews

A long rave about a landmark recording
MartinP | Nijmegen, The Netherlands | 05/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Only too rarely you come across a recording that hits you instantly with the realization that it is something really, really special; something that will stand as a shining beacon and a merciless touchstone for years, even decades to come; something that is far beyond being merely the next interpretation of a much recorded piece, but that seems to touch the heart and the essence of the music in an unprecedented way. If you're looking at this page, you have found such a recording.
Over the last few weeks I immersed myself in Mahler's Third, a work of which I accumulated a fair batch of recordings over the years. Inbal with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra (Denon), Haitink with the BPO (Philips) and Bernstein with the NYP (DG) have been on my shelves for a while now. Recently, several interesting readings were added: Salonen with the LA Phil (Sony), Boulez with the VPO (DG), Zander with the Philharmonia (Telarc), and now this latest arrival: Chailly with the Koninklijk Concertgebouw Orkest.
Listening to it, the others, notwithstanding their many merits, suddenly seem to be missing the point completely. They may be subtle and well-considered (Zander); viscerally exiting (Bernstein - also rather crude); majestically severe (Haitink); a study in extraordinary sound effects (Boulez); a showcase of orchestral virtuosity (Salonen); or just decent and upright middle of the road music-making (Inbal) - but they do not tap the deeper veins of this phenomenal, almost mythical vision as Chailly and his team do. Right from the start, when the Concertgebouw ambience for once allows you to hear that these are EIGHT horns barging in, I was swept from my feet. The music communicates so powerfully that you just take the phenomenal orchestral playing for granted. Yet the magic of this performance is of course generated by all that the Concertgebouw players can conjure from their instruments (and is then lovingly wrapped up in the sublime acoustics of their hall). Listen to the clarinets, to mention just one example: they seem to adopt a different voice to fit every different movement; balmy and soothing in the Minuet, folksy and insolent in the fifth movement. The trombone soloist in the first movement (who, shamefully, is not credited in the booklet - Ivan Meylemans?) finds unparalleled nuances of expression in his long laments. The horns cannot only produce mellow singing, they can bray as well. There is endless shifting of colour and atmosphere as Chailly carefully moulds and shapes an individual character for each movement. He succeeds completely in keeping the bizarre collage of the first movement together, and clearly delights in its many absurdities. By taking the third movement a little faster than most he infuses it with agitation and a sense of foreboding, separating it clearly from the Minuet and turning it into a natural bridge to the more troubled world of humanity (again, the excellent posthorn soloist is not credited). But there is never the sense of hurrying through that starts to bother me on closer acquaintance with Salonen's reading. And, oh my (or rather, O Mensch), then Petra Lang starts singing. There are no words to describe it - her first syllable seems to waft in from the Other Side itself; the atmosphere is so compelling that you easily overcome a passing suspicion that some words are sung ever so slightly flat. Meanwhile you can actually hear the undulating septuplets from the celli, and the oboe finds a solution to Mahler's impossible demand for a glissando that is as good a `Naturlaut' as any, without lapsing into the intrusive extremes made fashionable by Rattle.
The fifth movement is `keck' indeed, the powerful singing of the choruses punctuated by the persistent rhythm of the opening tune, that bounces through the orchestra almost throughout. The climax, that sudden gathering of clouds, is harrowing, and the choir swells tremendously - reminding us that Mahler preferred to perform this piece with 400 singers.
Like several movements in this work, this one too ends on a fermata that Mahler wants `lange'. Yet most conductors barely extend it beyond a full bar. Chailly does, producing uncanny suspense and making the transition into the glorious adagio as heartrending as it can be. The sustained inwardness of the Finale's first pages is breathtaking and will definitely sustain a lump in your throat. The slow, final buildup is captivating and exhilarating, but never forfeits the innate nobility of this piece the way it does with some others.
Chailly's meticulous attention to dynamic markings is a key to the success of this version. Every accent, every smallest ebb and swell, is faithfully played as written, breathing life into the music. Of course, Decca can be trusted to record all this to perfection - there is ample detail and the balancing is almost perfect (the harps may be a little forward at times, and the double basses just a tad too distant?); in fact, this disc is very much in the demonstration class (though there is one nasty glitch at nr. 6 in the third movement, where for a brief, unsettling moment the first violins suddenly move to the opposite side of the stage...).
It is kind of the company to offer a fill-up as well, though Mahler's peculiar potpourri of Bach is of musicohistorical rather than musical interest, I would say - an exercise in changing tastes, though possibly also a healthy antidote for `authenticized' ears?
It has been a very long time since I heard a recording that had me gasping with so many delights, while at the same time drawing me into the music so completely. It simply left me staggering with joy. This is, in my humble opinion, the only recording of this piece you will ever need."
Landlords beware...
offeck | New York, NY -- United States of America | 06/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's like a shouting contest! I've never heard the first movement done so amazingly well, infused with so much color and life, so perfectly phrased and balanced and paced -- all the wonderful dark colors are beautifully apparent, and so much tender loving care is taken in each instrumental solo. I have more than a few recordings of this work (Bernstein, Solti, Leinsdorf, Horenstein, Boulez, Salonen, Tilson Thomas, Tennstedt, Mitropoulos, Abbado) and have listened again to all of them since getting this disc just to verify my admiration for this performance and to reconfirm this as my new recording of preference. The second and third movement are wonderful. Petra Lang (unknown to me until now) does the best I've ever heard for the fourth and fifth movements. The final (sixth) movement has never before made me cry -- it's really gorgeous, done more well in more ways than anybody other. I really can't recommend these discs highly enough... The bonus/filler is Mahler arranged Bach Orchestral Suite miscellany -- good performances, interesting, but it's the spectacular symphony that'll have me coming back again and again."
A Mahler 3rd both luminous in sound and as seeing the way be
David H. Spence | Houston, TX | 05/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As part of a series of Mahler recordings that has seldom been very engaging as of yet and what I may have assumed was just a recording of Three to finish a cycle, this release has had me for the most part scratching my head in disbelief. The Third Symphony of Mahler, perhaps more than any of his other most lengthy symphonies, has attracted poseurs, who seem to get by relatively unscathed by taking it on. More trouble usually ensues from taking on either the Second, one of the middle symphonies or Ninth.

Whereas when Chailly has tended to draw heavily upon the luminosity of sound he can get out of Concertgebouw, the ultimate impression left with the listener has been one of lyrical passivity, here it becomes for him at least more of a means to enhance his putting forth the exploratory and progressive aspects of the Third Symphony, than not.

Chailly has very specific ideas about the Third Symphony, thoroughly preconceived, absorbed and worked out, with idyllic playing from the Concertgebouw, with perhaps on purpose a little Slavic tint to the sound (making one think of Chailly's new assignment to Leipzig) in what is top form for this ensemble at least nowadays. The tonal richness and mystery of this interpretation seems to invoke the tradition of the symphonic poems of Liszt, in contrast to the more obviously Dionysian strivings and bombast, in so invoking allusions to Liszt, of the successful, yet more positively, classically conceived Solti/CSO recording twenty years ago.

Among slow, broadly paced first movements, this is in the stereo/digital era the most effective one I have heard yet. There are risks taken here, just most of which pay off. Seldom has it been that the portrayal of nature in its frozen, inchoate state has built up for itself as convincing illusion as here. The concept built here Chailly seldom breaks from beginning of the movement to the end, in all the gradual process, as heard here, of the breaking free from this state - more gradual and poetic than on any other recording I have heard. By contrast, Abbado/Vienna PO is also very slow for both outer movements, yet every detail, beautiful as one might find many, is spotlit to the extent that most sense of line and form is lost. Chailly again only seems to get momentarily derailed in the storm retransition by pushing it a little too hard and letting ensemble go a bit awry; this lapse taken within, but only within the larger or grander scheme of things however ultimately seems to make nearly perfect formal sense and logic.

Chailly makes liberty for the bucolic good cheer of some of this music to burst forth, most notably in the upper winds as the 'summer marching in' at 13 minutes in is on the cusp of entering one of its more climactic phases, and then the open, almost brash revelry from a full complement of horns (16:32) right before a particularly plaintive trombone arioso midway in (and beautifully played by Ivan Meylemans). So it also goes in the rowdy wind playing for the Rabble episode and battery of fanfares that jubilantly close the first movement, so much in contrast with the feeling of stasis of what has preceded - the illusion of no movement early in the piece but with line beautifully sustained throughout. Alexander Kerr's concertmaster solos, including duet with principal horn, are handled sublimely, on one or two occasions, following a moment of insecurity or two in string tremoli. No documentation that it is Kerr, as opposed to Vesko Eschkenazi, but I make a good educated guess here (and had the luxury of meeting Kerr en route backstage in Cincinnati the weekend he was appointed there, two years before his move to Amsterdam).

Anything that one could further ask for is a little more resolute quality to a few rhythms, especially in the major seventh triplet fanfares in the trumpets, but accompanying rhythms are always very solid underneath, and deep sonorities always indulged to the best purposes. Low pedal points, for instance, in contrast to very light sonorities spaced very high above, are all recorded, with everything else, so well here to be sublime.

A relaxed, but never dragging pace takes over the opening movement of Part Two of the symphony. The Mendelssohnian tracery of middle sections is all captured in high relief, including a little of a demonic quality to muted trumpet intonations and chords beneath five minutes in. Drowsy triplets from high flutes and strings are also sublime, and inform a perfect, entirely naive and believed ending to fairy tale in sound.

Much bucolic good cheer naturally informs all of the third movement, contrasted with sweet but hardly ever sentimentalized posthorn solos (Fritz Damrow). The Beethoven Fifth parody for the trio sections is played with equal relish, and the awkward downward chromatic octave runs in the brass succinctly integrated into the whole, practically as skillfully as on a live Van Beinum recording I have just become acquainted with, and which has remained in my mind's ear while listening to all this recording. Van Beinum is a little more open, vulgar, about some rustic carousing, gestures he draws out of his strings, but Chailly isn't far behind.

Petra Lang runs Maureen Forrester (on both the Van Beinum and soon to be reissued Haitink) a very close second for the two vocal movements. The quiet mystery achieved and with perfectly achieved natural upward portamenti from solo oboe (a practice I do not favor, from the results I have heard on other recent recordings), orchestrally, is aurally arresting, and allows Lang's plaintive solos ample room to blossom in the most facile way possible. Chailly plays the fifth movement robustly, but with no lack of charm, and with both facile and distinctive separation between imported Prague women and local based childrens' choral groups.

The crowning glory here is the final Adagio, which Chailly plays moderately and with perfectly realized hymnal solemnity and mystery, eclipsing what his two Dutch predecessors have simply achieved here. Somewhat unusually, but entirely right is that Chailly makes more out of the first of the two biggest climaxes in this movement, the great striving up to it reflecting back on the first two symphonies, whereas usually the nodal point (and the loudest moment in the finale up to that point) immediately preceding the flute/piccolo solos that usher in the coda does. The coda is sustained in such a way that none of it all the way to the end or any of what has preceded it is played for bombast. Strongly enough enunciated references the Weh motif (from Klagende Lied, used in the first two symphonies) is also made sublime. He also spells out very naturally thematic and complementary harmonic spacing links with the closing Adagio of the Ninth.

The Bach Suite, with crisply articulated continuo (composed by Mahler) by Annelie de Man and resonant organ accompanying (Richard Ram) makes for icing on the cake. Mahler's mastery of polyphony, when he wrote the Third wasn't near as complete as after he started writing the Ruckert symphonies. He waited until after the Ninth to compile this suite of excerpts from Bach's Second and Third Orchestral Suites. Chailly lushes out his sonorities and points rhythms in respectful manner, all for one movement in beautiful homage to the memory of Willem Mengelberg, who first recorded eighty years ago the Mahler Air on G String with the orchestra for whom the suite was written - the New York Philharmonic. Chailly almost makes it seem that this set or the journey on which he has led us would not be complete without inclusion of the Bach as afterthought. As later in life Bach's critics increasingly made his music out to be too conservative, its means of technique and expression revealed the path ahead for composers several to many generations later, Mahler no exception.

Like Sinopoli on DGG, who finds so much deconstructionist logic to the form and expression of the Third Symphony, in so effectively putting it across, Chailly also pushes the bar a considerable distance further out than do other interpreters, in presenting it as well. It is such a challenge that the composer himself would have welcomed having us face as we listen to his music, in either case, and why this set, in addition to the Sinopoli (not available separately now), gets my highest possible rating.