Markus Stenz / Michaela Schuster / Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne

Gustav Mahler: Symphonie Nr. 3

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Following his triumphant release of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection," on Oehms Classics in 2011, Markus Stenz presents the next work in the cycle, the Symphony No. 3 in D minor, with a comparably high level of interpretive skill, formal clarity, and expressive power. Leading the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, with contralto Michaela Schuster, the women and children of the choir of Cologne Cathedral, and the women's chorus of the Cologne Opera, Stenz shapes this sprawling work into a comprehensible and transcendent whole, and the flow of the six movements is enhanced by the momentum he maintains from beginning to end. The last thing anyone wants is a sluggish or heavy Third, not merely because of the symphony's extraordinary length, but also because much of the music should be bright and ethereal. The musicians make this a reasonably fleet performance, timed at a surprising 94 minutes. More importantly, the symphony is infused with a feeling of childlike wonder, in keeping with its associations with Des Knaben Wunderhorn, so the ensemble keeps the music bright and delicate, and is quite playful in the second and third movements. Schuster provides a sobering reflection in the Nietzsche setting, "O Mensch, gib acht!", though the darkness is banished by the cheerfulness of the "Bimm, Bamm!" chorus. The Langsam finale, one of the most gorgeous Adagios in Mahler's oeuvre, offers some of the most moving passages in this performance, and for all the charm of the earlier movements, this is a highlight of the album for its sublimity. Oehms Classics' super audio reproduction is a treat for Mahler fans who relish great-sounding performances.

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