Mstation Classical Reviews

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Fri, 30 Jun 2006

Mahler Symphony No 7

Mahler (1860-1911)
Symphony no. 7
Daniel Barenboim – conductor
Staatskapelle Berlin
CD, Warner Classics

Mahler’s Seventh Symphony was composed between 1904 and 1905, then revised and scored in 1905-6. It was first performed in 1908. As one would expect, this symphony is big and shows the transition from the Romantic Era into the music of the twentieth century. Mahler had an idea of an open air “night patrol” scene when composing this music, thus two of the movements (the second and fourth of this 5 movement work) are entitled “Nachtmusik” and were, in fact, composed long before the other movements. In correspondence with the idea of being out in the open air, the symphony contains many sounds of nature, such as cowbells. The first movement is march-like, almost grotesque in style with fanfares and occasional birdcalls. The second is particularly stormy and atmospheric. The third movement is entitled “Schattenhaft” which means “shadowy” and is rather threatening in mood, which ends up as a morbid type of “danse macabre.” The second of the Nachtmusik movements is completely different in style, indicated by “Andante amoroso” and includes writing for the guitar and mandolin. The final movement was referred to by Mahler as “Der Tag” – the daylight, which, by huge contrast brings the dazzling light of day.

The orchestra provides a huge range of colour in this symphony. The strings are often required to play long, rich lines, but are delicate when needed. The woodwind are particularly brilliant at bringing out the grotesque edge to the music, while the brass are both brooding and threatening. The character of the music changes so often, and the director (Barenboim) obviously has a huge sensitivity and understanding towards this style. (M. North)

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