There's a moment in the third movement of Mahler's gargantuan third symphony when the music – a rising chaos of shrill woodwind and rioting strings – is interrupted by a lonely, beguilingly simple call from an off-stage post-horn. What makes it extraordinary is the eerie feeling of being woken from a trance, during which some irrevocable change has taken place. For Mahler, the moment signified the arrival of man in the forest. But you don't need to know this to appreciate the episode's uncanny nature.

Looking around me at this point during the London Philharmonic's season-opening, Mahler cycle-launching performance under Vladimir Jurowski, I noticed almost everyone was wearing the same expression: open-mouthed but with fully alert, searching eyes. Not even halfway through this often bewildering work, such levels of engagement are a considerable achievement. You could have heard a pin drop. (Unfortunately, a mobile phone rang instead – though even this did nothing to disturb the atmosphere.)

The performance was everything we've come to expect from the LPO and Jurowski: precise gestures, judiciously paced movement and wonderfully balanced sound. There were moments early on when the strings sounded a little too rough-edged, but elsewhere they brought out a marvellously rosy hue. The brass were spot-on and the woodwind, though so often the apparent butt of Mahler's jokes, excellent. The mezzo Petra Lang, who had also performed Zemlinsky's Maeterlinck songs in an apt but unnecessary first half, dominated the hall with full-bodied Nietzsche incantations before being blasted apart by the jubilant choir surrounding her.

As ever, though, it was the final movement – unfolding like an eternity captured in a single breath – that lingered, spreading its serene and supremely compassionate gaze long after the rapturous applause had died away.

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