Review Berlin Philharmonic, Mahler’s 7th Symphony, BBC Proms 22, Royal Albert Hall by James Ellis

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Itching for more Proms, the Berlin Philharmonic began a two ninth fest featuring the huge 7th Symphony from Gustave Mahler. It’s been a while for me where I’ve seen a instrumental blend this fine and musicianship this stellar. One can never picture taken on his big works on a whim, the lesser favoured piece is finally getting the love it deserves. It’s funnier than usual as well, with merry tunes and drinking songs which as ever, are met with black doubts and lingering uncertainties. Here the woodwind shines, the brass enthral and the percussion (when used) add that extra bite to proceedings.

The large set of strings delivers jabs, swoons and haunts us all. This feat of musicianship was made crystalline by conductor Kirill Petrenko, who’s flamboyant flair and care for the orchestra is very telling of his persona. These five movements remain quite strange in their form, moments for guitar and mandolin or the cowbells evoking the Austrian Alps are another quirky touch. I found the near 90 minutes whizzed by, some Mahler can drag and this being so fresh and alive it was never a test. The composer wouldn’t have believed a performance like this could be done of this work, so tight and polished. Great work indeed.

BBC Proms continues till 10 September 2022. Listen live to all concert on BBC Radio 3 or listen back to all concerts on BBC Sounds.

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