Mahler on Mondays Continues With Symphony No. 7

Our presentation of  the symphonies of Gustav Mahler in the order of number of released recordings, from least to most, continues on Symphony at 7 Monday evening.  For our second presentation, it’s Symphony No. 7 in E minor, Song of the Night, which comes in at about 78 releases, a surprisingly large number, considering.

This symphony, which was completed in 1906 and not performed until two years later, is considered by some to be the least popular of Mahler’s symphonies.  I have always found it to be a fascinating piece to listen to and enjoy it quite a bit.  Perhaps it’s because I was lucky enough to hear a great recording from one of the best Mahler conductors, Claudio Abbado, when I first became acquainted with this unusually structured five-movement work in the mid 1980′s.  His first recording of this symphony with the Chicago Symphony is still highly regarded.

Mahler’s Seventh got its nick-name, Song of the Night, from the two slow movements titled Nachtmusik, or Night Music.  The symphony as a whole presents the popular Romantic idea of a struggle from darkness to light, from night to day.  When Mahler began it, he started with a ghostly and garish scherzo and then surrounded that with the two contrasting slow movements.  The long first movement is full of the expected Mahlerian angst, but the final movement, which seems inspired by Wagner’s overture to Die Meistersinger, brings unabashed daylight to this sometimes dark musical journey.  The symphony is scored for a very large orchestra and some unusual instrumentation, including a mandolin, guitar and cowbells.

I hope you can join me as we continue this slightly different survey of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler on Symphony at 7.  Here’s a sample from the finale: