- Symphony No. 3 in D minor
One doesn't think of Pierre Boulez as a pantheist, but this is among the freshest and most vernal of Mahler Thirds on disc. The sharp, percussive accents of the opening horn fanfare grab one's attention, and the funereal march is taut and intense. Yet the first rustle of spring is dewy and sweet, foreshadowing the thrilling entrance of Pan at the movement's end. By contrast, the Minuet and Scherzo are surprisingly delicate, and though the posthorn interlude might have been more lingeringly nostalgic, it's beautifully played and fits Boulez's refined vision of these two intermezzo-like movements. The music's darker elements are brought forward, too, particularly in the Scherzo, though without the rustic, rough edge favored by Bernstein. Anne Sofie von Otter's dark tone is well suited to the profound atmosphere of the fourth movement, which Boulez takes at a flowing tempo -- more like a song than a symphonic Adagio, which makes a great deal of sense. And von Otter is perhaps even more compelling in "Es sungen drei Engel," where she vividly conveys the bitter weeping described in the text. Boulez does not linger much in the Finale, either, but his shaping of the long, melodic phrases into radiant arcs provides a glorious sense of spaciousness. Those who believe that Boulez is an inexpressive conductor should hear the wrenching and transformative climaxes and the masterful way he leads up to the symphony's breathtaking final pages. With superb playing from the Vienna Philharmonic, this is one of the high points of Boulez's Mahler cycle. Warmly recommended.