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Mahler SACD Recommendations?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I just got my SACD player hooked up, and I really like the titles I have. I am looking to get into Classical music, and a friend recommended Mahler. I was planning on starting the San Francisco series, but I've been reading negative reviews. There are a lot of versions of the various symphonies out there on SACD, and I don't know the "best" one to start with. I'm looking for surround sound, not stereo only.

Any recommendations where to start?

post #2 of 17
I am one of the proponents of the San Francisco cyle. The ones out so far have, in my opinion, ranged in interpretational quality from solid (3, 6) to excellent (1,2,4). As far as sound quality goes, they can't be beat, they are stunning. Also their multichannel is very tastefully done, without the excess rebound from the back channels that make a lot of classical surround sound recordings sound unnatural. In multichannel it just feel authentic, like you're in the hall. I also recommend the recent Chailly cycle, especially the 3rd and 9th. I have the normal stereo versions of them, but they are also available on SACD. The redbook sound quality is outstanding, so I would guess that the SACD versions are even better. Happy hunting!

post #3 of 17
post #4 of 17
Unfortunately MTT has decided to follow Bernstein's flaccid mannerisms as regards Mahler. I live in San Francisco and stopped my subscription last year - the SFS is very uneven. I've heard them butcher Tchaikovsky's Symphonie Pathetique in a, well, pathetic way (think not even college freshman orchestra level).

Playing slow for the sake of slow is not necessarily a sign of profundity. Otherwise you could try 9 Beet Stretch. For a refreshing change of pace, try the 6th by Neeme Järvi and the Scottish National Orchestra (Chandos). Not a SACD, unfortunately.
post #5 of 17
I agree that MTT's M3 is not that great, and is taken too slowly. His 6th is very different from most other interpretations, and while I wouldn't ever want it to be the only M6 I own, I also would not want to be without it. His 1st, 2nd, 4th are superb in my opinion. The sound and orchestral playing on all of them is simply better than any other recordings I have heard, regardless of composer or piece.

post #6 of 17
Well, I've got tickets to hear the M7, so I hope that his interpretation works. I've been listening to the Kubelik and although the first movement is always the most difficult for me, the rest of it just sings and the brass just has a wonderful quality.
post #7 of 17

Although this thread is 7 years old (!!!), I can safely recommend Markus Stenz conducting the Gurzenich Orchestra Köln on the Oehms label. The sound is exemplary--weighty and detailed, and the performance is amazingly intense and driven. Tempos are a bit faster than some performances, but they work well in Stenz's hands.

Edited by Fugue - 4/7/12 at 3:45pm
post #8 of 17

There's a new cycle started in stunning sacd from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony on Exton label. So far I have M1, M3, M4 and M5. Each is superb in orchestral execution, conducting, and sound quality. The 3rd is now my new favorite. This set is, so far, much better than the San Francisco set. The Zurich set with Zinman is just too low powered for me, but well played and recorded. But sacd or not, the Tennstedt set on EMI at a bargain price should not be missed!

post #9 of 17
Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post

There's a new cycle started in stunning sacd from Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony on Exton label. [...] Each is superb in orchestral execution, conducting, and sound quality.


I can absolutely agree with your point of view.


Manfred Honeck was the chief conductor in Stuttgart, Germany, from 2007 to 2012.


I took part in his performances of the 1., 2., 3., 5., 6. and 10. symphony - each of them was great! I remember all of them very well.


Unforgotten, the Sixth in July 2012 - what a performance!. The Sixth is also called "The Tragic", it has some "dark" ulterior motives, and I recently read that it reflects fear, among other things .. The Sixth was written between 1903 and 1904, that was a time full of political crisis which escalated in the First World War. Some people say that Mahler anticipated the war ... it sounds a little bit exaggerated ... but the symphony is well known for its hammerstokes. I will never forget the second stroke in the performance, it was such intensive that the electric lighting in the "Beethoven hall" in Stuttgart flickered ...


I bought each Mahler recording with Manfred Honeck and the PSO ... it reminds me of his great performances in Stuttgart ... because it "is superb in orchestral execution, conducting, and sound quality" - the same as the live performances. Good for the PSO - but for me, it's a crying shame that he left Stuttgart :frown:.


I really hope that Manfred Honeck will release a complete Mahler cycle, then I'll be happy again :wink_face:.


Kind regards, Frank

Edited by FrankJay - 1/19/14 at 12:58pm
post #10 of 17

You played under Honeck! What a thrill that must have been. Yes, let's hope that the complete cycle continues. Of all the SACD cycles out there it could be a strong contender for the best. Recent sets on Oehms, Tudor, RCA, LSO Live, SFO leave a lot to be desired as a whole. Abbado on Blue Ray is terrific.


I also hope and pray that Honeck will turn his attention to the symphonies of Franz Schmidt. He's done Schmidt in Europe and he's just as good as in Mahler. I attended Das Bunch mit sieben Siegeln in Munchen a couple of years ago - why didn't that get recorded?


What instrument do you play?

post #11 of 17
Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post

You played under Honeck! What a thrill that must have been.


Oh no, I'm so sorry, that's a misapprehension :frown: - although I wish I would because of the mentioned thrill, but I'm not able to play an instrument at all.


Oh yes, that must have been a thrill :biggrin:.


But my formulation is a little bit confusing:


I took part in his performances [...]


I'm German, and this formulation is not very good ... I hope you'll be indulgent with me and forgive me ... :rolleyes:


Yes, I took part, but as a listener in the audience. Manfred Honeck's concerts were stupendous, overwhelming, amazing ... searching for more adjectives :wink_face: ...


But let's cut to the chase: a lot of European conductors are to conservative, reluctant with Gustav Mahler ... even Claudio Abbado, although I like his performances ...


My knowledge of music and Gustav Mahler is based on reading - there was especially one experience, and that's Norman Lebrecht's "Why Mahler? How one man and ten symphonies changed the world." For a German not an easy reading matter, but it was worth the effort. He says that Gustav Mahler is "up to the conductor" .. I can imagine that ... and if Manfred Honeck interprets the "real Mahler" ... wow ... the Third with a cosmic dimension ... the First with all its ironies ... the Sixth with its tragic ... the Second with its ambiguities, as Norman Lebrecht says ...


I remember his first concert in Stuttgart in 2007 ... they showed a video on a screeen, one of the musician uttered something like "Manfred Honeck läßt Feiräume" - "läßt" in the meaning of "to grant", "to guarantee", and "Freiräume" ... means free space, tolerance, scope for development ... isnt't it that what Mahler needs?


I've never heard such a "Mahler" in my life ... I saw the flickering of the electric lighting in Stuttgart while hearing the Sixth ... a nice technical effect, but not intentionally ... had a telephone call the next morning :normal_smile : ... it's really stupendous, overwheling and so on ...


Kind regards, Frank

post #12 of 17

Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post


I also hope and pray that Honeck will turn his attention to the symphonies of Franz Schmidt.


That sounds interesting. I've never heard of Franz Schmidt so far, but I read about him at Wikipedia since your answer.


You say he's just as good as Mahler - can you recommend a recording? I'm very interested ...

post #13 of 17

Start with Schmidt's 4th Symphony: it's an emotional, passionate work. So beautiful and well written. There are quite a few recordings now.



Get the newer Naxos with Vastly Sinaisky and the Malmo Orchestra. It's a fine performance and the sound is great, too. And if you decide you don't care for Schmidt, it wasn't all that expensive. 


After 40 years of listening to this work, the Mehta/Vienna recording is still my personal favorite, but it's nor as easy to get on CD as the EMI. Mehta's is coupled with a superb Mahler 2 so it might be a good way to get it.


If you take to the Schmidt, then try the other symphonies as well.Then listen to his masterpiece, the oratorio Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln. (The Book with Seven Seals). It's a thrilling, dramatic, unforgettable work. Franz Welser-MOst on EMI is the easiest to get and overall a superb performance.

post #14 of 17

Although the topic ist "SACD recommendations", I'd really like to present my newest achievements:


Chailly: Mahler's Sixth

Chailly: Mahler's Eigth


Wow ... great! I ordered the blue rays form the German amazon ... in a review, someone spoke of "Chaillys exzessives Dirigat" - which means something like "Chailly's excessive manner of conducting".


I can't agree with that - his conducting is not excessive at all, I think - for me, Chailly lives, he experiences the music.


Both sound and image of the recording are excellent - a real recommendation.


My next order will be


Chailly: Mahler's Second


It reminds me of this great recording I own too:


Bernstein: Mahler - The Symphonies


Each time, I enjoy the way Bernstein performs Mahler ...


And ... can't resist ... reminds me of Manfred Honeck, who left Stuttgart :frown: and now acts in Pittsburgh, far way from Stuttgart.


But anyway: thanks to Pittsburgh and the PSO, we have this great recordings ...


Best wishes, Frank

post #15 of 17

It's a pity that the LPO label recordings of Mahler by both Tennstedt and Jurowski (especially the 2nd) haven't been released as hybrid discs.

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