Fischer’s Resurrection: Average Mahler for an Average Day

Review by: David Hurwitz

Mahler2

Artistic Quality: 5

Sound Quality: 8

In these days of social media and artist-financed recordings there’s no such thing as a performance for local consumption only, yet that is what this Mahler cycle really is. The Düsseldorfer Symphoniker has all of the notes, to its credit, but none of the spirit of Mahler. His music is easy for orchestras now. Everyone does it, and it’s been a sad if inevitable experience to move from a time when a performance of the apocalyptic Second Symphony was an epic event, to one where it’s just another night out for a good meal and a relaxing musical aid to digestion. Don’t get me wrong: this is a good, professional band. The town of Düsseldorf should be proud of them. There’s just no reason on earth why we need to hear them.

All of which is a long way of saying that there is nothing special about this performance at all. The first movement lacks any sense of foreboding. The cellos and basses play cleanly but without bite, while the climaxes fail to excite. The “cry of despair” in the scherzo lacks any pretense of terror. Fischer’s sole interpretive idea seems to be some oddly mannered phrasing in the second movement’s opening theme. You can only imagine how this tidy, small-scale, expressively neutral approach turns the finale into a long haul of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It’s a succession of “hit and miss” episodes, mostly miss, especially in those increasingly (theoretically) intense episodes before the entry of the choir.

Once the singing starts, things go relatively well, but one’s relief at the lack of disappointment is hardly the same thing as raging success. I’ve seen this series praised to the skies in reviews and comments, but that doesn’t mean anything these days. Everything gets praised to the skies somewhere, by someone, and the less the commentator knows the louder they seem to carry on. We live in a day of flat, featureless Mahler urged on by ignorant enthusiasm. Here’s the result.

 



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Ivan Fischer (Channel Classics); Bernstein (DG); Blomstedt (Decca); Ozawa (Sony Classical)


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