- Symphony No. 3 in D minor
In making his first recording of a Mahler symphony, Daniel Raiskin has taken a big risk by choosing the "Symphony No. 3 in D minor," the longest of the symphonies (indeed, the longest regularly performed symphony in the repertoire), and one of the toughest to hold together. Conducting the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie with a clear sense of the work's massive length and variable moods, Raiskin doesn't rush his musicians but takes a measured pace from the start and lets the symphony unfold one glorious section at a time. This requires considerable patience in the first movement, which runs close to 35 minutes, but the steady tempos and predominantly upbeat martial air give this opening section the right combination of cohesion and forward momentum to maintain interest. After this titanic movement, the rest of the symphony goes by with comparative ease, and Raiskin's unhurried approach conditions listeners to accept the music on its own terms (in a sense, asking them to dally and smell the roses), so as the symphony's deepening moods take over, feelings of reverence for nature and joy in small things become quite credible and not just the stuff of Mahler's fantasies. Joined by alto Ewa Marciniec in the third movement, "O Mensch! Gib acht!," and the women and boys of St. Martin's Cathedral of Mainz in the jubilant fourth movement, Raiskin and the orchestra achieve a kind of serenity that makes the beatific Finale all the more compelling and moving. While this is not the most riveting performance of the "Third" on CD -- and this may be because it was "based on a live recording," suggesting careful editing with studio material -- it has advantages in Raiskin's close attention to details and his almost otherworldly sense of timelessness that makes it seem transcendent. Highly recommended.