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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 7 (Michael Gielen)


Composer: Gustav Mahler
  1. Symphony No. 7 in E minor: I. Langsam - Allegro risoluto, ma non troppo
  2. Symphony No. 7 in E minor: II. Nachtmusik I. Allegro moderato
  3. Symphony No. 7 in E minor: III. Scherzo. Schattenhaft
  4. Symphony No. 7 in E minor: IV. Nachtmusik II. Andante amoroso
  5. Symphony No. 7 in E minor: V. Rondo - Finale

SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg
Michael Gielen, conductor
Date: 1993
Label: Hänssler Classic (originally recorded by Intercord)




This performance, originally released in 1993 on the Intercord label, stands as the highpoint in Michael Gielen’s excellent and still ongoing Mahler cycle. Gielen captures the music’s Mahlerian essence, with all its cultivated rawness, and projects it through the stylistically attuned playing of the SWR Baden-Baden orchestra. By focusing on the critical elements of rhythm and pulse, Gielen makes the sprawling first movement refreshingly cohesive without sacrificing any of its disjointed, dualistic character. Indeed, Gielen delights in the music’s quirks, with brass playing (especially the all-important trombones) at once swaggering and sonorous.

Gielen’s careful consideration of Mahler’s orchestral coloring delineates the shifting and shadowy moods of Nachtmusik I, while elucidating the subtly varied timbres of Nachtmusik II, here taken at a blissfully flowing pace. The scherzo receives one of its finest performances on disc–deliciously macabre, with vividly caterwauling winds that almost make you want to throw your shoe at the clarinets.

Gielen looks the discursive finale squarely in the eye and unashamedly revels in the movement’s blazing euphony and formal excesses (the SWR’s spectacular woodwind playing deserves special mention here), bringing the symphony to a joyfully clangorous close. The well balanced, tonally rich and dynamic recording sounds freshly minted in Hänssler’s new mastering. Bernstein’s recordings remain essential for their uncanny realization of Mahler’s most profound idiosyncrasies, but Gielen’s masterful evocation joins a very select group of top-flight Sevenths. Indispensable! [2/27/2002]

-- Victor Carr JrClassicsToday

More reviews:

Tony Duggan's survey of recordings of Mahler Symphony No. 7


Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. In his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, but his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of neglect. After 1945, Mahler became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. Mahler's œuvre is relatively small. Aside from early works, most of his are very large-scale works, designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists.


Michael Gielen (born 20 July 1927 in Dresden, Germany) is an Austrian conductor and composer. He began his career as a pianist in Buenos Aires, where he studied with Erwin Leuchter. He was principal conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra (1969–73), the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1980–86) and of the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (1986–99), which he has been closely associated with since. He has demonstrated a mastery of the most complex contemporary scores, and he has given many premières, including György Ligeti's Requièm. As a composer, Gielen has elaborated on the tradition of the Second Viennese School. He retired from conducting in 2014.


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