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Wow! Chalk up another excellent Mahler symphony performance
to Claudio Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
This performance of the “Seventh Symphony” was taped
during 2005, and released the following year on the EuroArts
label. It may just be the most impressive one I’ve seen thus
far, particularly from a technical standpoint. Once again the
sense of “communal music making” was to the fore, rendering
the transparency of the score with efficiency akin to an x-ray, and
stunningly recorded by the engineers. There are many musical
strands in this work, and it was a real treat to hear everything clearly.

In addition, it was astonishing that this clarity was achieved at
such a brisk tempo. The performance clocked in at less than
73 minutes! Despite this pace, it didn’t seemed rushed, and
Maestro Abbado presided over the orchestra with total authority
and a clear vision. Gustav Mahler’s “Seventh Symphony” was
composed during 1905, and is one of the lesser-known ones.
When compared with other Mahler symphonies, I believe
it’s always been a “tough nut to crack,” for both listeners and
conductors. It is nonetheless fascinating, as the only Mahler
symphony to use a guitar, and the first of three of his works
to use a mandolin.

I found it interesting that three harps were used in this
performance. When consulting a Dover edition of the score,
I noted that it called for two harps; yet three were used here.
Other Mahler symphonies, such as the “Second Symphony,” the
“Eighth Symphony” and probably, the “Third Symphony,” have
two harp parts, but are listed with the instructions,
“several to a part.” Not this symphony. There also appeared to
be more string players here than for the Lucerne Orchestra’s
performances of the “Second,” “Third,” and “Sixth” symphonies.
Given the required instrumentation of those works, I can’t
understand the logic behind such a choice. Nevertheless, I’m
not complaining, just making an observation. I also don’t
believe that I’ve ever seen Maestro Abbado appear so
animated and happy, as he seemed to relish every moment.

The camera work was particularly well done, which doesn’t
often occur, and the capacity audience gave this performance a
well-deserved, thundering ovation. I can’t imagine a better
rendition of this work. Any “Mahlerite” must check out this DVD.