Roth’s Ho-Hum Mahler Third

Review by: David Hurwitz

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Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 8

Well, the party’s over. After a surprisingly good Mahler Fifth, François-Xavier Roth turns in a lightweight, cautious, completely nondescript live Mahler Third. Granted, the orchestra plays well enough, but Roth brings nothing distinctive to the piece. Tempos are generally fleet, and everywhere lacking in contrast. The first movement climaxes are uniformly underwhelming, the soft passages unatmospheric. The inner movements are boring–no charm in the second, the post horn solos too distant and too quick in the third. This is a particular pity, as the woodwinds really shine in the scherzo passages and they deserve better from their conductor.

Sarah Mingardo sings a lovely Midnight Song, and the choirs are fine too, but again: Where is the brightness of the bells, or the sinister shadow that falls over the movement’s middle section. Roth paces the finale well, but the emotional temperature remains low. There’s little anguish in the minor key episodes, and the closing pages demand a greater sense of fulfillment. Anyone these days can play Mahler well technically–they all have the notes–but there’s simply no excuse for this sort of phlegmatic, noncommittal amble through a score that ought still to sound shocking when properly interpreted.

The warm sonics match the performance in that they accommodate the large orchestra effortlessly, while still lacking brilliance. In short, this is a wholly unnecessary, nondescript release.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bernstein (Sony)


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