Magazine article Gramophone

Mahler: Symphony No 7

Magazine article Gramophone

Mahler: Symphony No 7

Article excerpt

Mahler

Symphony No 7

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Michael Gielen

Testament (F) SBT1480 (80' * DDD)

Recorded live at the Philharmonie, Berlin,

September 21, 1994

Mahler

Symphony No 7

Cologne Gurzenich Orchestra / Markus Stenz

Oehms (F) ** OC652 (74' * DDD)

Recorded live at the Philharmonie, Cologne, June 2012

Eighteen years separate live Sevenths from Gielen in Berlin and Stenz in Cologne

In his chapter on the Seventh in The Mahler Companion (OUP: 2002), Peter Revers cites Gielen's interpretation as paradigmatic of that 'modern and progressive' approach which prizes in the symphony those qualities which went unrecognised at its premiere and for years afterwards, as forming 'a study in the extreme diversity of what music might be'. I'd say that approach (right from the off-beat splash of oars, deliberately louder than Mahler's pp marking) remains remarkably consistent across the five performances (broadcast and recorded) I've heard, lasting between 75 (NHK SO, 1977) and 96 minutes (NDR SO, 2008), while having very little in common with the styles of, say, Boulez and Klemperer which those tempo extremes could be said to represent. So tempo doesn't matter? It does and it doesn't.

The speeds that make Markus Stenz's new recording such a jolly romp are further italicised by the heavy tread of the first movement's idyllic interlude and a massive allargando for the finale's peroration, placing the entire symphony within quotation marks and encouraging us to look sideways in the last two movements at just those modes of expression, sentimental and triumphant, which are generally assimiliated without issue in appreciating the Fifth, as if the second and third movements of the Seventh do the job of deconstruction for us. …

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