Gustavo Dudamel / Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Mahler: Symphony No. 7

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Due to his charismatic personality and special rapport with orchestras, Gustavo Dudamel has become one of the leading conductors of his generation, and his dramatically physical performances of exciting repertoire have made him a celebrity. His acclaimed renditions of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler have won devoted fans, particularly since he conducted the entire cycle with the Los Angeles Symphony and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in a series of historic concerts in 2012. Because of his success, he has been recording the symphonies on Deutsche Grammophon, giving his musicians the opportunity to become one of the best-known Mahler orchestras in the Americas. However, the Symphony No. 7 in E minor, "The Song of the Night," is not one of the most popular of Mahler's symphonies, and for many conductors, it is the most difficult to interpret. It is certainly the weirdest of the cycle, with four of its movements depicting scenes of nocturnal gloom, mystery, grotesquerie, and romance, only to be followed by a manic rondo-finale that bursts with daylight. The temptation to treat these movements as separate tone poems is strong, and many conductors have neglected the work's formal needs to emphasize its unofficial program. Dudamel succeeds in conveying the symphony's bizarre qualities, yet at the same time he maintains its propulsion and energy to hold the work together formally, and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra plays with so much vitality and color that interest nevers flags. This is certainly one of the most compelling Mahler recordings Dudamel has made, and it's inspiring to hear what he has achieved with the oddest of Mahler's symphonies. Highly recommended.

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