MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 cond. by Chailly, Blu-ray (2015) 

by | Nov 10, 2015 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 cond. by Chailly, Blu-ray (2015) 

Performers: Gewandhaus Orch./ Riccardo Chailly (Recorded live at Gewandhaus zu Leipzig, 27–28 Feb. & 2 March 2014)
Studio: Accentus Music ACC10309 (9/1/15)  [Dist. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1080i HD color
Sound: DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM Stereo
Languages: German, English, Japanese, Chinese
No Region Code
Length: 83:35
Rating: ****

The Mahler 7th Symphony tends to confound critics, historians and listeners. It’s a symphony with many conflicting interpretations, and that includes differing performances of the symphony, of which there are many. Lengths of recordings of it range from 68 to 100 minutes. The work uses “progressive tonality,” which is quite complex.

This new Blu-ray from Accentus Music features the renowned Mahler interpreter, Riccardo Chailly, and his disc is a continuation of a complete Mahler cycle on video with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, recorded in Leipzig. The 7th Symphony was completed in 1905, and first performed in 1908 in Prague. Mahler himself described the piece as ‘primarily cheerful in character’, and that description has also garnered much debate. [Some probably due to the two rather eerie “Nachtmusik” movements…Ed.]

Some find Chailly a bit ‘detached’ when conducting Mahler. His 7th is taken at a fairly slow pace, but Chailly likes to focus on the compositional qualities of the work, rather than adding extra emotion which he doesn’t think the piece merits. I find nothing at all wrong with his interpretation. Chailly has great command of this excellent orchestra, and his take on the symphony is as valid as any.

When I have a video of a concert to review, I find it’s best to do at least one listen with just the audio running to really concentrate on the music, both performance and recording. Musically, it’s a precise and error-free performance, recorded in front of a live audience, where editing of errors is next to impossible.

The DTS MA 5.1 sound is really excellent. The orchestra forms a seamless image between the stereo speakers, with the surrounds reserved for ambiance and the sound of applause at the end of the performance. Somehow, the engineers were able to completely mask any extraneous sounds from the audience (coughs, paper shuffling) so one can listen without distraction.

The video itself is fine, and the director can match the instruments’ appearance to the score, but after awhile these video concerts all start looking the same. Still, it’s a better view than from the hall. Someday, someone will find a more engaging way to visually capture these concerts.

My only complaint is that this is a bare bones release. No extras, as were provided on Chailly’s Mahler 5th and 9th. You get the symphony, and some trailers.

Criticism aside, this is a superb performance. I think Chailly gets Mahler ‘right’ in this and his other recordings. Accentus gives us a marvelous natural sounding recording, and the musicians are fully committed to this interesting and controversial work. Recommended!

—Mel Martin