Author Topic: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I  (Read 1362 times)

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Offline aukhawk

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mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« on: July 02, 2020, 03:43:50 AM »

"And now for something completely different"

I offer here for our amusement, a mini-blind listening comparison, of Mahler's Symphony No.7, the 2nd movement - Nachtmusik I (Allegro moderato).

The 7th is a large and diverse symphony, and Mahler himself was a multi-faceted symphonist - so it's no point pretending that this 5-minute fragment of music is anything other than what it is - a short extract to be considered on its own merits.  It isn't going to indicate much about the symphony as a whole. (For the record, I don't actually even like Mahler's 7th - but I do very much enjoy the three inner movements and especially this one.  Other people find this music trite and banal.)

Nachtmusik I is a 'quiet' pastoral movement about 15 minutes in length, which to my ears broadly falls into three sections, of which the middle one is presented here.  This is episodic, largely static music, I might say it seems a bit like a dream sequence suspended between the more wayfarer-like bookends of music that start and end this movement.  In some ways it may seem like untypical Mahler, but to me this music seems to lie right at the heart of what he does in the middle symphonies - a bit like the still eye of the storm.

We start about 5 mins in with a horn call recalling the main march theme that has set the tone in the music thus far.  Then we get alpine cowbells (to varying degrees) oh we love our cowbells - we get a Mahlerian march - we get a comedy bows-strumming effect - we get Mahler's signature 'come to the cookhouse door' rhythm (first heard as long ago as in Das Klagende Lied, but more obviously in his 1st symphony, 3rd movt) - here sliding sleazily into a most improbable tango - we get alpine birdsong, we are drifting off ... - we get a sharp reveille with a comic twist ... and we stop there, after about 5 mins.  I have no idea what it all means!  ;D

Pace is obviously one point of comparison but orchestral balance, the many solo contributions, the micro-management by the conductor - are all things to listen for.  All the recordings are good sound quality although one or two do stand out for their capturing of the detail.

4 samples in each group making for a listening time of about 20 minutes.  3 groups of 4.
Please note that the last sample in each group is extended a bit to give a more musical ending, bear this in mind if you're comparing timings, No.4 in each group has about 40 seconds extra.

Three zip files - not very user-friendly but I've found hosting anonymised mp3 files to be increasingly difficult, as most cloud-based storage sites simply analyse the unmarked file and restore the tagging, often even the cover image!  Each zip is about 35-45Mb, and contains four mp3 files numbered 1 to 4.

A1-4:
B1-4:
C1-4:
(links and files removed)
« Last Edit: August 06, 2020, 12:50:48 PM by aukhawk »

Online mc ukrneal

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2020, 05:34:17 AM »
Uh oh! Another one! Can...not....resist.....

:)
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2020, 05:54:37 AM »
I'm in! I'll make sure to do all the listening soon...
"l do not consider my music as atonal, but rather as non-tonal. I feel the unity of all keys. Atonal music by modern composers admits of no key at all, no feeling of any definite center." - Arnold Schoenberg

Offline aukhawk

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2020, 08:41:36 AM »
Thanks both!  I'll sit back and relax for a bit now  ;)

Just respond however you like - rank them, or just say "I like this" or "I don't like this much" or whatever, and we'll see what rises to the top.  BTW no conductor is represented twice, I'll give you that for nothing.

Offline Cato

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2020, 08:59:12 AM »
Uh oh! Another one! Can...not....resist.....

:)

Yes!  "Resistance is futile!"

Many thanks for organizing this, AukHawk !
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Online mc ukrneal

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2020, 08:17:34 AM »
Haven't forgotten. Just got hit with a couple extra projects delaying my listening (not to mention a third project at home)....
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2020, 11:50:29 PM »
Thanks for the keep-alive.  Just think of it as 'a little light music'.  ;D

Offline Jo498

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2020, 06:26:19 AM »
Do we have any schedule for feedback, voting or whatever? I had almost forgotten but now I listened at least to A1-4...
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Cato

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2020, 08:55:04 AM »
Haven't forgotten. Just got hit with a couple extra projects delaying my listening (not to mention a third project at home)....

Same here!  I will try to hear some today, if possible!
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline aukhawk

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2020, 01:20:11 PM »
Do we have any schedule for feedback, voting or whatever? I had almost forgotten but now I listened at least to A1-4...

Great!  Please post some thoughts.  Pour encourager les autres.

There's nothing formalised - I've never seen deadlines as a good thing since they are invariably abused anyway.  Rank your group in order if you like, or just write one or two lines of comment about each one.  Either way I'll interpret the result in terms of a general 1-5 score, with 5 being a clear 'best in group and I like it' assessment.  The files are still available for download (see message 1) so if anyone reads comments on a Group, that might encourage them to go find the file and have a listen.

As a general guide, each group includes 3 'established' Mahler conductors and one relative 'outsider'.  Each includes one reading which is at or near the slow end of the spectrum, and another which likewise is near the quick end.  (If you're comparing durations, remember that sample No.4 has approx 40 seconds extra music.)  Recording/issue dates range from mid-1960s to 2020, though (very unusually for one of my comparisons) most of them do date from the last century.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 01:26:42 PM by aukhawk »

Offline Cato

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2020, 03:39:31 AM »
For some reason I cannot download the files: Aukhawk!  I sent you a message with ideas to go around the problem.
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline aukhawk

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2020, 01:29:19 PM »
Leo - I'm sorry you're having difficulties - I've emailed you the Group A files.

Francis

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2020, 01:52:56 PM »
I've already got comments ready for groups A and B. I'll go through C soon and then post everything.
"l do not consider my music as atonal, but rather as non-tonal. I feel the unity of all keys. Atonal music by modern composers admits of no key at all, no feeling of any definite center." - Arnold Schoenberg

Offline Cato

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2020, 01:48:09 AM »
Many thanks for sending the files!  I will listen to Group A today.

"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline Cato

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2020, 02:58:32 AM »
Okay: here we go.  End of Cue 83 - Cue 84 in my Eulenburg score

A1 - A1 – Nice clarity most of the time: however, a little rough playing at the opening: the cowbells and tam-tam barely audible.  The atmosphere is of an 18th-century dance in a palace: “Knight-music” rather than Nachtmusik. The strings lack a "bite" at times, especially the  ff "slide" on pages 152-153, the end of Cue 91 (bars are not numbered).  It is a somewhat genteel interpretation.

A2 - Again nice recording.  A slower pace is taken than A1’s.  Unlike A1, the atmosphere is mysterious throughout and “nightly,” instead of “knightly.”  The basses are ominous, the ff  "slide" in the strings is much more unsettling than in A 1.  The slower tempo is to my liking.

A3 – Recording quality again is excellent.  Similar to A2, the mysterious aspects are brought out, although in a different way.  The strings really bring out the eeriness in the score: e.g. those growling basses, and the “slide” after that Brucknerian crescendo and climax on p. 152-53 is done really well.

A4 - Nice quality again.  It falls somewhere between or around A2 and A3: it has an eerie flavor now and then, perhaps not as often as in A2 and A3.  Not every detail is audible, e.g. the clarinet triplets on p.p. 154-156 are not audible, or barely audible. 

Difficult to rank them: I really like the pace of A2, and find good things in all of them.  Certainly the "genteel" aspect of A1 may entice some people and seem just as valid as the other interpretations.

Let me try...

A2/A3    8)

A4

A1

"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline aukhawk

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2020, 04:02:54 AM »
They're all good recordings.  There's only one of the 12 that I would describe as less than 'very good'.

Thanks Cato - that was quick!  Let me know if you want me to send you another group in the same way.

Yes, those basses are important aren't they?  I never really realised how much until listening closely to several of these samples.

I'm off now to watch/listen to bits of this, that Mahlerian mentioned in the WAYL2N thread.  I love watching Boulez conduct!

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/lQPgMQew7YU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/lQPgMQew7YU</a>
This live Boulez/CSO performance of Mahler's Seventh is really good, better than his DG studio version with Cleveland for sure, though the Andante Amoroso is still a little too quick for my liking.

[edit: hmm, his style mellowed somewhat since his days in charge of the BBC SO - a lot of finger-pointing and wrist-twiddling then.

The sample used in the blind listen runs from 32:05 to 36:30 in this video.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 05:15:40 AM by aukhawk »

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2020, 05:26:34 AM »
A1 Woodwinds a little too polite. The Mahlerian sleaze is missing.
A2 My favorite of this group. Good cowbells. I like the slower pace which brings out the "tango" rhythm (3:31) to spooky, and sleazy effect.
A3 Almost inaudible cowbells but otherwise great detail. Too fast though.
A4 Best cowbells! And again, I like the relatively slow tempo. But the "tango" is slightly underplayed compared to A2. Still, my second favorite.

Ranked from top to bottom:

A2
A4
A3
A1


the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2020, 05:34:54 AM »
Okay, here goes...

A1 - Sound seems very spotlit and close. The various changes in color and texture are navigated quite well. Opening horn solo seemed a little too exaggerated. 3.5

A2 - This recording really captures the musical momentum and drive of the work, all of its shifts in color and tone. Very detailed. 5

A3 - Well played, but the clipped phrasing used throughout makes it sound rushed to me. 3

A4 - Sounds gorgeous, if a little too smooth. 4

B1 - Feels rushed. 2

B2 - The connections between all of the episodes are felt very well, and the performance is very good. I do wonder about the sudden drop in tempo at the tutti, though. 4

B3 - Cowbells quite loud in this one. Some parts of it seem to work really well, but not as a whole. 3.5

B4 - Wow, this is a great recording. Attentive throughout to both detail and overall musical shape. 5

C1 - Excellently shaped and magnificently played. 4.5

C2 - This feels like it's moving in slow motion. Dragging and dull, and somehow manages to keep slowing down on top of that. 1

C3 - Very beautiful and attractively shaped. 4

C4 - Very strong recording here too, balanced a little differently from the others. 5


Overall, I agree you've chosen a good group of recordings, with one particularly infamous one thrown in (if C2 is the version I think it is...). Thanks for running this!
"l do not consider my music as atonal, but rather as non-tonal. I feel the unity of all keys. Atonal music by modern composers admits of no key at all, no feeling of any definite center." - Arnold Schoenberg

Offline aukhawk

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2020, 08:43:06 AM »
Thanks everyone!  That's great progress.  A1 'genteel' and 'polite' - hmm, I wasn't expecting that!  ;)   C2 - no hiding place!  >:D
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 08:49:08 AM by aukhawk »

Online mc ukrneal

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Re: mini-blind comparison - Mahler Symphony 7 Nachtmusik I
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2020, 09:09:16 AM »
Thanks everyone!  That's great progress.  A1 'genteel' and 'polite' - hmm, I wasn't expecting that!  ;)   C2 - no hiding place!  >:D
I haven't finished the C group, but here is a preview of my opinion on A1:
A1: Wonderful dynamic and dramatic contrasts. Very well played, perhaps lacking a bit of darkness at times, but the mix of martial and pastoral is well done. Transitions feel very natural, a real achievement in this movement.
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