SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 – Birgit Remmert / Schweizer Kammerchor / Zürcher Sangerknaben / Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich / David Zinman – RCA Red Seal

The Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra rises to the challenge of this enormous work with great credit and David Zinman’s cool, clear-headed approach lets the music breathe.

Published on February 16, 2009

MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 – Birgit Remmert / Schweizer Kammerchor / Zürcher Sangerknaben / Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich / David Zinman – RCA Red Seal

MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 – Birgit Remmert / Schweizer Kammerchor / Zürcher Sangerknaben / Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich / David Zinman – RCA Red Seal multichannel 2-SACDs  88697129182, 100:51 ****1/2:

Gustav Mahler began composing the Third Symphony in the summer of 1895 in his little studio by side of the Attersee. Scored for a slightly smaller orchestra than that used for the Second, in conception and length it is the more adventurous. Inspired by his surroundings – from lifeless minerals and rocks through flora and fauna to mankind – Mahler has the symphony end with his paean to love.  The first performance of part of the symphony (the second, third and sixth movements) took place under Felix Weingartner in 1897 and was not well received. The whole work had to wait until 1902 for a first performance, this time under the composer, this time warmly welcomed. The movements originally had titles but Mahler had removed them before the work was published in 1898. The seventh movement was also discarded earlier, later to become the fourth one of the Fourth Symphony.

Zinman brings out all the components of the long first movement without forcing details at the expense of attention to line.  At nearly 35 minutes, this movement is on the expansive side; indeed, the huge climaxes are given time to expand. The second movement depicting local flora is highlighted by the Zurich orchestra’s excellent wind playing; the third, an unhurried scherzo, has Mahler’s depiction of fauna, the twittering curlicues of bird calls making an impression, and the offstage posthorn sounding superb.

Birgid Remmert opens the fourth movement’s “O Mensch! Gib Acht!” touchingly; a fine singer, she gets the words across with intelligence and the mystery of this movement comes over with much success. The Schweizer Kammerchor and Zürcher Sangerknaben are very impressive indeed in the angels’ song, the Bimm Bamms sung with youthful vigour and the darker episode about St. Peter’s weeping quite moving. The last movement, Mahler’s ode to love originally titled “What Love Tells Me”, is again extremely well-paced. Mahler himself wrote: ”In the Adagio everything is resolved into peace and being; the Ixion wheel of appearances has at last been brought to a standstill.” The final hymn communicates much nobility of gesture here.

The Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra rises to the challenge of this enormous work with great credit and David Zinman’s cool, clear-headed approach lets the music breathe. Recording quality is quite superb; many readers will recognise the names of Simon Eadon and Chris Hazell as recording engineer and producer from other projects. The acoustics of the Tonhalle are apt for such a work and the grand climaxes are allowed to expand greatly in the space while the long passages of sparse orchestration allow every detail to shine through. If the upper strings do not have the rich warmth of their Wiener or Berliner neighbours, the performance as a whole can stilll be recommended enthusiastically.

– Peter Joelson




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