Starting in 2003, Jonathan Nott and the Bamberg Symphony pursued the ambitious project of recording Franz Schubert's symphonies Nos. 1-8, and the SACDs were individually released later that decade to considerable critical praise. This 2011 set of six SACDs brings together the four albums with the symphonies, plus two collections of modern compositions inspired by Schubert's music. Nott's conducting tends to be on the fast side in Schubert, and the Bamberg Symphony is sometimes a little uneven in sound quality. But by and large, they demonstrate a great understanding of Schubert's styles, both in his Classical and Romantic veins, and acquit themselves with enthusiasm and brilliance.
Mahler’s Resurrection has been much recorded in recent years, so much so that new versions prompt one to groan inwardly and mutter: ‘Not another one’. Such ubiquity has its price, for any newcomer has to be something out of the ordinary if it’s to have any impact. Of recent releases David Zinman (Sony-BMG), Jonathan Nott (Tudor) and James Levine (Orfeo) definitely belong in this category; Vladimir Jurowski (LPO) and Markus Stenz (Oehms) manifestly don’t. And now Oehms are taking another bite out of the cherry, with the Hamburg orchestra led by their chief conductor Simone Young. Curiously, this was recorded at around the same time as the Stenz Mahler 2, which seems extravagant in this already overstocked field.
Fischer’s performance of the Sixth is quite similar to Abbado’s recent live recording for DG. Textures are generally light and transparent, with a swift opening march that, by the same token, never sounds unduly rushed or trivialized. The andante comes second, not the best option in my view, but Fischer has the intelligence to treat it as a true andante, and not as an adagio (which is a more legitimate possibility when it’s placed third). However, in contrast to Abbado’s boring Berliners, Fischer’s orchestra plays better, and he’s much better recorded. Just listen to the characterful brass in the coda of the first movement, with a particularly fine first trumpet, or the splendid woodwinds in the trios of the scherzo. The emphasis on fleetness never compromises expressivity, as happens in Berlin.
This is Ivan Fischer’s second Mahler symphony for Channel Classics with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, his first being the Sixth recorded in February 2005. His opening to this Resurrection symphony, its hero’s Funeral Rites, is disciplined with touches of brusqueness in the brass. But as this is supposed to ask ‘Why did you live?’ I’m very aware of Fischer’s empathy for the visionary aspects of the movement, as if to answer ‘To experience all that’s lovely’.