MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 (1991)

by | Jun 25, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 (1991)

Performers: Bernard Haitink conducting The Berlin Philharmonic; Florence Quivar, contralto; Tölzer Knabenchor; Ernst-Senff-Chor
Studio: Philips 074 3132 (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
No region coding
Extras: Mahler Gallery; Mahler Chronology; 24-page booklet with libretto
Length: 108 minutes
Rating: ****

This is part of a Mahler cycle which Haitink performed with the Berlin Philharmonic  in 1991 and had produced for video in the Philharmonie in Berlin in live performance. The other symphonies in the series available on Philips DVDs are the First, Second, Fourth and Seventh. While the visuals are standard full screen format, the original two-channel tapes of the live concert have been processed at the Emil Berliner Studios using their Ambient Sound Imaging process (AMSI-II), which recreates the original stereo as a 5.1 surround sound mix.

The series was a massive project, and the Third is one of the most massive of the symphonies – with six movements. Haitink is usually shown on the podium against a dramatic inky black background.  He appears completely involved in the music, sometimes with his eyes closed, but not nearly as stone-faced as on other concert videos I have viewed of him. There are many closeups of various brass and woodwind soloists, and even the xylophonist. A mic cable bisects the screen right in front of Haitink in many of the shots of him; looking something like a vertical scratch on the film it is quite distracting. (Perhaps it would not be noticed on a smaller screen.)

At about 36 minutes, the first movement is the longest initial movement Mahler ever composed for his symphonies. Contralto Quivar is not heard until the short fourth movement, with words by Nietzsche.  Her delivery is rich and full, beautifully supported by the orchestra.  The children’s chorus and women’s chorus hold sway in the fifth of the six movements, with references to Jesus and the Ten Commandments (which seem interesting bedfellows next to Nietzsche).  The playing is of course superb, and while the visuals occasionally are not in the sharpest focus and suffer from some “red push,” they are workable.  The pseudo-surround processing is quite successful in accommodating the spacious musical needs of this Mahler symphony, and it was one derived-surround effort where I didn’t need to raise the level on the surround channels for the best effect. The Mahler photos and illustrations are similar to what has been included on several other Mahler videos, including the Utah Symphony DVD-As.

 – John Sunier

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