MAHLER

BBC Music Magazine - - REVIEWS -

Sym­phony No. 8 Ri­carda Mer­beth, Ju­liane Banse, Anna Lu­cia Richter (so­prano), Mi­hoko Fu­jimura (mezzo-so­prano), Sara Min­gardo (con­tralto), An­dreas Schager (tenor), Peter Mat­tei (bari­tone), Sa­muel Youn (bass-bari­tone); Bavar­ian Ra­dio Choir; Lat­vian Ra­dio Choir; Or­féon Donos­tiarra; Tölz Boys’ Choir; Lucerne Fes­ti­val Orches­tra/ric­cardo Chailly Ac­cen­tus Mu­sic ACC 20390 92:56 mins

This should have been wor­thy DVD clo­sure both for Clau­dio Ab­bado’s peer­less Lucerne Mahler cy­cle – he never con­ducted the Eighth Sym­phony there – and for Ric­cardo Chailly’s series, other­wise seen in Leipzig and a fine sec­ond-best. That it fails, for me, is due mostly to the soloists. As in a Wag­ner opera, you can take one or two less-than-bests in a line-up, but not five out of eight singers.

En­sem­ble blend in the open­ing ‘Veni creator spir­i­tus’ is poor, with helden­tenor An­dreas Schager belt­ing it out and so­prano Ri­carda Mer­beth’s wide vi­brato hit and miss at the top. Relief comes in the orches­tral in­tro­duc­tion to the cosmic clos­ing scene from Goethe’s Faust. Chailly paces it more swiftly and less at­mo­spher­i­cally than usual, but in close suc­ces­sion we see and hear many of the Lucerne Fes­ti­val Orches­tra’s bedrocks: flautist Jac­ques Zoon, horn-player Alessio Al­le­grini, trum­peter Rein­hold Friedrich. Then it’s off the rails with the voices again: the bari­tone part lies too high for Peter Mat­tei, while Sa­muel Youn makes a word-in­sen­si­tive blus­ter of the se­quel. Mez­zos Sara Min­gardo and Mi­hoko Fu­jimura shine, and Ju­liane Banse car­ries the Gretchen stretch through sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion, but the brief ap­pear­ance of Anna Lu­cia Richter from aloft doesn’t sound good.

The four choirs are mag­nif­i­cent, es­pe­cially in the fu­gal writ­ing at the heart of Part I, and the end is re­splen­dent, but Chailly’s less than easy ru­bato means too many bumps along the way. What a dis­ap­point­ment. It’s also a pity that the DVD lacks his en­light­en­ment in in­ter­view, al­ways a boon in his Leipzig series. David Nice

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