CDs / DVDs, 23. February 2011
This is an amazing accomplishment. I found myself spellbound from the first notes through the entire symphony with its 82+ minutes up to the horrifying, ghastly conclusion, when all life seems to end. The La Monnaie (The old Brussels Mint) Symphony Orchestra musicians play on the same level as I would expect the Vienna Philharmonic or the Lucerne Festival Orchestra: simply fabulous. Hartmut Haenchen - judging from this performance - ranks with the very few stellar Mahler conductors today. I have had recent opportunity to praise his Mozart (see my review of the all-Mozart concert with the C.Ph.E. Bach Chamber Orchestra), but I am impressed even more with his reading of what is one of Mahler's most demanding symphonies. The reading is phenomenally concentrated, tight, dramatic and idiomatic. There is not a slack note, every minute passage and the many emotional and dynamic shifts are there to incredible effect. As opposed to Abbado, Haenchen positions the Scherzo before the Andante Moderato: this makes good sense to me. All this is captured in splendid uncompressed sound and vivid video. When one considers that the entire concert was recorded live in one session (no edits are audible), the result is even more amazing. If this is indeed part of a Mahler cycle, I can hardly await the rest. Is someone at ICA Classics reading this?