"The latest installment in Ivan Fischer's near-complete Mahler cycle for Channel Classics Records, the Symphony No.3 renders the myriad beauties of this most wondrous of symphonies into an unforgettable experience. No matter what resolution DSD files you download — I listened in DSD128 — you will discover the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Cantemus Children's Choir, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and alto Gerhild Romberger portrayed in stunning sound, with pounding percussion, cutting brass, tinkly triangles, and celestial children's voices laid out before you in a seamless soundstage.
This, however, is anything but another of those "audiophile recordings" that satiates you sonically while leaving you hungry for musical substance. Channel Classics' superb sound is all of a piece with a performance so satisfying that it deserves a place alongside the myriad hallowed interpretations past and present. Fischer, who tends to steer a middle course that has sometimes proven more truthful to the letter rather than to the spirit of the score, has found a way forward that, to these ears, fully honors Mahler, Gustav's intentions. He understands, on the deepest level, that Mahler has created a journey that begins with his characteristically idiosyncratic, multilayered vision of nature, and ends in a glorious affirmation of life and faith.
Finally, comes the 22-minute closing Adagio, that great embrace, which under Fischer's guidance emerges as one gorgeous, extended prayer. Its conclusion is tremendous. As I expect, will be your reaction to this masterful recording of Mahler's masterpiece. Listening without distraction could convince many a skeptic that assembling and fine-tuning a high-end system is, ultimately, a life-giving spiritual pursuit."
BBC Record Review Disc of the Week
11.45am – Disc of the Week (Jul 02, 2017)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 3
Gerhild Romberger (alto), Budapest Festival Orchestra, Cantemus Children's Choir, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Ivan Fischer (conductor)
CHANNEL CCSSA38817 (2Hybrid SACD or DSD Download)
Classics Today -
Good, even very good recordings of Mahler’s Third Symphony are not rare; great ones are another story. The two reference editions, Bernstein I (Sony) and Haitink I (Philips/Decca) have withstood all challengers for a very long time, but this newcomer surely joins them. A great performance of this symphony encompasses the vast range of expression that Mahler requires, from the raucous vulgarity of the opening movement to the sublime lyricism of the concluding Adagio. In between lies a veritable minefield of traps for the unwary conductor and the orchestra–everything from the placement of the offstage posthorn in the third movement to the choice of alto soloist in the fourth, never mind the choruses in the fifth.
Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra deliver the goods. The opening movement is a bit on the quick side (all to the good), but most importantly, Fischer isn’t afraid to let go in the music’s wilder episodes. Check out the coda, here played with all of the necessary Hollywood glitz and glamor (sound clip). The solo work is uniformly outstanding: the trombone in the first movement, the oboe solo, the posthorn, and alto Gerhild Romberger (note her careful observance of dynamics). The strings of the BFO play, as always, with a sort of vocal expressiveness and gorgeous tone that seems a uniquely Hungarian quality.
Mostly importantly, Fischer conducts with a plasticity of line, a natural rubato, that maximizes expressivity without excess sentimentality. The concluding Adagio is sublime. The orchestra seems to speak effortlessly, with complete naturalness and eloquence (sound clip). I never thought anyone would match Haitink I in realizing the closing measures, with the timpani only marked forte, and the orchestra creating the “noble, saturated tone” that Mahler demands. Fischer does it (sound clip). Here is an account of the finale that never lets down the show, and it’s impossible to exaggerate just how impressive an achievement that is.
Channel Classics’ sonics are typical of this source: warm, well balanced, in an ample acoustic that swallows some of the higher frequencies (glockenspiel, triangle, piccolo) but flatters the strings and copes ideally with the larger climaxes. Fischer’s Mahler hasn’t all been equally great, but when he’s on, as here, he has few peers today.
Musicweb International -
May 2017 - Recording of the Month
"Few albums have been as eagerly awaited as this one, and a quick listen to the first movement suggests it has been worth the wait. Watching Fischer on the podium confirmed what I suspected, that he’s very much at ease with this, one of Mahler’s sunniest creations.
A preliminary audition of Fischer’s Mahler 3 was most encouraging. I’m delighted to say that my first impression was the right one. Tempos and tempo relationships are very well judged – and the minutely calibrated colors are simply ravishing. Engineers Jared Sacks and Tom Peeters must take some of the credit for this, as the recording is blessed with startling detail and a thrilling sense of presence. As for the playing – disciplined, weighty and with necessary heft when it matters most – it simply confirms the BFO as one of the world’s truly great ensembles.
As if that weren’t praise enough, the delicate strings at the start of the second movement are a joy to hear, bringing to mind Fischer’s equally transparent way with similar passages in the Fourth. Fischer allows the music to move and breathe in a way I’ve rarely encountered, either on record or in the concert hall.
The BFO percussion are uncommonly well rendered, but then everything about Channel’s recordings speaks of the highest musical and technical values. Without question, the finest installment in Fischer’s Mahler cycle to date; and what breathtaking sound."
“Here for once is a Mahler symphony release that feels different from the outset...I doubt whether there has ever been a more precisely focused, more sheerly beautiful recording of any Mahler work...Reluctant to parade its roughest edges and disinclined to hurry, Fischer instead elicits a range of pristine, jewel-like colour that leaves its fabric refreshed...This Third is a must-have.” June 2017
"Just downloaded the new Mahler 3rd recording from Budapest. Fantastic, totally natural sound and a very beautiful performance. Another winner from your team! Thanks."
HR Audio -
"Ivan Fischer's survey of the Mahler Symphonies with his incomparable Budapest Festival Orchestra began with the release of the 6th Symphony in 2005 Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - Fischer that immediately marked him out as a Mahler interpreter of considerable stature. Subsequent highly praised releases of Symphonies 1, 2, 4, 5 and 9 over the past eight years have been eagerly awaited, and this latest release of Mahler's mighty 3rd Symphony, recorded in September 2016, will further cement his reputation as one of the most charismatic Mahler conductors of our time.
The public's appetite for more and more performances and recordings of Mahler's works shows no signs of abating, in spite of the availability of a plethora of versions that one might imagine would suit all tastes. There are, however, three main factors that make these Channel Classic recordings stand out in what is a very crowded field. First is Fischer's perceptive and probing musicianship, born of a long career on the podium, that ensures his interpretations possess an individuality stemming from a deep understanding of, and respect for, the music he conducts. The second factor is the character of the Budapest Festival Orchestra whose consummate musicians always play with a fierce and absolute commitment for their Musical Director and founder. Finally it is the superb state-of-the-art sound quality achieved by Jared Sacks in the fine acoustic of the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, Palace of Arts, Budapest. The 5.0 channel DSD recording providing almost unrivaled realism, clarity and impact to the music – essential in Mahler.
It is also perhaps worth mentioning that Fischer's recordings are made in the wake of many live performances with his orchestra in concert halls across Europe, so the conductor and his players are able to refine their interpretations before finally committing them to disc.
Those who have enjoyed Fischer's earlier Mahler recordings will need no urging to acquire this one. In both musical and sonic terms it provides a further criterion for past and future recordings of this symphony.