Markus Stenz / Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne

Gustav Mahler: Symphonie Nr. 7

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Markus Stenz and the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne have recorded several exceptional performances of Gustav Mahler's symphonies on the Oehms Classics label, and their presentation of the Symphony No. 7 in E minor is true to form. Unofficially nicknamed "The Song of the Night," this long and eccentric work is one of Mahler's most enigmatic creations. Cast in five movements, as a series of brooding nocturnal movements capped off with a rambunctious Rondo-Finale, the piece often seems to resemble a series of tone poems, rather than a conventional post-Romantic symphony. Yet Stenz is careful to keep the symphonic form dominant at all times, and he delivers a taut and exciting reading that never meanders. The orchestra plays with its customary excellence, delivering the score's unusual tone colors and strange effects with vivid clarity, giving the music expressions of a highly dramatic and bizarre nature, especially in the Scherzo, which is by far the darkest movement. The audiophile reproduction of this hybrid SACD captures the extraordinary dynamic range of the performance, and the multichannel recording gives the orchestra credible presence and deep dimensions. If any recording does justice to this quirky masterpiece, this one is certainly among the most recommendable, and it ranks as one of the best of 2013.

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