Symphony No.7, Op.109 [BBC commission: world premiere]
Reviewed by: Helen Pearce
Reviewed: 24 April, 2010
Venue: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Mahler’s Seventh Symphony has had more than its fair share of detractors, but the BBC Philharmonic, with Gianandrea Noseda at the helm, is well placed to convert the staunchest of critics. The eclecticism of this symphony is hinted at by its extraordinary orchestral line-up; Mahler makes use of a guitar, mandolin and cow-bells, and entrusts his menacing opening theme to the tenor horn (the baritone in English), played here by Richard Brown with a commendable warmth of tone. The BBC Philharmonic boasts wind and brass players capable of melting in and out of the orchestral textures with the utmost sensitivity; a skill which came to the forefront in the lyrical episodes of the first movement. The march of the first ‘Nachtmusik’ seemed to swagger delectably; the scherzo conveyed urgency and agitation but never lost the precision which renders the quirky interjections so effective. A potpourri of musical styles and a minefield of notoriously difficult tempo changes, this symphony demands the controlled virtuosity that Noseda and his musicians evidently relished, not least in the exuberant finale. It was a concert that required the BBC Philharmonic at the top of its game; the players rose to the challenge tremendously.