The “other” Fischer boldly goes here where his younger brother has enjoyed such conspicuous success – and Adam, with his excellent Dusseldorf Symphony, may well be one up on Ivan with this compelling account of Mahler’s outlandish Seventh.
Let me get my one niggling reservation out of the way. By the close of the first movement I was not entirely convinced. The quality was certainly apparent but the excitement felt muted. There’s something truly elemental about this movement, a sense of it having been roughly hewn from the cliff face of Mahler’s imagination. For me the temperament which can in an instance convert a good Mahler performance into a great one wasn’t apparent. There was beauty in the ineffable second subject (phrased by the Dusseldorf violins in such a way as not to draw attention to its difficulty) especially where it breathed the rarefied air at the heart of the movement. But the impulsiveness of Mahler’s rather commonplace allegro theme never truly achieved lift-off nor indeed quite the thrill it can and should in the brazen paganistic coda.
But then the magic did descend. Those inner movements with their exotic and sometimes wild evocations of the nocturnal world seemed to unlock something in Fischer and his players. With the echoing horn calls and rustling cow bells of the second movement came an intensification of atmosphere, the playing both here and in the intoxicating guitar and mandolin flecked fourth movement, beautifully nuanced.
I loved, too, the razor-sharp pointing of things going bump in the night throughout the scherzo – the slithery glissandi, grunting bassoons, and spook-house shrieks.
But best of all – and this might be the most successful account that I have ever heard of it – is Fischer’s chronicling of Mahler’s bonkers finale. Yes, we get that it’s an apotheosis of the dance, a celebration of the musics that make us dance, but it’s the way that Fischer manages the movement’s insane transitions, spiriting us to and from each “divertissement” with such wit and charm, that makes something almost rational of its barely concealed anarchy. The “expensive” moment in the coda where the whole piece finally swells with pride is absolutely tremendous. If only the first movement had delivered like that we’d be looking at even more of a front runner. Fischer junior, watch out.