Valery Gergiev

Mahler: Symphony No. 7

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Few conductors turn in tightly controlled and coherent renditions of Gustav Mahler's sprawling Symphony No. 7 in E minor, "Song of the Night," and it often comes across either as a jumble of ironic distortions or as a strange riddle that needs to be deciphered. It would hardly seem as direct and powerful as its predecessor, the Symphony No. 6 in A minor, "Tragic," which most conductors take at face value and frequently bring off with satisfactory results. Following his stunning 2008 success with his LSO Live recording of the Symphony No. 6 (one of the finest that work has ever received), Valery Gergiev presents the Symphony No. 7 in an equally convincing manner and avoids the unnecessary exaggerations that can make this work seem bizarre or incomprehensible. Gergiev is a straightforward interpreter, and he treats the symphony as any other big-hearted, post-Romantic masterpiece, not as a special case full of esoteric secrets, but as inventive and exciting music brilliantly laid out in an intelligible five-movement form. Taken boldly and played with steady energy, Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra make the piece hold together quite solidly, and the progression from the brooding opening through the nocturnal middle movements to the exuberant finale makes sense in symphonic terms. Recorded with crystal-clear DSD sound and presented in the super audio format, the recording is vividly detailed and surprisingly clean for being live, and the sonorities of the orchestra are absolutely true. Along with Gergiev's spectacular performance of the Symphony No. 6, this SACD is highly recommended as one of the best releases of 2008.

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