MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 / Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra; Adam Fischer, conductor / AVI 8553349
Having spent most of the last 20-plus years rehearsing and recording the complete symphonies of Haydn (probably the definitive set) and Mozart (most certainly the best digital set yet made), Adam Fischer returns here to one of his early loves, Gustav Mahler. He had already left us fine recordings of the first symphony, Kindertotenlieder and Songs of a Wayfarer, and now he has tackled the Seventh Symphony with the Düsseldorf Symphony.
Had this recording been made 35 years ago, it might easily have been the recommended version of this difficult and enigmatic work. At that time no one had really produced a satisfactory recording of this symphony, but then Simon Rattle’s live performance came out on EMI, followed a few years later by an excellent studio recording by Claudio Abbado. Several years later, when the New York Philharmonic issued its massive set of live Mahler performances, we were treated to perhaps the best version of all, a scintillating broadcast conducted by Rafael Kubelik. That one remains my all-time favorite Mahler Seventh; I don’t think it will ever be surpassed.
For the most part, Fischer has the full measure of Mahler’s thorny score. None of the rhythms or unexpected turns of phrase faze him, and he manages to sound elegant and eloquent even in the wild Scherzo, but to a large extent I felt that there was something a bit too smooth about the overall performance. Somehow or other, Fischer just misses the danger of the music, and without that danger the Mahlerian edge is somewhat dulled.
Mind you, it’s not a bad performance at all, but to be honest I even prefer Michael Halász’s recording with the Polish National Radio Orchestra on Naxos to this one. It’s certainly possible that the lack of frisson may have been affected by his working with this particular orchestra, but that’s only a supposition on my part. As I say, there are some very good things about the performance that I like, but when push comes to shove Fischer neither shoves nor pushes, and that’s really the crux of my argument.
Bottom line: if you don’t have the Abbado, Kubelik or Halász recordings, this one will satisfy you, but it will not thrill you, and for me, Mahler is not Mahler unless he raises some small haris on the back of my neck when listening to him.
—© 2017 Lynn René Bayley