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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 7 - San Francisco/Michael Tilson Thomas

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Reviews: 3

Review by Dr. O November 24, 2005 (9 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Another resounding Yes! and Wow! to this most recent entry from MTT and the SFS.

This is a monumental work; in five movements, it is NOT easy to pull off. But MTT and his orchestra do just that, and with great finese and conviction.

The engineering is spectacular. Every single color is captured. I was at one of the concerts while this composition was being recorded, and I remember being delighted by all of the delicious and unexpected sounds that Mahler incorporated into his score. While listening to the recording, I am taken back to that night when the magic happened at Davies Hall.

MTT is, as usual, quite deft with his tempi, and he has a way of bringing out the special "soul" which is so characteristic of Mahler the man and composer.

A total triumph! Add it to your collection!

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Review by sacd_fan_2007 July 13, 2008 (7 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
[Review applies to the 2-channel SACD layer]
This is a very good Mahler 7 from SFO, but like many major recordings of the work I've heard, the orchestra seems to lose focus at times and just play through this cryptic work. MTT's earlier interpretation on rbcd with the London Symphony Orchestra is still far superior to this rendition and all others I've listened to. Although, I must say MTT did find some new and creative tempos here that were not present in his earlier recording. The trumpet section playing here (with acting principal Bill Williams Jr) is stronger than in earlier releases of the SFO Mahler cycle too.

Our SACD selection of Mahler 7 is limited, and I wish I had just saved my money and stuck with the earlier MTT/LSO on rbcd. Overall, the sound is nice, but I was frustrated by the distant and muddy recording of Mahler's cow bells and chimes. Having attended a few SFO Mahler Symphony performances in Davies Hall, I know this is not how they really sounded.

Pass on this recording and get the classic MTT/LSO rbcd Mahler 7.

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Review by Jonalogic November 18, 2010 (6 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
How does one go about reviewing a performance of a symphony once famously described by Deryck Cooke as Mahler's "mad, mad, mad, mad symphony"?

Subtitled ‘The Song of the Night’. It might more aptly be described as ‘the baffling’ or ‘the obtuse’ Structurally, musically and emotionally, it seems to defy ready analysis. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a performance - either live or recorded - which makes sense on all levels. Probably, Klemperer and Bernstein come closest.

This performance is no exception to the general rule, alas. Well played and committed, it still sometimes sounds like MTT and his fine band are lost at sea. But they’re in fine company, so are we all.

Personally, I just put it down to Mahler having a bad day at the office. Let's leave it at that.

Sonically, however, we can be far more definitive and clearcut. This is an exceptionally fine sounding recording. So have been some – but not all – of the others in this MTT cycle. But this live recording is simply something else. Its only rivals in terms of live recording veracity are some of the Kitayenko/Shostakovich recordings on Capriccio, which I just love to bits.

In short, this recording is spatially expansive, with beautiful layered depth and height (stereo layer), timbrally truthful, dynamically unconstrained, transparent and highly dimensional. Bass is extended and natural (not Telarc-style hyped), mid-range and string tone is beautiful and natural – DSD at its best – and treble is liquid and airy.

It’s not doctored to sound nice. It’s just natural and truthful. So, full marks go to to Neubronner, Laenger and the entire engineering team on this one.

What more do you want? Well, if great sound could help decode recalcitrant music, this recording would have a better chance than any I have yet heard of actually making sense of this symphony!

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