BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a. Symphony No. 7 in A, Op.
MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 in E minor "Song of the Night."
SOMMER: Sapphos Gesänge, Op. 6. Orchestral Songs: Odysseus.
Der Fischer. König und Floh. Dedr Tümer singt auf der Schlosswarte. Ach neige,
Du Schmerzenreiche. An den Mond. Mallied. Frech und froh. Des Harfners
Gesang. Mignon singt,
als Engel angetan. Mignons Sehnen. Symbolum. Wonne der Wehmut. Wanderers
Michael Tilson Thomas's recent San Francisco Symphony SACD recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Piano Concerto No. 4 (with Emanuel Ax) was praised about a year ago on this site (REVIEW). Now we have this issue of Symphony No. 7 recorded during concerts in October 2010 coupled with the Leonore Overture No. 3 from September 2011. The only other SF Beethoven symphony is the Eroica, oddly issued only on a budget-priced regular CD—although the performance has been issued on DVD in 5.1 surround sound so perhaps eventually it will be issued on SACD as well. This vibrant, solid Seventh is excellent in every way and boasts the same big sonic picture of the last release. The only disappointment is that more music isn't included—playing time is well less than an hour, hardly good value for a premium-priced issue.
With this issue of Mahler's Symphony No. 7, Jonathan Nott and his fine Bamberg Symphony have only two of the composer's symphonies to record, the Sixth and Eighth, plus whatever of Symphony No. 10 they choose to include. Overall this is a distinguished series, with the Bamberg Symphony holding up commendably to the world's greatest orchestras. When I began to collect records many years ago, the only available version of Symphony No. 7 was with Hermann Scherchen on Westminste, which is still available. Now there are dozens of versions by leading conductors so competition is formidable, particularly when one includes videos available conducted by Claudio Abbado and Bernard Haitink. The latter is, to me, finest of all. It is only available in Europe and i was reviewed on this site in (REVIEW). My standard for Symphony No. 7 remains the Haitink performance in the Dutch Kirstmatinee series, available only in Europe, with PAL processing, rather hard to find, but worth the effort. , The SACD is one of the best engineered in the series, although little use is made of rear channels except for ambience. There are dozens of recordings of this unusual symphony,
German composer Hans Sommer (1837-1922) (not to be confused with the notorious German spy of the same name) came to music late in life (he was 47) and was encouraged by both List and Strauss. Sommer composed a number of operas, mostly based on fairy tales, as well as lieder; two of his song cycles (Sapphos Gesänge and Goethe Lieder) are on Tudor's welcome SACD. These are unknown to most listeners, but are quite beautiful and deserve to be heard—remember they had to compete with Mahler's lieder well-known at the time. This gentle music, sensitively orchestrated, is given sterling performances by the two soloists accompanied by the fine orchestra under the direction of Sebastian Weigle. Audio is fine, with soloists not overly-prominent, nothing but sparse ambience from rear speakers. Complete texts are included.
R.E.B. (June 2012)