Dip Your Ears... ( 22 ) 

(published first at ionarts)

Available from Amazon:
Available at Amazon
G. Mahler, Symphony No. 3, P. Boulez, Wiener Philharmoniker, Anne Sofie von Otter
When it comes to Mahler, I will admit that I don't understand all of his symphonies (if any), and the third (together with the 7th) can still be elusive to my mind. Perhaps it is because of this inability that I find Pierre Boulez's version so compelling. His "see-through" Mahler lifts the rug a little and lets you peek. Because of superior transparency, the structures come out more clearly than with any other conductor I have heard, and the less I understand a work, the more I tend to like his interpretation. That the Vienna Philharmonic and Anne Sofie von Otter worked with him on that recording can't hurt. In fact, her voice is clear as a mountain brook, seductive, and well controlled. (No excesive hissing when she sings - pianissimo - "Menssssschhhh.") The sound, especially in the SACD version (costing the same and, being a hybrid, making the Red-book-standard-only-CD version rather pointless) is every bit as good as in Riccardo Chailly's even more recent and highly appraised third. Both count perfection in playing and sound on their plus side, and both could be accused of giving the emotional side short shrift. Disagreeing with almost every reviewer (save for the American Record Guide's in-house Mahler specialist), I don't quite know what makes Chailly's interpretation so special. It impressed me, but it also left me cold without telling me anything new about the work. In contrast, I don't find Boulez rushed, but haunting and subversive, instead. Ask ten Mahler lovers for their favorite interpretation of any symphony and you get ten different opinions. This is mine.

P.S. The regular CD has a nasty, if very brief, editing error in the third movement... a mistake that was thankfully corrected on the SACD.

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