Double Play: Heavy brigade: Stephen Johnson and Edward Seckerson review new orchestral releases

Mahler: Symphony No 7; Kindertotenlieder - Bryn Terfel (baritone), Philharmonia / Sinopoli (DG 437 851 2: two CDs)

THE SEVENTH is the symphony that separates mere Mahler admirers from the true Mahler worshipper. Even if you're not ultimately convinced, there are performances that can make you feel the quality of the ideas along the way. Sinopoli's isn't one of them. The slow, laboured, ponderously articulated opening is a fair portent of what is to come. Sinopoli seems unable to let anything play itself. Almost every phrase has to be tweaked and primped: the first movement's second theme wallows in rubato, climaxes are built and delivered with sledgehammer subtlety. But there seems little behind it.

Contrast with Bryn Terfel's singing of Kindertotenlieder could hardly be more extreme. The anguished intensity comes close to unbearable in the fourth song, 'Oft denk' ich' - nothing forced, just very musical, deeply felt singing. The man is a miracle, and fortunately Sinopoli seems content to let him be miraculous after his own fashion. SJ

IT'S not often that the coupling generates more excitement than the main event. But then it's not often that a Bryn Terfel comes along. Here's a singer with the facility and capacity to do anything: the full, rich legato, the effortless ascents into the head voice. Terfel's care for words and their potential for drama can veer a little eagerly towards the operatic, but you'll go far to hear a better sung Kindertotenlieder.

Better accounts of the symphony are only a step away: Rattle on EMI, for one. Sinopoli draws more attention to the mechanics than the music, pulling phrasing and focus in bizarre ways, or making foreground of background. Sound effects make their mark in the phantasmagorical inner movements - Mahler's nocturnal field trips. But where Rattle makes whoopee with the finale's desperate dancing, Sinopoli makes apologies. Loud, reverberant recording. ES

Strauss: Ein Heldenleben; Metamorphosen - San Francisco Symphony Orchestra / Blomstedt (Decca 436 596 2)

A WONDERFUL coupling: Strauss at the peak of his youthful brilliance, brazenly celebrating himself, and then as an old man, wartime devastation all around him. The brass are warm and powerful in Heldenleben, the strings sumptuous in Metamorphosen, and the recording serves it all beautifully. Herbert Blomstedt brings to both the feeling for an organic, living experience that has made his Sibelius and Nielsen recordings stand out.

Much as I love the sounds and admire the shaping spirit, the end result left me still wanting something: the sorrows and rough grandeur of heroism in Heldenleben, perhaps, or the beauty that hurts in Metamorphosen. It's a while since I've heard a new Strauss orchestral recording as impressive, yet it leaves me feeling that Strauss is one area of repertoire where the old masters - Mengelberg, Furtwangler, Reiner - remain unchallenged. SJ

STRAUSS, the hero, strides forth and it's not the self-importance but the excellent muscle tone that Blomstedt draws attention to. Lissom strings, keen rhythm. Enter, now, strident woodwinds, representing 'the critics' - uncommonly prickly, irascible. Not this one.

Blomstedt turns in a vital, heartfelt Heldenleben and the noise it makes is tremendous. All that's missing is that indefinable depth of resonance, spiritual rather than physical, that ennobles classic recordings out of Berlin or Vienna. The portamenti don't quite come off the bows as though inbred over countless generations, though Raymond Kobler gives the violin solos a nostalgic sense of style.

But perhaps all this string section actually needs is a real masterpiece to deepen its awareness. In Metamorphosen, the chosen few emerge like old voices from dark times and, in a moving stream of consciousness, beautifully sustained, rise to a great crest of outrage. You know you've been successfully transported when the key Eroica quotation near the close feels like the ground has suddenly shifted. ES

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?