Thomas Søndergård & RSNO - Mahler: Symphony No. 7 - BachTrack

What a delight then to hear RSNO and Søndergård tackle Mahler’s Seventh Symphony in a brave arrangement by Klaus Simon for reduced forces. Though we may have missed the sheer heft of a full orchestra, the smaller number of players allowed a sharper focus and Søndergård to take a distinctive approach. No trombones or tuba here, but a single trumpet and two horns shouldering all the brass work, a piano and harmonium filling in lost structure. The players’ sheer enjoyment of making music together again was wonderful to watch. The lyrical tenor horn solo in the opening Langsam with angular woodwind and dense strings built into a march with swagger, Søndergård playfully holding back the beat at times. Solemn pulses were delicately handled with exquisite soloing, but the climaxes were astonishing for so few players.

The journey through the Nachtmusik to the sunrise finale was engrossing, Søndergård coaxing bright sounds from the orchestra, balancing the forces lightly and letting the solos shine and the cowbells raise a smile. I was less convinced by the slightly prepared piano mimicking a mandolin which jarred slightly in timbre, but needs must where space is rationed. The woodwind section, pared back to single instruments apart from two clarinets, threw down a particular challenge to the players involving deft instrument changes as they ably covered all bases. While I missed the exuberance of a full orchestra, and the full punch of a brass section, this performance made up for much by its verve and determination. Indeed, in the final climaxes, all bells and gong in the percussion, I was amazed how few musicians could produce such a full sound.

10 August 2020