If I may quote Robert Louis Stevenson: “… to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive…”. I do so because this fourth instalment of Semyon Bychkov’s Czech Philharmonic Mahler cycle for Pentatone is excellent – atmospheric, well-made perspectives, full of judicious observations in terms of details and dynamics, and of course very well played and recorded (October 2021). However, for all that the travelling is rewarding in terms of tempo, phrasing, characterisations and emotions, come the final few minutes, a triumphal arrival, things become a little unravelled anyway (slightly blurred at times) and, unfortunately, the ultimate chord attracts an unsolicited timpani stroke (Bychkov is not alone in adding one) that sounds crude and rather undoes all the impressive stuff beforehand. A negligible point you may think but it’s a long way to go to falter on the finishing line, and as an admirer of Bychkov it saddens me to write this (although I don’t forget the bombastic way he ends the first movement of his Paris Orchestra Rachmaninov Two for Philips). So, as part of this continuing Mahler cycle, Bychkov’s No.1 can be recommended; as as standalone version, rather less so. Pentatone PTC 5187 043.