I bought this DVD because I had heard Bernard Haitink perform the 4th Symphony, and I was thrilled. This performance with the Berlin Philharmonic and soprano Sylvia McNair is a delight in every way.
At the time when this work was composed, Mahler’s good friend and associate, the conductor Bruno Walter, visited Mahler’s vacation home, located about an hour outside Salzburg. Walter marveled at the natural beauty of the mountains and the lake (called Attersee), where this was all composed. Reportedly Mahler replied: “No need to observe nature; I have composed it all into the 4th; you’ll have to hear it…
From the first ringing of the cow-bells in the opening movement, to the amazing ‘opening of the heavens’ in the climactic moment of the third movement, to the childlike song of heaven in the closing movement, this symphony is very moving and the performance totally satisfying. The singing of Silvia McNair is absolutely wonderful.
The 7th symphony of Mahler is also included in this DVD. This composition is still enigmatic for me. Perhaps it will take more study and more time until I understand it more fully. While I enjoy very much the two, so-called “Night Music” movements in this work, I personally have a hard time connecting these with the other 3 movements in the work. Mahler composed the two night music movements first. Then he added the other 3. It is too bad that we cannot have a seminar by the composer to understand his intent more fully. It is also interesting, that some conductors (Bruno Walter, for example) have never recorded the 7th; perhaps this work was also a puzzle for others. The scoring of the work is interesting, in that it includes a mandolin and a guitar. So… as for the 7th symphony, you, the reader, are challenged to discover more fully its true meaning.