Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Symphony No. 3.

Nathalie Stuzmann (contralto) Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Texas Boys Choir cond.Andrew Litton
Delos DE 3248 1hr.40min.
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To set the scene; I am a devotee of Mahler and go to hear his symphonies live, but not often. I do not collect recordings of them, so cannot contribute to comparative discussions of the numerous versions available. This recording was thrust upon me, not unwillingly, to try; not sought and ordered. Having a limited listening concentration span, and rarely accustomed to playing CDs straight through, I had not set aside the necessary two hours until the perfect opportunity arose, an stormy afternoon on the Donegal coast, sheltering from driving Irish rain. I found it totally absorbing and compelling listening, indeed magnificent.

Andrew Litton won a BBC Conductors' Competition and went on to become Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. At Dallas, he has embarked upon recording symphony cycles of Mahler and Shostakovich. This Mahler 3rd was recorded 'live' over four days in May 1998. Does that mean that Dallas supports three or four repetitions of its scheduled concerts; was the fourth date for patching, maybe? No matter, it sounds seamless and to my ears is blemish free throughout its long journey. Mahler 3 encompasses a greater variety and disparity of mood than perhaps any other of his symphonies. One of the largest and most complex, it is here held together by Litton so that the final slow movement rises to an inevitable and moving climax. This, unless I am mistaken, is the symphony that prompted Mahler to tell Sibelius, when they met, that for him the Symphony should embrace the whole world.

My only slight reservation was about Nathalie Stutzmann's vibrato, which I found a shade too heavy in the 4th movement solo O Mensch! Gib Acht! I would also mention that Litton perhaps softens a little the earthy coarseness in the huge opening movement and in the scherzando third, where the Dallas boys relish their Bim, Bam. The acoustic at the Meyerson Centre in Dallas is warm and supportive for this music, and makes the orchestra sound one of the best. The posthorn is ideally distanced, by using reverberation chambers and remote monitoring. Most importantly for me, as readers of my reviews will know, the balance (under a team with Andrew Keener as Recording Producer) is entirely natural, with none of the spotlighting which can mar modern CDs for me.

Writing as a non-specialist, I have no difficulty in recommending this release with full accolade, and leave it to others to dissect the minutiae.


Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Tony Duggan's comparative discussion



Peter Grahame Woolf

Reviews from previous months

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