Author Topic: My mostly favorable review of Bloch/Lille M7 on Alpha  (Read 156 times)

Offline barryguerrero

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My mostly favorable review of Bloch/Lille M7 on Alpha
« on: October 01, 2020, 02:34:59 AM »
This is a very 'French' approach to Mahler 7, with Bloch bringing a genuine 'joie de vivre' to the last two movements. Yet, I'm happy to report that the Lille orchestra uses a big Wuhan tam-tam and not a Paiste – still ubiquitous with orchestras in England and France. As a result, the big gong 'smash' in the finale is wonderfully realized here (more on the finale later). It's early on where perhaps a darker, more hefty sonority from the corporate winds and brass would come in handy (along with slightly slower tempi).                                 

Yet, there are still a few, very good moments in those first two movements, such as the precisely measured introduction to the symphony. The centrally placed, “moonlit” episode in the first movement is quite atmospherically realized, and Bloch nails the 'tango' feel at the 8 minute mark in the second movement (Nachtmusik I). As with both Abbado and Vanska, Bloch takes the middle movement a bit faster than usual.

However, he also underlines the 'snap pizzicato' anti-climax of this shadowy endevour. In the end, the middle movement is no more, but no less effective than it generally is. Where Bloch and his Lille based players are at their 'happiest' is in the last two movements. I thought the guitar and mandolin contributions were both audible and adequately executed in the fourth movement (Nachtmusik II). I liked its quick gait, yet it doesn't sound too harried. That French lightness of touch came in handy here too. To top that off, the finale is a raucous celebration that clocks in at less than 17 minutes.

I'm happy to report that Bloch does a good job of letting the back half of finale just go nuts. Where I feel Vanska trumps Bloch (no pun intended), is the spot where the first movement's main theme, in minor, makes its ugly reappearance. Because Vanska took two minutes longer on his first movement, he brings back that first movement theme at a tempo that is slightly slower than most everything that has preceded it, not faster (as it is with Bloch and so many others). I find that to be highly effective on the Vanska recording. Regardless, Bloch's finale is a joyous romp, with tons of deep bells at the final peroration (but not enough cowbells!).

In the final analysis, it's difficult for me to 'place' Bloch's M7. It's a strong contribution, but we've had so many good recordings of Mahler 7 over the last few decades – laying waste to the old cliché that M7 is the ugly stepchild of Mahler symphonies. Of more recent vintage, I do like Zinman/Zurich, Nott/Bamberg, Stenz/Gurzenich, A. Fischer/Dusseldorf, Jansons/Concertgebouw, Vanska/Minnesota and several ones I'm just not thinking of, a bit more than Bloch's entry. Yet, I'd certainly place it above Tilson-Thomas/San Francisco (a total dud in my book). In a one to ten scale rating of performance and sound, I'd give it an 8.5/9.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2020, 10:00:18 PM by barryguerrero »

Offline erikwilson7

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Re: My mostly favorable review of Bloch/Lille M7 on Alpha
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2020, 03:09:57 AM »
Totally agree with basically everything you said, Barry. I love this thoughtful review. I mentioned before that I wish the guitar and mandolin were more audible, but maybe I should give it another listen.

I also find it difficult to place Bloch's M7. I would probably rank it within my own top ten, but it's hard to recommend it for the general listener. If I were to use the same rating scale, I'd probably give it a 9/9. For me, points off for too quick of a first movement, occasional intonation issues, and lacking a bit in the low end of the mix (and not just because it's a 'French' orchestral approach).

Regardless, so happy that we have another good M7 for the collection, and I'm looking forward to more Bloch/Mahler if they plan to release it.

Offline barryguerrero

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Re: My mostly favorable review of Bloch/Lille M7 on Alpha
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2020, 03:17:18 AM »
You know, I listened through it again, just now, and I think would bring that 8.5 up to a 9 as well. It's really quite good. I just wish the ending of the finale had more cowbells and was a bit more 'distanced' with the deep bells (they're very 'in your face').

Offline erikwilson7

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Re: My mostly favorable review of Bloch/Lille M7 on Alpha
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2020, 03:20:59 AM »
Haha, agreed. I love loud percussion, but these bells are borderline obnoxious. Nevertheless, I still like it. It just needs more cowbell to balance it out.

Offline barryguerrero

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Re: My mostly favorable review of Bloch/Lille M7 on Alpha
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2020, 03:31:12 AM »
Yes, and that gets into the point that Vehemence made about engineers and knob turning on commercial recordings. Still,   .    .    . 

 

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