MAHLER: Symphony No.7 – Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Mariss Jansons – BR Klassik multichannel SACD 403571900101, 77:31 [Distr. By Naxos] ****:
“Hardly any of Mahler’s symphonies gives the hearer so little external assistance toward deeper understanding as does the Seventh,” writes Vera Baur for this release from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO)’s new house label, BR Klassik. Captured live from concert performances in March 8th-9th 2007, the BRSO and its Chief Conductor Mariss Jansons are heard here in top panache. For those who has yet the opportunity to experience music-making in this partnership, this live performance from the Philharmonie im Gasteig in Munich can certainly provide a close approximation to why this ensemble remains one of the most celebrated on the concert platform today.
In fact, it was only very recently, one month after this BR Klassik release to be exact, when the Norwegian label Simax Records released an alternative live performance of the Mahler Seventh with Maestro Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. In both readings, the musicians took great care to shape each individual phrases, outlining the shades of color and emphasizing those unique combination of instruments as heard, for example, in the second Nachtmusik between the harp, guitar and mandolin. Moreover, there is a clear consistency in these two interpretations, particularly their distinctions to musically express how darkness brings forth to light, how a dark minor main theme can transform into a glowing major one. The success in both readings may lie in their common denominator, that is, in the ability of Maestro Jansons to convince us with a vision in this music that both ensembles share with a mutual understanding. As a result, both performances are musically expansive – both start off with a meditative Adagio opening, the mysterious sounds and mumours of the first Nachtmusik are then introduced under a cohort of sweet string-playing. This introduction gives rise to the spooky Scherzo that follows, and progresses into a blissful nocturnal serenade of the second Nachtmusik. The “darkness” of this music is ultimately brought to a positive resolution in the Finale, and it is here in the final movement that distinguishes the BR Klassik version from the Simax reading. The Rondo-Finale, a rare music form in Mahler’s oeuvre, is brought out by the BRSO like a blazing beam of light, both jubilant and glorious in spirit, which can be aided, in part, by the high recording quality format in the former case.|
The choice in Maestro Jansons to record this Mahler Seventh twice with two separate Orchestras may lie not only in his admiration of this work, but also in the unique features of this Symphony. What may be these features that distinguish the Seventh from its predecessors? Perhaps, it is the fact that Mahler provided no programme for the Seventh, except some guiding references in the Nachtmusiken. This unbound limit ironically gives listeners the greatest ease and pleasure in appreciating this music at its fullest. Focusing on the music becomes the major objective when one engages in the listening. Moreover, the creative variety in music forms and harmonic writing far exceed the standards of the 20th century, and some scholars have argued that existent tonal system in his time nearly came to total collapse as a result of Mahler’s Seventh. Ever since, Mahler’s Seventh has been one of many fine examples that intrigued musicians, one was Arnold Schöenberg himself. “Expressionism” was seeded by Mahler in the Seventh, suggested Schöenberg, and in this regard, Mahler has found himself an avid proponent under the interpretations of Mariss Jansons.
A major asset in the recording quality of this BR Klassik release lies in the “natural balance” sound fulfilled by both hi-resolution stereo and surround modes. There is currently a lack of recorded performances of this work available in the visual formats of DVD or Blu-ray. Perhaps, the success of this Mahler Seventh performance highlighted by the BRSO/Jansons collaboration may intrigue BR Klassik to release a special “Rehearsal and Concert Performance” edition of this Mahler Seventh in other interactive formats for classical music aficionados, especially Mahler fans.
— Patrick P.L. Lam