It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
You will probably be as incredulous as I was to learn that the greatest cycle of Mahler symphonies comes not from any of the usual suspects - Abbado, Bernstein, Chially, Haitink, Kubelik, Rattle, Sinopoli, Solti, Tennstedt - but from the unsung Gary Bertini, who spent the better part of his career as music director of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. Unlike any of those more publicized sets, each of which includes a misfire or two, Bertini is consistently successful from first to last; his performance of each of these works can stand comparison with the very best available.
How good to see Riccardo Chailly so radiant at the end of this great event.It's an exhilaration he earns through sheer hard work as well as injecting the adrenalin at most of the right moments.(Majority) of the singers are excellent,from two very different but keenly-projected lyric-dramatic sopranos,Erika Sunnegardh and Ricardo Merbeth,to Georg Zeppenfeld,whose bass is rock solid and expressive across a huge range.Chailly holds attention between movements and makes you realise how many soloists within the orchestra have to sing,too.His Leader,the superb Sebastian Breuninger,assists him between blazes in the most striking of chamber-musical moments.Breuninger shares the front desk of viloins in Claudio Abbado's Lucerne festival Orchestra,but this one Mahler symphony Abbado's forces have yet to tackle,and Chailly's rendering leads the field on DVD. (BBC Music Magzine)
"It is my best work, with a primarily cheerful character". This was Gustav Mahler's assessment of his Symphony No. 7, which was also highly regarded by Arnold Schoenberg, who said, "I had an impression of absolute peace based on artistic harmony. Something able to set me in motion without recklessly unsettling my center of gravity." Riccardo Chailly, in his internationally acclaimed interpretations of Mahler's symphonies - which he and the Gewandhaus Orchestra are bringing together in a complete cycle - focuses on the musical qualities of the works, eschewing false pathos and sentimentality while giving up none of the music's dramatic intensity. "Mahler's Seventh Symphony, in which the composer pulled out all expressive stops and revealed himself to be an innovative modernist, has seldom been as persuasive and direct as in Chailly's interpretation", said the Frankfurter Neue Presse.