Mahler: Symphony No. 3.

Foremost on this recording is the clean playing, which emerges well in the solid acoustics of the recording. A “live” recording made in September 2007 at the Barbican, London, the sound has the qualities of a traditional studio recording, with any ambient sounds minimal at best. More than that, Mahler’s colorful orchestration is captured effectively, starting with the various tone colors of the first movement, the large-scale introduction and march with which the piece begins. Here the solo sections seem prominent, and in his interpretation Gergiev has allowed various performers a comfortable amount of time with their solos. The oboe is more languid than other conductors offer, and the trombone, to cite another example, has plenty of time for the various solo lines. These interpretive decisions contribute to the length of this performance, which treats the various sections of the score individually, with the whole coming together near the end of the performance. Lasting just over 32 minutes, this recording of the first movement offers a spacious reading, which is issued as the first of the two discs in the set.
The remaining movements of the Symphony are found on the second disc, and occupy about 70 minutes, with the entire work being 92 minutes. The slow movement, Mahler’s Tempo di menuetto, receives a meditative reading in Gergiev’s hands, with the approach sometimes challenging the phrase structure of the music. A similar approach occurs in the Scherzo, with the “Posthorn” nicely played, but somewhat more extended in the context of the entire work. The result is certainly clear playing, but the benefit of the technical clarity sometimes challenges the cohesiveness of the structure of the movement.
At the same time, this recording includes a well-considered interpretation of the fourth movement, Mahler’s setting of a text from Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra in the movement once entitled “What the night tells me.” Anna Larsson delivers a well-considered interpretation of the piece, which is underscored by an atmospheric accompaniment. Larsson’s sustained pitches are reminiscent of her fine performances of Brang‰ne in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, particularly the passages denoted by sustained pitches. Those familiar with her work will appreciate Larsson’s efforts in this recording.
In bringing the Third Symphony to its conclusion, Gergiev gives a lively account of the setting of the text from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, “Es sungen drei Engel,” with a fine result from the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. Here the interaction with Larsson is effective, with the entire result serving the piece well. This leads to the final movement, the slow and majestic conclusion of the work which Mahler once entitled “What love tells me.” A set of variations, this movement benefits from clearly differentiated textures, which occurs here. The structure of the Finale leads to the climax, which Gergiev delivers with aplomb. Yet the final gesture, the coda of the movement, seems uncharacteristically brisk compared to what came before it in this performance.
This recording offers some fine playing by the London Symphony Orchestra, with the very immediate sound of the ensemble effectively reproduced. If at times the brass seem forward, it is never at the expense of the larger balance between sections, which generally works well. While Gergiev’s reading is sometimes methodical, it merits attention, especially in the context of other recent recordings of Mahler’s Third that have been issued recently.
James L. Zychowicz

image_description=Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 3
product_title=Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 3
product_by=Anna Larsson, alto, Tiffin Boys Choir, London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra. Valery Gergiev, conductor.
product_id=LSO 6603 [2SACDs]