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Posted by dieter barkhoff on April 11, 2019, 1:28 am
I have really enjoyed reading John Quin and Dan Morgan's review of the Ivan Fischer Mahler 7. Let's face it, it has always been the least regarded of Mahler's Symphonies because of its wild, unwieldy, almost weird structure. My first recording was a tame Abravanel, acquired in my younger days when budgetary concerns determined what I could afford to buy and it also coincided with a time when I couldn't make up my mind whether I actually liked Mahler or not. I'm writing about the late 1960's, the early 1970's when Mahler was just beginning to be acknowledged. The conductor who won me over was Otto Klemperer, especially his recording of the 2nd. Later I became acquainted with his recording of the 7th and I share Dan Morgan's approbation of this recording. It wobbles, it creaks but it bloody well works. And it works because it is creaky and wobbly and rustic and fragile. The idea that perhaps this fragility is at the music's core came to me when I heard the news that my grandmother had died. This was in 1989. My grandmother was born in Austria/ Hungary in a provincial city on the Danube, in other words, she was privy to the same political and aural world Mahler grew up in - in my grandmother's case sans Beethoven. As it happened I was playing the Neumann recording of this symphony when the telephone rang and I was told the bad news. As it happened I had recently been watching some of Bernstein's programmes about Mahler, the episode where Bernstein focused almost entirely on Mahler's Jewishness the most recent episode. Here was Lennie on the beach at Tel Aviv, then on Tenth Avenue New York almost reducing this totally pantheistic, multi dimensional genius called Gustav Mahler to just one element. Of course, I exaggerate but as I listened to Neumann's great recording - nobody nails the 3rd movement as convincingly as Neumann, show me one recording which reveals so much orchestral detail - I understood that the roots of Mahler are the pubs and streets and meadows, the mountains, the incessant thumping of military marches, the dreary rituals, the peasants making bread and sausage, the clip clop of horses and carts on stoned pavements,the banality and ritual of dressing in Sunday best, the pompous strands of a decaying empire. Yes, Jews were part of that landscape and Mahler's genius was to encompass all of what he had lived through, as Lou Reed would have put it, ALL of it not just some of it.
Today the 7th, along with the 9th, is my favourite Mahler Symphony, the Klemperer and Neumann my favourite recordings, closely followed by another very underrated conductor, Eliahu Inbal.
As a postscript, I still can't stand the 8th. Its faux religiosity really grates on me, as does all the hocus pocus mumbo jumbo associated with the term 'The Resurrection. I find it hard to listen to the Second these days. The only music in the 8th is in the orchestral introduction to the second movement in the 8th. On that note....
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