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Mahler Symphonies Favorite Recordings - Page 160

post #2386 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbhaub
In short, I don't give a damn about a conductor's vision: I want Mahler's vision. I want the conductor to play what's on the page, not get in the way, and let the composer speak. Very, very tall order. With Mahler, conductor egos run full throttle, and too often Mahler loses.

Well, off to a live M2. Huge choir assembled. Should be awesome.
mb: Textual fidelity is a double-edged sword. No one would argue, to a greater or lesser extent, that Pierre Boulez is unfaithful to the score. In fact, Boulez spends most of his time following Mahler's markings to the letter. However, I would certainly not argue that Boulez presents Mahler's vision. His overall program of outlining the disintegration of tone and the evolution into dodecaphony requires that he follow the score. That doesn't mean that he doesn't do so to fit his ends. Look at his 1976-80 Bayreuth Der Ring des Nibelungen. I am positive that he followed Wagner's score to the letter, but his refusal to deal with Leitmotiven caused half the Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele to refuse to take a curtain call with him.

One must be necessarily careful. I feel, despite my personal preference for other recordings, that Bernstein's M2 comes closer to Mahler's vision than most - if you see Mahler as the great emotional post-Romantic. In that case, the feel of a piece is infinitely more important than textual fidelity, if such things matter to you. I prefer to see Mahler as a smirking ironist balanced by moments of grandeur and sincerity. In that program, the score matters rather a lot.
post #2387 of 3714
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Masolino
I recently read an interview of Sir Charles Mackerras in Grammophone, and he said the following about Mahler and his "intentions," which we have come to see are only correct ones for the moment. No wonder Mengelberg, Klemperer and Walter all did Mahler very differently even if they all had studied with the composer himself, probably because they all did so at different times.

("JJ" is James Jolly, editor-in-chief at Grammophone)

(quote)

CM: Terrible! Mahler is a special case because he seemed to taper his own works and change the orchestration and dynamics for whatever hall he was performing in. I'm a very strong believer in the idea that the final versions of his works are only final because that's the last time he did them. Of course he didn't change anything with the Song of the Earth because he never did it. Nor the Ninth Symphony. The version of any given bar of any Mahler symphony should be, as he said, in accordance with the acoustic of the hall. I have no hesitation in going back to earlier versions (although I use the last versions, the famous Ratz editions, as much as possible) if I feel it's going to sound better.

JJ: I'm always intrigued that if you follow Mahler performance practice during the latter few decades of the 20th century, when they truly entered the repertoire, they've got slower and slower.

CM: The original performers certainly took them much faster. Bruno Walter is the famous example of somebody who heard Mahler doing his own works (although probably not all of them). But he does them very flowingly.

JJ: Probably Bernstein has a lot to answer for.

CM: Yes, he was probably responsible for making them very slow. But Mahler himself used to conduct some works terribly fast one day and very slow the next, the same passage. And he was constantly contradicting himself as to what he actually wanted. There are those famous old American players who performed for him and they say he wanted it loud one day and soft the next. One can sort of imagine what Mahler's rehearsals must have been like because one fully understands how certain passages could be loud one day and soft the next, and fast one day and slow the next and so on. A great mind, most interesting and of course a marvellous composer to actually conduct because one feels he'd the supreme master of orchestration and knows exactly how it should be conducted, putting in all these directions, and how many beats you have to do.

(quote ends)

more at:

http://www.gramophone.co.uk/intervie...f=2494&id=2496

(may require registration)
Very interesting the article that Mahler constantly changed his playing style.......interested to hear MBs take on this since he likes performances that adhere to written score with no artistic liscense for conductor.

We have commented many times here that modern Mahler performances are much slower now than ones done 25+ years ago. The Bernstein/DG set from 1980's may mark the begining of this trend of slowing down, which is why I much prefer his older/faster 1960s Sony set except for DG 5th and to lesser extent 1st symphonies.
post #2388 of 3714
Mb,

It was specifically Simon Rattle that I was thinking of when I remarked about strange tempo changes. I'm so used to the ones put in by the composer which most conductors at least attempt to honor that Rattle's M4 completely unhinges me. When I heard it live, I was seized by the insane desire to get some barber's clippers and scalp the conductor there, mid performance in front of the orchestra and audience. That was perhaps the most bizarre interpretation I have ever heard (very similar to his recording which is also execrable). In addition, he used his wife (actually I don't know whether they have actually bothered to get married), the mezzo Magdalena Kozena for the song. That is also one of the most egregious pieces of miscasting around. Aside from having a voice of extremely earthy quality (no silvery tones there), she has the bad habit of hunching forward while performing which gives her tone a very congested sound, while making the oddest gestures with the lower part of her arms and hands (talk about caricature ). It is no pleasure watching her on stage even when singing repetoire in which she can really shine (French baroque, for instance).

As for the meter of the sleighbells not being noted by the composer in relation to the action of a horse's pace, well, that would have been like a modern composer putting in an automobile horn interlude that sounds like a traffic jam without making particular reference to a traffic jam. Everyone would intuitively make the connection, and only 100 years in the future when those horns are no longer in use would people actually wonder about how it is "really" supposed to sound. Just because Mahler didn't write it into the score doesn't mean that it wasn't in his mind. You can hear the same rhythm being used by Mozart as well in one of his serenades or divertimenti (I forget which one it is, but it's not the posthorn). Sleighbells (or jingle bells for that matter) have a particular rhythm, and that rhythm derives from the pace of the horse (or horses) pulling a sleigh. You don't have to write it in when it's as familiar as the air you breathe.
post #2389 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbhaub
Portamento was the standard way of playing at the fin de siecle, but became outmoded.
I know this, and also prefer the portatmentos when put in appropriately. Unfortunately, idiots like Mantovanni really helped to make portamenti something to be scorned. It's like the overuse of vibrato encouraged by the recording industry -- but stylistic differences arise across the ages. Without them, all of those musicologists wouldn't really have too much to do.

Quote:
I have issues when people select their best recording without ever having considered the composers intention.
In short, I don't give a damn about a conductor's vision: I want Mahler's vision. I want the conductor to play what's on the page, not get in the way, and let the composer speak. Very, very tall order. With Mahler, conductor egos run full throttle, and too often Mahler loses.
Well, from everything I've read or heard about Mahler, everything was subject to change at any time, on any whim. He was probably as good at the "final decision" as I am, which is not very good at all. His whole composing history seems to be one of vacillation and like many artists, he just couldn't ever let a work stand as final. Unfortunately, we really have no recordings by Mahler as we do of Stravinsky or Bernstein conducting their own works so we can't know how he really wanted things to sound. Thus, the conductor's vision of the symphony is important -- especially when they really screw it up as Rattle did with the M4. Mistakes like that actually give us a great understanding of the work because they serve as lessons as to what not to do. That's why I periodically take out the Rattle for comparison's sake.

Btw, I can't comment on the Maazel M4 because I don't have that recording. Ofcourse, now I'm going to have to spend a little more of the green to acquire it.
post #2390 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel
Very interesting the article that Mahler constantly changed his playing style.......interested to hear MBs take on this since he likes performances that adhere to written score with no artistic liscense for conductor.

We have commented many times here that modern Mahler performances are much slower now than ones done 25+ years ago. The Bernstein/DG set from 1980's may mark the begining of this trend of slowing down, which is why I much prefer his older/faster 1960s Sony set except for DG 5th and to lesser extent 1st symphonies.
To be fair, Bernstein slowed everything down in the 1980s. For example, his 25th December 1989 Beethoven 9th has a 4th movement that lasts nearly 30 minutes. Compare that to Furtwängler, who took 25 minutes as a rule; Von Karajan, who kept his times similar; and Abbado, whose 1994 Sony recording has a 22 minute 4th movement.

For whatever reason, Lenny's tempi got ever broader. Sometimes it worked, like his DGG M2, and sometimes it fell flat, the aforementioned 9th. I am not sure why other conductors would follow his lead; however, I think that a pathology currently exists that causes conductors to equate slow tempi with emotion and grandeur. That might work in the M2, M8, or even M9, but the M4 is a horse of a different color. It seems to me to be the easiest to screw up - but let's remember that Mahler considered it his hardest symphony.
post #2391 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkAngel
We have commented many times here that modern Mahler performances are much slower now than ones done 25+ years ago. The Bernstein/DG set from 1980's may mark the begining of this trend of slowing down
Or it may not. Some older (pre-Bernstein DG cycle) recordings with notably slow tempos in places:

1- Horenstein (1969)
2- Fried (1924)
3- Levine (1976)
4- Horenstein (1971)
5- Barbirolli (1968)
6- Barbirolli (1966)
7- Klemperer (1967)
9- Levine (1979)

Regardless of whenever slowing happened, it was inevitable. Bernstein was merely part of this trend. With a standard repertory that has not seen much change in the last 50 years, conductors are forced to re-examine the same pieces and look for new insights. The slower tempos are the equivalent of scanning the pieces in slow-motion looking for new details.

M
post #2392 of 3714

DA

Hey DA is your PM box full? I need to ask you something.
post #2393 of 3714
Bernstein Mahler DVD Set is 50% off right now at Amazon.com. $79.97

post #2394 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark from HFR
Or it may not. Some older (pre-Bernstein DG cycle) recordings with notably slow tempos in places:

1- Horenstein (1969)
2- Fried (1924)
3- Levine (1976)
4- Horenstein (1971)
5- Barbirolli (1968)
6- Barbirolli (1966)
7- Klemperer (1967)
9- Levine (1979)

Regardless of whenever slowing happened, it was inevitable. Bernstein was merely part of this trend. With a standard repertory that has not seen much change in the last 50 years, conductors are forced to re-examine the same pieces and look for new insights. The slower tempos are the equivalent of scanning the pieces in slow-motion looking for new details.

M
Are you sure that the Fried is so slow? It certainly doesn't sound slow on my version. I thought it was much faster than many of the recordings that I have heard, especially at the beginning. I also think that the Kubelik recordings are probably among the faster ones, but as I haven't been able to listen to anything for the last few weeks, and don't have the recordings at hand for reference I may be wrong.
post #2395 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by PSmith08
To be fair, Bernstein slowed everything down in the 1980s. For example, his 25th December 1989 Beethoven 9th has a 4th movement that lasts nearly 30 minutes. Compare that to Furtwängler, who took 25 minutes as a rule; Von Karajan, who kept his times similar; and Abbado, whose 1994 Sony recording has a 22 minute 4th movement.

For whatever reason, Lenny's tempi got ever broader. Sometimes it worked, like his DGG M2, and sometimes it fell flat, the aforementioned 9th. I am not sure why other conductors would follow his lead; however, I think that a pathology currently exists that causes conductors to equate slow tempi with emotion and grandeur. That might work in the M2, M8, or even M9, but the M4 is a horse of a different color. It seems to me to be the easiest to screw up - but let's remember that Mahler considered it his hardest symphony.
I'm not really sure about why it happened or whether it's fair to only blame Lenny, but the tendency to broader tempos seems to have dominated the latter half of the 20th century. Not just Mahler and Beethoven, but also Mozart, Bach, and many others. Slower meant better, grander, more moving, more whatever! Who knows, maybe it was related to sunspot cycles.
post #2396 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears
Are you sure that the Fried is so slow? It certainly doesn't sound slow on my version. I thought it was much faster than many of the recordings that I have heard, especially at the beginning. I also think that the Kubelik recordings are probably among the faster ones, but as I haven't been able to listen to anything for the last few weeks, and don't have the recordings at hand for reference I may be wrong.
Fried's first movement is fast, the second average. The third is slower than Bernstein or anyone else except possibly Maazel. The fourth movement is very close to Bernstein's near-stasis (referring of course to the DG recording), lasting something like six minutes. I don't recall Fried's tempos comparatively off the top of my head for the finale, but I recall thinking it was similarly broad, like the 3rd and 4th mvts. In a lot of ways, Bernstein's pushing of the extremes (fast fasts and slow slows) seems to me close to Fried's manner, so it's not like there wasn't a precedent.
post #2397 of 3714
Page 120 has some fascinating stuff on it. Good work, everyone.
post #2398 of 3714
Bertini Mahler FINALLY arrived. I think Caiman ships things from one of Jupiters moons.
post #2399 of 3714
DarkAngel: don't get me wrong, slavishly following the score can lead to deadly dull results, and yes, musicians should (must?) have a certain amount of license to interpret. Just playing the notes isn't enough (Ozawa anyone?)But interpretation can be achieved without messing up the composer's intent or going overboard. Probably no composer elicits more widely varying opinions on interpretation as Mahler, or as strong reactions. I agree that Mahler was always changing things and barring the invention of a time machine, we will never know how Mahler himself conducted the music. And I'm the first to admit that some of my favorite recordings commit some major atrocities (Kondrashin 7). Barbirolli ignores a lot, too, but I couldn't be without his Mahler, either.
post #2400 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears

It's not the band, it's the conductors. FWIW, they sounded very lush with von Karajan and Bernstein and now sound thin to the point of anorexia under Rattle who just carried Abbado's trend to a leaner orchestral sound to a greater extreme. If you listen to Abbado's recordings with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, they have the same sound. Btw, is the sound a bit recessed as well? I've tried the cd and the sacd of the M2 (Lucerne Festival O.) and still find the sound quality of that hard to deal with in any format.

Fwiw, Ted Levine reviewed it for Amazon, and he also hated Renée Fleming's work here. In fact, he seems to have hated the whole recording:
Sorry to join this conversation after it was over, but I just got the new Abbado M4. I'm listening to it right now and I'm finding it a hell of a lot better than some of the reviews out there make it sound. Despite what Ted Levine says, Abbado is not being "fussy," he's merely making sure that all the players are characterizing the music, or as Frank Zappa used to say, "putting the eyebrows on it." Any Mahler performance which doesn't do this isn't worth hearing.

I would find it interesting to hear Abbado and the Berliners live in concert to confirm my impression of their current sound world. In short, I'd have to say that there is an intentionally lean sound here which is being exaggerated by the DG over-miked recording technique. But the playing is also very lively and full of personality, so it isn't anemic or anything like that. The issue that so many seem to have is that Abbado severely "pruned back" the BPO lushness, and Rattle has continued that process. And that is a very definite change in the band. Sorry Bunny, but it's not just the conductors in this case. These two music directors have intentionally thinned-out the Karajan sound by hiring young players with very different styles as the older players retired. I don't know an exact statistic, but I believe I heard somewhere that at this point, less than 20 years after HvK, only a couple of his players are still in the ensemble. The current band is one of the youngest major orchestras, and that youthfulness is part of their sound. They couldn't play Karajan style lushness (Mantovani for snobs) if their lives depended on it. And that's fine in my book, because-- at least under Abbado-- they have an attractive, youthful, supple style.

Now for those who thought Karajan's sound was good for Mahler, it would be easy to decry the current lean sound. But I can really see why Abbado did it. The ensemble in the late 80's had horribly stagnated with generic lush sound. And even in the 70's and early 80's I don't think their sound was right for Mahler (Karajan's live 9th is great because he does it with conviction, not because it sounds natural to that orchestra). Abbado tried to move the orchestra as far away as possible from the HvK sound. It seems he may ultimately have been a little too efficient in his pruning. And as for Rattle, well, who knows what to make of some of his choices.

But as for this new Abbado M4, I think it's very good. Loads better than his VPO recording. With the VPO, Abbado tried to be "profound" in the slow movement by taking it very slowly... around 25 minutes of pointless meandering. He now does the movement in less than 20 minutes and you can feel that he now knows where & why every single phrase is going, and he clarifies the contrasts between sections. The only serious issue I have with this recording is Renee Fleming in the finale. She's a great singer, but not for this particular number. Sounds like a DG marketing choice. I don't know if I've ever heard a less child-like and innocent version of the soprano solo. Mahler as Bellini, I guess. Very Shatneresque. But Abbado's work with the orchestra in the finale is still of high-quality. So, minus the occasional scenery-chewing soprano, this performance is very good, and the recorded sound is clear, though far from radiant. Fleming is more in her dramatic element with Berg's "Seven Early Songs" which fills up the disc.

M
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