Mahler: Symphony No. 3 - Fischer (Ivan)

Mahler: Symphony No. 3 - Fischer (Ivan)

Channel Classics  CCS SA 38817 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Mahler: Symphony No. 3

Gerhild Romberger (alto)
Cantemus Children's Choir
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer (conductor)

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DSD recording
Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - May 2, 2017

Ivan Fischer's survey of the Mahler Symphonies with his incomparable Budapest Festival Orchestra began with the release of the 6th Symphony in 2005 Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - Fischer (Ivan) that immediately marked him out as a Mahler interpreter of considerable stature. Subsequent highly praised releases of Symphonies 1, 2, 4, 5 and 9 over the past eight years have been eagerly awaited, and this latest release of Mahler's mighty 3rd Symphony, recorded in September 2016, will further cement his reputation as one of the most charismatic Mahler conductors of our time.

The public's appetite for more and more performances and recordings of Mahler's works shows no signs of abating, in spite of the availability of a plethora of versions that one might imagine would suit all tastes. There are, however, three main factors that make these Channel Classic recordings stand out in what is a very crowded field. First is Fischer's perceptive and probing musicianship, born of a long career on the podium, that ensures his interpretations possess an individuality stemming from a deep understanding of, and respect for, the music he conducts. The second factor is the character of the Budapest Festival Orchestra whose consummate musicians always play with a fierce and absolute commitment for their Musical Director and founder. Finally it is the superb state-of-the-art sound quality achieved by Jared Sacks in the fine acoustic of the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, Palace of Arts, Budapest. The 5.0 channel DSD recording providing almost unrivalled realism, clarity and impact to the music – essential in Mahler.

It is also perhaps worth mentioning that Fischer's recordings are made in the wake of many live performances with his orchestra in concert halls across Europe, so the conductor and his players are able to refine their interpretations before finally committing them to disc.

The first of this two-disc SACD set contains the work's gigantic first movement (33.14) while the remainder of the work occupies the second SACD. This sensible division is adopted on most, though not all, versions – those by Chailly, Tilson Thomas and Boulez being three notable exceptions.

Fischer is fully cognizant of Mahler's marking, Kräftig; Entschieden (Vigorous; Decisive), for Part 1 of the Symphony. From the cleanly articulated horn fanfares that open the movement the forward thrust of his pacing is at once apparent. The lugubrious trombone solo is superbly delivered by the BFO player, thrillingly rasping on its first appearance and mellow at its re-appearance towards the end of the movement, and is just one example of the quality of the musicians that populate this orchestra. 'Summer marches in', the composer's original title for this section, is buoyant and joyous with considerable emphasis on the percussion – vividly reproduced cymbal clashes and uninhibited snare drum tattoos all add to the sense of a marching rabble that Mahler aimed for. Needless to say Fischer's arrangement of the orchestra with antiphonally seated violins, as Mahler would have expected, greatly enhances the lucidity of this complex and remarkable musical edifice.

The following movement with its lighter scoring is marked 'Tempo di Menuetto' and was originally subtitled “ What the flowers in the meadow tell me”. Its carefree pastoral serenity is eloquently conveyed here with many beautifully turned instrumental solos and subtle use of rubato while the scurrying fast sections testify to the virtuosity of the orchestra's strings.

Mahler's 'Comodo; Scherzando' is based initially on the theme from his setting of an allegorical 'Wunderhorn' song 'Ablösung im Sommer' about a nightingale and a cuckoo that has fallen to its death. Fischer adopts an appropriately easy-going tempo for the opening section of the movement and his players relish the humour and parody implicit in the music. The magical trio sections that feature an off-stage 'posthorn' (flügelhorn) are balanced with great care, the immaculately voiced solo instrument cushioned by soft violins providing one of many a breathtaking moments on this set.

In the fourth movement the human voice appears for the first time in the symphony with a setting of a passage from Nietzsche's philosophical novel 'Also sprach Zarathustra'. Here it is sung securely with commendably clear diction and sensitivity by the alto Gerhild Romberger. It could be argued that at a timing of 8.36 for this movement Fischer ignores Mahler's marking of 'Sehr langsam' yet if a conductor adopts too slow a tempo it can all too easily drag interminably or even fall apart. For this listener Fischer's faster pulse works in a way that some versions do not. In the orchestral passages he does adopt, without undue exaggeration, Mahler's strange marking of "hinaufziehen" for the striking oboe slides that many conductors ignore.

The brief fifth movement, a three-part song, introduces the ladies of the superb 'Chor des Bayerischen Rundunk and the Cantemus Children's Choir from Nyiregyháza who deliver their 'bimm bamms' with spirit and crisp rhythmic heft. Eventually human voices are left behind as Mahler's achingly beautiful final movement marked Langsam; Ruhevoll; Empfunden (Slowly; Peacefully; Expressively) begins on the strings. Here Fischer is much less overtly emotional than many of his rivals. His pacing at the start of the movement, though faster than many, (Boulez rather than Bernstein), is not lacking in serenity thanks to the finely nuanced playing of his players. He builds the movement confidently through the three climaxes that recall the music of Part 1 to reach an exalted apotheosis, glowing yet free from both sentimentality and bombast.

Those who have enjoyed Fischer's earlier Mahler recordings will need no urging to acquire this one. In both musical and sonic terms it provides a further criterion for past and future recordings of this symphony.

Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2017 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (30)

Comment by hiredfox - March 11, 2017 (1 of 30)

It has arrived, almost. Jared raved about this new recording last year. A long standing favourite of mine.

Comment by Waveform - March 11, 2017 (2 of 30)

Few days ago I ordered this in advance at Presto Classical. Cannot wait to hear it!

Comment by diw - March 11, 2017 (3 of 30)

Will there be a Mahler 8 in the series?

Comment by Waveform - March 11, 2017 (4 of 30)

Yes, there'll be, Diw. Why not? The next album will be 7, most likely. And I really hope that they'll record the composer's deeply affecting Tenth Symphony using Deryck Cooke version.

Comment by ubertrout - March 11, 2017 (5 of 30)

Fischer has said he has no interest in doing a Mahler 8, so this cycle is going to be like the Abbado/Lucerne cycle in that regard. Beyond possible lack of musical interest on Fischer's part, I imagine the Mahler 8 is an impossibly expensive endeavor for an ensemble with the BFO's financing model.

Comment by Waveform - March 11, 2017 (6 of 30)

OK, thanks for your correction, ubertrout! However, I look forward to hear the first SACD (Symphony No. 5) of Osmo Vänskä's Mahler cycle with the Minnesota Orchestra. BIS has planned to release it soon.

Comment by ubertrout - March 11, 2017 (7 of 30)

Good to know about the Minnesota cycle...without the forum I'm not hearing about these projects as readily.

While a Mahler 10 would be nice, I really hope Fischer turns to Das Lied first.

Comment by fausto kantiano - March 12, 2017 (8 of 30)

while I shall buy Fischer's M3 just for the sake of it, and certainly the M7, I'm glad he doesn't want to do M8--but Vänskä doing yet another Mahler cycle?! Who wants that? Haven't we had enough Mahler on SACD in the last 10 years or so?

Comment by Waveform - March 12, 2017 (9 of 30)

I want that, fausto kantiano. Vänskä has proved to be a man who finds new insights from familiar works and therefore this new Mahler cycle will be very fascinating listening experience.

Comment by Paul Hannah - March 12, 2017 (10 of 30)

Just can't wait !

Comment by hiredfox - March 12, 2017 (11 of 30)

It is difficult to imagine that Vanska has any special insights to offer on Mahler, whereas his kinship empathy with fellow Finn Sibelius was more obvious, even so the jury is still far from agreed on Vanska's Sibelius being any better than Davis. There are so many excellent Mahler sets on SACD, many recorded in 64fs DSD that any new entrant stands a serious risk of being under-whelming and ignored.

Back to the subject matter in hand, Chailly on Decca is the one to beat - simply outstanding - but we can rely on Ivan Fischer and his Budapest colleagues to come up with something to grab our attention even if perhaps a little unconventional.

I cannot recall a bad performance live or on disc from our favourite Maestro so on that basis alone this is worth pre-order punt.

(all IMHO of course!)

Comment by William Hecht - March 12, 2017 (12 of 30)

Like fausto I see absolutely no need for another Mahler series from any source, which is no complaint about Vanska's interpretive skills or BIS' recording technology. The latest recordings from Minnesota have been very good, at least for us multichannel listeners, but I just can't see the point of another complete set. If Reference announced that Manfred Honeck intended to complete the set he started for Exton I'd understand, but another set ab inititio, why? What can the market be? I miss the days when bissie would promptly tell us exactly why we're nuts.

Comment by diw - March 12, 2017 (13 of 30)

I do miss bissie's presence on the forum, for sure.

Comment by Waveform - March 12, 2017 (14 of 30)

Guys, I mostly agree with you. But since BIS released Mahler: Symphony No. 9 - Gilbert I have waited for the other symphonies.

Let me explain my thoughts once and for all. Osmo Vänskä has raised the Minnesota Orchestra to one of the most valued orchestras in the world. Should we shoot down this highly promising cycle prematurely? Or can we receive it with open arms? I have greatly enjoyed to listen to the SACD albums of this remarkable team. The fact is that these upcoming Mahler recordings will not be exceptions. Every new SACD is a little treasure in this RBCD-overbearing supply, I think, so we should be grateful and not chagrined.

Comment by jdaniel1371 - March 15, 2017 (15 of 30)

It's about time Vanska let go of Sibelius.

Comment by Peter Allen - March 24, 2017 (16 of 30)

No, first a Tapiola from Minnesota on SACD, PLEASE!

Comment by Waveform - March 25, 2017 (17 of 30)

Peter Allen, check this: Sibelius: The Tempest, The Bard, Tapiola - Kamu. I'm pretty sure that BIS will not release another Tapiola, even in hi-res format. "En Saga" and "Night Ride and Sunrise" are something what we will need.

Comment by hiredfox - April 25, 2017 (18 of 30)

For UK readers a date for your diaries with some tickets still available.

Tuesday May 23, 2017, Ivan Fischer & BFO perform at the RFH on Southbank, London

Comment by fausto kantiano - May 3, 2017 (19 of 30)

To my knowledge, the first in the series was certainly not M4, as said in the review, but rather M6, released in 2005 or thereabouts (or was perhaps M2 first?)

Comment by William Hecht - May 3, 2017 (20 of 30)

According to the booklet notes #6 was the earliest recording in February 2005 followed by #2 in September of that year. I don't have a any information on actual release dates.

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