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Mahler 3 with the Philharmonia

Ben opened his one-hour talk session by pointing up the
need to attract young people to classical music,
especially as 'Mahler is for everyone,' (he managed to
recruit his taxi driver, waiter & wife!). First-timers
would, he promised, never forget the posthorn. (I was
with someone who hadn't ever heard any Mahler before
and was much impressed from start to finish).

M3 is not so often performed because of length and
scale - almost a record but he mentioned Havergal
Brian's symphony (as he wrote 32 of them, presumably
this refers to the 111-minute first, "Gothic," composed
1919-27 and premiered a mere 34 years later -
available on Marco Polo 8.223280-281 for millionaires;
"Havergal Brian and his Music," Reginald Nettel,
Dobson 1976 is a good biog of this working class North
of England long-life composer).

Anyway, he told us, after the long first movement, four
movements follow which are short enough to be played
on Classical FM. He felt the last movement should have
been picked instead of all that post-9/11 patriotic
stuff because it is 'An Anthem for the World'.

I thought the Philharmonia played very well, the solo
instrumentalists beautifully, the vocals faultlessly;
just the faintest whiff of a couple of double notes from
the brass. The Zander conception of the symphony as a
whole came off and came across, albeit with the
impression that he was playing all the instruments:
everything seemed to happen just as he wanted.

Actually, he says, every member of the orchestra
feels that in this work they have the most important
part (maybe that's the trick). He had warned that the
RHF gives very pure sound and it did. Mahler, he said,
wanted everything to be heard. There are a few
passages in the first movement where I always feel
Mahler unravels the chaos to pretty close to it all
drifting apart and despite Ben's complete control,
somehow I was more struck by this than usual. The
loudest parts also didn't seem sufficiently
overwhelming. The pace was excellent throughout. The
performance of the finale was poignantly movingly.

I felt that this performance confirms that the Mahler
conductor of the new millennium is going to be Ben
Zander rather than Simon Rattle. This is because of his
affinity through understanding the music and the man so
well and communicating this with enthusiasm to orchestra
and audience. The new recording in the Telarc series is
likely to sound better -and where needed bigger - than
was possible in the RFH, and I still have every reason
to hope it will be the best since Horenstein's. But I
do hope that on his discussion CD, along with the
Beethoven String Quartet, he will find a few seconds to
explore the quotes from Hans Rott's first symphony.

Paul Barasi, Contributor to the Mahler List

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