Symphony No. 3
Anna Larsson (contralto); Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra/ádám Fischer Avi 8553399 95:51 mins (2 discs) Magisterial power in sombre and radiant marches, the subtlest rubato in the old-new minuet which follows, establish Ádám (not to be confused with younger brother Iván) Fischer as one of the greatest living Mahler conductors. What he does with the slow-movement finale may not be to all tastes, but it’s bold. ★e attempts to emulate the gut timbre of Mahler’s time, with less vibrato, on metal strings in a less extreme way than relative lightweight Roger Norrington. That makes for a bolder kind of nobility as the great melodic line unfolds at first – after all, when your players aren’t those of the Vienna or Berlin Philharmonics, there’s no point trying to beat them at their own game – but the climaxes are uniquely powerful, and Fischer saves the biggest for the last, just before the final victory parade.
Both here and in the wild surges of the forest beasts in the central scherzo, there’s a live excitement that can’t be achieved at the same pitch in the recording studio. The posthorn solo in the heart of the wood is supremely artistic (from Frank Ludemann), forthright funereal trombone in the first movement likewise (the collective brass are very impressive indeed, world-class). The characterful woodwind solos include some heartbreakingly beautiful oboe playing. Only Anna Larsson, so often the contralto of choice for Nietzsche’s ‘Midnight Song’, has lost some of the steadiness of yore, but she goes with Fischer’s evocative meaning.
Engineering renders the rainbow colours of this most comprehensive of Mahler symphonies to perfection. David Nice PERFORMANCE