CSO/Haitink Mahler 3

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.3

Michele DeYoung (mezzo-soprano)

Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Chicago Children’s Choir

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Bernard Haitink

Recorded 19-21 October 2006 in Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, Chicago

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: August 2007
CSOR 901 701
Duration: 1 hour 42 minutes

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra moves into ‘own label’, generally available, territory (although it has for a number of years issued through its own offices some wonderful limited-edition archive material) with this very satisfying Mahler 3 led by its recently installed Principal Conductor (as opposed to Music Director, a current vacancy) Bernard Haitink. As ever with Haitink there is a sense of musical growth and direction; nothing is sensationalised for its own sake. If a lack of exaggeration may, at times, undermine the sheer primal exuberance of the first movement – Jay Friedman’s (splendid) trombone solo is a feature rather than being a dominant orator – there is no doubt that Spring arrives joyously and meticulously: but whether Nature’s upheavals should be quite so ordered is a moot point. If textural fidelity, accuracy, and superb playing, is your byword in Mahler, then it is all here. If uninhibited swagger is at a premium, then the quieter moments are wonderfully sensitive, and the coda is a fine mix of ebullience and poise.

Taken from three concert performances (given before notably quiet audiences, although is that a burst of mobile-phone at 25’55”-56” in the first movement?), the editing otherwise removes all vestiges of spectator-input between movements and with no applause at the end. The second movement ‘Minuet’ is Romantic without indulgence, the third could be more driven but has an attractive shimmering dexterity – the faraway, high-up posthorn solo (played here on a trumpet?) is ideally rendered and with a true sense of perspective (but such paradise is sabotaged by a bleeping digital watch at 10’22”!), and the fourth – setting Nietzsche – brings an intense and soulful contribution from Michelle DeYoung (but no ornithological glissandos from the reed instruments!). A bright-voiced contribution from ladies and children greets the rumbustious ‘Wunderhorn’ fifth movement before the final Adagio steals in confidentially – here rapt, inward and unsentimental, the string-playing, and later wind solos, expressing love and radiance en route to a glorious brass-and-timpani-dominated coda.

The recorded sound is very good, tangible and lucid for the most part, but not so expansive and detailed in the densest tutti sections. Sensibly laid out, the opening movement that is the Symphony’s ‘Part One’ stands alone on the first CD, the remaining five on the second disc; just as it should be. In terms of Haitink’s discography, this is Haitink’s fourth recording of Mahler 3 (I think); it may not offer any particular revelations but it is uncommonly ample in letting us hear the symphony that Mahler wrote down. That may seem a double-edged compliment and if Haitink doesn’t quite emulate Pierre Boulez’s Vienna recording on DG in terms of musical sufficiency, then it is certainly one to return to for Haitink’s undeviating wholeness of vision.

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