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What the Universe Tells Me: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mahler's Third Symphony (Bonus Disc) back to product details

The Whole Enchilschlaga
written by JPielaszczyk November 1, 2004 - 2:59 PM PST
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
A technical note: the 215-minute length applies to the sum of both DVDs: this one, the actual full-length performance, and the other one, the excellent intro and documentaries, each have playing times of 100+ minutes.

Nearly (gulp!) a half-century ago, I watched conductor Leonard Bernstein say to the television audience " . . . as in this excerpt from Mahler . . ." as he turned and gave the downbeat to the orchestra. It was a case of sympathetic vibration, or soul communication. I've listened to his works often; to the Third, dozens of times.

Watching and listening to this performance adds another dimension of knowledge to my future hearings. I listen this frequently to bask in the communicated cosmic consciousness. The end of the work feathers off into eventual quiet; after all, since this is finite music, it must end. On another level, though, it doesn't end, and the producers of the (other) documentary disk get high marks for dissolving the images of receeding performers into images of receeding galaxies, thereby substituting space for time.

My CD of the Third is with the Berlin Philharmonic--certainly a velvet steamroller, a well-oiled V-16 Marmon running on leaded gas. This performance is with young players who play well enough, and some very well indeed. My biggest carp is with a tendency to seem to play somewhat behind the beat, most noticeable in the sprawling grand rhetoric of the trombone solo. This tendency is perhaps exacerbated by slower-paced adagios (in particular) than I'm accustomed to hearing. The plus is the gain in spaciousness--one of the key elements of the work. The minus is that listeners unfamiliar with the work might not scan the melodies quickly enough to prevent their components from falling apart.

The performance, however, is not the work. The weight of the work is in the outer two (of the six) movements. Two inner movements (totaling under 15 minutes) have singer(s) and work better for me if I don't follow along with a translation. Mahler was more what we would call spiritual than religious. I get twitchy about aspects of the Christian stratum in his work--and in some of the visuals of the cathedral where the recording was made.

Love, death, innocence, transcendence, the kitchen sink--it's all here. The artist trumps Schopenhauer's imperative of the grasping, competitive, will-to-life of all creatures.

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