Mahler’s 3rd

Mahler’s 3rd symphony, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos

Dimitri Mitropoulos was born in Athens, Greece. He was musically precocious, demonstrating his abilities at an early age. From the ages of eleven to fourteen, when Mitropoulos was in secondary school, he would host and preside over informal musical gatherings at his house every Saturday afternoon.

Mitropoulos studied music at the Athens Conservatoire as well as in Brussels and Berlin, with Ferruccio Busoni among his teachers. From 1921 to 1925 he assisted Erich Kleiber at the Berlin State Opera and then took a number of posts in Greece. At a 1930 concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, he played the solo part of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and conducted the orchestra from the keyboard, becoming one of the first modern musicians to do so.

This is a recording of a performance of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony given by Mitropoulos with the Cologne Radio Symphony on 31 October 1960, just two days before his death.

The tracks on the two – disc are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: I. Kraftig – Entschieden

2. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: II. Tempo di menuetto. Sehr massig

3. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: III. Comodo. Scherzando. Ohne Hast

4. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: IV. Sehr langsam. Misterioso

5. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: V. Lustig im Tempo und keck im Ausdruck

Disc 2:
1. Symphony No. 3 in D minor: VI. Langsam. Ruhevoll. Empfunden

2. La mer: No. 1. De l’aube a midi sur la mer

3. La mer: No. 2. Jeux de vagues

4. La mer: No. 3. Dialogue du vent et de la mer

5. Dimitri Mitropoulos addresses the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (1950s)

Overall, I was disappointed in this performance. While I knew in advance that the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra was not on a comparable level with, say, the Berlin Philharmonic, I was disappointed with the performance quality of several solo instruments which have prominent parts in Mahler’s music. Many of these solos sounded flat and inexpressive. Even the chorus was of rather medium quality.

I am used to being thrilled when I listen to this work by Gustav Mahler. I was left cold and unaffected by this performance.

Here’s a video of a conductor who was an expert in communicating Mahler’s music: Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in the Symphony No. 3 in D minor by Gustav Mahler:


In the 5th movement the chorus and the children’s choir sing happily the so-called “Bim-Bam”; here are the Women of the Choir of the Vienna State Opera, and the Vienna Boy’s Choir:


Tags: Dimitri Mitropoulos, Cologne orchestra, Mahler 3rd symphony

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