or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Misc.-Category Forums › Music › Mahler Symphonies Favorite Recordings
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Mahler Symphonies Favorite Recordings - Page 161

post #2401 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark from HFR
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.
Hi Mark,

Having heard the Berliners live (with Rattle) my impression is that they are a very thin sounding ensemble. Comparing them with the SFSO, WP, CSO, RCO, Budapest FO (also not known as the heaviest ensemble sound), I would have to say that the pruning has really gone overboard. It is the job of the musical director to mold the sound of the orchestra especially when the musical director is the conductor! That also means how he directs the orchestra to play (stylistically -- use of vibrato, portamenti, etc.) as well as how he requires that the individual musicians blend together to get the ensemble sound. So, for me it is the conductor rather than the band of individual musicians who must bear responsibility for this. The BP has an ensemble of virtuosos chosen as much for their ability to create the sound profile desired by the conductor as their ability to play the music, but I have no doubt that they would be able to play differently to suit a different ensemble.

I won't get into the debate of whether the HvK sound is better for Mahler than the Abbado sound as that's really beside the point. I don't believe that any one sound is better or worse as long as the music sounds good. Certainly the sound of the BP suited the Mozart more than the Mahler which frankly sounded pretty anemic (also hurt by Rattle's strange wax-on wax-off M4). I just hate to see the sound of the orchestra so completely taken to the opposite side of the spectrum so that there really is no longer any sense of continuity with what came before. Perhaps the best compromise would have been something a little lusher for the romantics while keeping that thinner (dare I say transparent?) texture for Mozart and Haydn. Listening to Mahler and the romantics with the BP as it sounds now is like looking at a watercolor copy of a Rembrandt. To my ears the music just needs more richness and depth of sound.
post #2402 of 3714
Mark et al.: After spending a lot of time with this disc, as it seems to be fairly controversial, I am of two minds on it. On the one hand, Abbado's leaner textures and clear-eyed approach reveal the inner workings and let the music breathe; however, Abbado strikes me as somewhat over-mannered at times, and Fleming had no business recording this score. There is a tendency, I think, for Abbado to treat this in much the same way he would treat Mozart's "Linzer." That might work, and it might not. While Mahler might have had this classical balance in mind, I do not think that he meant it to be taken in earnest. The solo violin episode (and the immediately following passages) in the first movement, to me, reveals as much. It's much like the conscious parody of popular music that the finale to the 7th constitutes. By being too mannered, Abbado misses the joke, for all his technical precision. If the first movement isn't slightly menacing, or - at the very least - slightly askew, then there is a disconnect somewhere.

The Berliners sound different, but their current sound is vaguely reminiscent of their mid-1960s/early-1970s output with Von Karajan. I keep returning to Von Karajan's DGG Der Ring des Nibelungen, but I think that it is a good example of this sort of style. Does this work for Mahler? Pierre Boulez has pulled it off in most of his cycle, but his approach is a horse of a different color. Abbado has made it work, cf. his recent 6th, but everything has to come together. This isn't Haydn, and that's the problem.

The fourth movement is just plain bad, thanks to Ms. Fleming. If there was some drive to have a spinto or a dramatic soprano sing Mahler's 4th, perhaps the conductors who knew Mahler would have gotten Flagstad or Nilsson to sing it. The absence of such an adventure tells me all I need to know.

It isn't a bad record, and it is fairly good - on its own terms - but Abbado made some mistakes.
post #2403 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears
It is the job of the musical director to mold the sound of the orchestra especially when the musical director is the conductor!
I never said it wasn't. I'm merely being realistic-- Once the players have been chosen, they're there, and though they will be influenced by the various conductors they work with, they will always have their particular "angle" and philosophy of playing. To suggest that any conductor can make any major orchestra sound like he or she wants them to sells the musicians seriously short. Having heard the Cleveland Orchestra numerous times in concert, I can assure you that they still maintain a corporate sound whether being conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi, Sir Georg Solti, Michael Tilson Thomas, or some young unknown. They sound different under each one, but are still recognizably the Cleveland Orchestra. A conductor is an influence, not a source.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears

I won't get into the debate of whether the HvK sound is better for Mahler than the Abbado sound as that's really beside the point. I don't believe that any one sound is better or worse as long as the music sounds good.
Beside the point? I thought that was the point... Like Klaus Tennstedt used to say, the Mahler sound should be a bit "dirty". If it's too gleaming, too precise, or too lush, it loses its emotive character. I'm just saying that if Abbado is wrong, Karajan was equally wrong in the other direction. But these kinds of flaws can be found in everything. I suppose it's ultimately pointless to argue the merits of any recording around here, as we all hold such string opinions anyhow.
post #2404 of 3714

Free Mahler Vinyl

I have a partial Abravanel/Utah Symphony Mahler set on vinyl (2,4,7,8) that I am willing to give away to the first person who PMs me asking for them. They are all in great shape; they are just extras in my massive collection. (Those who know me well here will testify that I do this sort of thing all the time - I frequently cull my collection, and what I can't easily sell I give away - it makes me feel good that good music is getting out there to those who will appreciate it). I will even pay the shipping (in the US - outside US PM me and we can work something out).

Anyway, if anyone is interested just PM me.

Doc
post #2405 of 3714
I'd PM you doc...if I had something to listen to vinyl on that is
post #2406 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark from HFR
Having heard the Cleveland Orchestra numerous times in concert, I can assure you that they still maintain a corporate sound whether being conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi, Sir Georg Solti, Michael Tilson Thomas, or some young unknown. They sound different under each one, but are still recognizably the Cleveland Orchestra. A conductor is an influence, not a source.
I remember many years ago I got to hear Salonen conduct the Cleveland Orchestra in Messaien's TURANGALILA SYMPHONIE, it was quite amazing to say the least. The analogy I use to describe it is something like this. At the time, the orchestra was like a fine auto, maybe a Porche or something. At the time, the Cleveland was Dohnanyi's. He had the keys, had the title, knew exactly what the orchestra could do, when needed. However, he rarely lets their engine rip full throttle.. that's just the kind of conductor Dohnanyi was. Then this young Salonen comes in, and takes the orchestra for a spin with the TURANGALILA, it was like a kid who got to drive his uncle's Porche for the first time, why not open it up and let 'er go? I mean, that's what the car is built for right? And let 'em rip he did, and it was glorious to hear Severance Hall filled with such sounds. Yes, it was the same orchestra, same wonderful strings, etc, but, Salonen took them to a different level. And luckily, he didn't crash either. It was one of the few concerts where I remember actually leaping to my feet and yelling like a crazy person as soon as the music ended...

-jar
post #2407 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottder
I'd PM you doc...if I had something to listen to vinyl on that is
Yeah, that will narrow the responses a bit!
post #2408 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark from HFR
I never said it wasn't. I'm merely being realistic-- Once the players have been chosen, they're there, and though they will be influenced by the various conductors they work with, they will always have their particular "angle" and philosophy of playing. To suggest that any conductor can make any major orchestra sound like he or she wants them to sells the musicians seriously short. Having heard the Cleveland Orchestra numerous times in concert, I can assure you that they still maintain a corporate sound whether being conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi, Sir Georg Solti, Michael Tilson Thomas, or some young unknown. They sound different under each one, but are still recognizably the Cleveland Orchestra. A conductor is an influence, not a source.
Yes, Cleveland still has something of the same sound that it had with Szell, but if they were to be taken over by someone who wanted to change them, they would change. The world (Cleveland Board) has gotten used to the way they sounded under Szell and want to preserve that sound, but unless they are going to be like the WP and preserve the horns, strings and various other instruments -- passing them down from musician to musician -- their sound will change.

Quote:
Beside the point? I thought that was the point... Like Klaus Tennstedt used to say, the Mahler sound should be a bit "dirty". If it's too gleaming, too precise, or too lush, it loses its emotive character. I'm just saying that if Abbado is wrong, Karajan was equally wrong in the other direction. But these kinds of flaws can be found in everything. I suppose it's ultimately pointless to argue the merits of any recording around here, as we all hold such string opinions anyhow.
The best sound for Mahler is always going to be something that causes debate. I doubt that Gustav himself with his historic reputation for complete control and micromanagement wanted anything but the most precise type of playing, but that obviously didn't work for Tennstedt. When he says "dirty" I'm not exactly sure of what he means. Certainly he would want an orchestra playing in excellent ensemble with no obvious musical errors such as a horn coming in too soon or cracking, or a reed slightly out of sync like the stereotype of a provincial, Italian opera company? By dirty does he mean earthy? "Dirty" is a term that is extremely hard to pin down.

Now, many think that HvK's sound was too lush for Mahler, but he was quite successful with his orchestra in a few of his recordings as is Michael Tilson Thomas who presents Mahler in quite a polished and brilliant manner. Which particular "sound" best suits the music may be something that needs discussion, but from where I'm sitting, if the music works it works and the sound is just a component of the whole. Certainly the Chicago under Barenboim had a great, lushly silky tone and still the M5 I heard this past season was immensely powerful and the depth of the sound contributed to the success of the piece. The Berliners had a much thinner tone and perhaps in another's hands the M4 might have come off sounding light and very "neo classical," whereas in Rattle's hands it just sounded thin and frustrated. Would lusher sound have improved anything? I doubt it as there was a lot more wrong with that performance than the sound of the BP, but if everything had gone well and worked I suspect that lusher, more layered sound would have enhanced the music.

Right now there is a movement in music towards the leaner sound. There is such an obsession with "transparency" that some orchestras are thinned to the point of anorexia and "inner voices" end up almost as mini solos. We are probably hearing things that composers probably didn't want heard except in the context of the orchestral sound. It's hard for me to find a musical analogy, the closest I can come is to the recent (in the past 10 years or so) cleaning that the Prado did of some Velasquez paintings. The curators and cleaning staff apparently got so carried away with the process (or completely failed to understand how strong some of the solutions were) that they stripped away the topmost layer of the painter's pigment along with the worst dirt and yellowed varnish. This resulted in paintings where you could actually see the underpainting, pentimentos and subtle changes Velasquez had made on the canvas as he worked (the inner voices as it were). Well, sometimes I think that the inner voices of the orchestra shouldn't be so obvious, they need to be covered by the overlay of sound from the rest of the orchestra the way an artist layers over the underpainting with other layers and glazes. The presence of the underpainting gives depth and richness while not showing on the surface. The same with those "inner voices;" sometimes they are there not as mini-solos that need to be heard independantly but as something that should be barely discerned except for the cumulative enrichment of the sound.

Dirty vs. clean, transparent vs. lush; maybe Tennstedt was referring to dirt as something on the surface that blurs details, rather than a quality of rough earthiness. Maybe he was complaining about too much transparency and his dirt was like the layers of grime on a painting, though I tend to doubt he thought in those terms.
post #2409 of 3714
Frankly, and not to put too fine a point on it, Tennstedt was wrong.

There can be interpretative differences, and you might choose to define Allegro in your own way, but - to a greater or lesser extent - the notes are the notes, the tempi are the tempi, and Mahler was noted for writing his scores to be conductor-proof. To say that Mahler needs to sound dirty, especially when Mahler himself knew exactly how he wanted to sound, is to reduce all of Mahler to an ironic country waltz. Let Mahler tell the orchestra how to sound, and let the conductor tell them how to listen.

As to the Berliners, I have said it before, but they just aren't a Mahler band. Barbirolli's EMI 9th and air-check 2nd show how much trouble they had getting into Mahler. There wasn't a performing tradition, nor were there old-timers who could remember how Mahler would have wanted it done. Because of National Socialism, the conductors who knew best were in exile in Britain or America. Because of Von Karajan's ego, Barbirolli was kept at a distance. Von Karajan himself took twenty years or so to record any Mahler, and even then, he stuck to 5,6, and 9. There's also a fairly obscure Das Lied, but I won't get into that. Berlin had no performance tradition to speak of, so they have Barbirolli and Von Karajan forming the basis of Mahler tradition. I doubt that there are many in the band who remember Von Karajan and I know no one played under Barbirolli, but that's the corporate sound at this point.

Vienna, Chicago, or New York if you want Mahler. Berlin has its strong-suits, but not Mahler.
post #2410 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by PSmith08
Vienna, Chicago, or New York if you want Mahler. Berlin has its strong-suits, but not Mahler.
W-h-a-a-a-a-t!!!!
Surely you're not ignoring the significant contributions to the Mahler discography of the orchestras from San Francisco, LA, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Phildadelphia, Dallas, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, London, and even Tokyo. And many other places, too.
Frankly, New York never was, and certainly isn't now, one of the best in the world. Any of the orchestras I listed can play better than NY, and all have brilliant Mahler recordings to their names. With the internationalization of orchestras nowadays, they all play alike anyway. More than anything, I think it's the conductor who makes the biggest difference. A boring conductor can turn in boring Mahler with the finest orchestra -- there are plenty of discs to prove that.
I think Berlin is a fine Mahler orchestra. They play as flawlessly as any orchestra in the world today. Maybe even the best. In the US, I think the most underrated orchestra is in Cincinnati. They understand old-world playing traditions better than anyone else. I just hope Jarvi Jr doesn't screw it up.
post #2411 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbhaub
W-h-a-a-a-a-t!!!!
Surely you're not ignoring the significant contributions to the Mahler discography of the orchestras from San Francisco, LA, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Phildadelphia, Dallas, Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest, London, and even Tokyo. And many other places, too.
Frankly, New York never was, and certainly isn't now, one of the best in the world. Any of the orchestras I listed can play better than NY, and all have brilliant Mahler recordings to their names. With the internationalization of orchestras nowadays, they all play alike anyway. More than anything, I think it's the conductor who makes the biggest difference. A boring conductor can turn in boring Mahler with the finest orchestra -- there are plenty of discs to prove that.
I think Berlin is a fine Mahler orchestra. They play as flawlessly as any orchestra in the world today. Maybe even the best. In the US, I think the most underrated orchestra is in Cincinnati. They understand old-world playing traditions better than anyone else. I just hope Jarvi Jr doesn't screw it up.
I sort of am half-ignoring those contributions, except Cleveland, simply because I don't think that there is a consistency there. There are great discs from most of those orchestras, and there are mediocre discs. Sometimes, it's the conducting, sometimes the ensemble isn't up to it. Barbirolli's '63 Berliner M2 on Testament is an example of a band just not being able to hack the material at that point. Cleveland was merely an oversight on my part, as my list for the best bands in America is Chicago, Cleveland, and New York in that order. As for Cincinnati, I don't know. I don't buy enough of their recordings or go to their concerts, so I can't really say.

As for New York, they have their moments. Mehta and Masur certainly didn't preserve the quality of Bernstein, Szell, and Boulez. For the current state of the band, I really blame Mehta, who was out of his depth. That's another thread though.
post #2412 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by PSmith08
As for New York, they have their moments. Mehta and Masur certainly didn't preserve the quality of Bernstein, Szell, and Boulez. For the current state of the band, I really blame Mehta, who was out of his depth. That's another thread though.
As a New Yorker, I am sad to say that I rarely go to hear the NYPO anymore despite the fact that one of the children my kids used to play with as toddlers now holds a seat in the first violins. Whatever the reason/s for the breakdown of the orchestra (and it really hasn't recovered yet), the NYPO is not the brilliant ensemble that it should be. Certainly it is one of the best paid orchestras, but the lack of interest in their recordings is just an indicator of the stagnation that has gone on since Mehta's tenure. I think that there is a lot wrong with the orchesta and that it will take leadership of a type that they are not going to find with Maazel any more than they found it Masur (who was never a favorite of mine) to improve things. Probably the best indicator of the sad state of affairs here is the fact that the NYPO makes more money from the re-release of recordings from the 1950s and 60s than anything new (is there anything new?) from the 1990s.

Add the awful accoustic of Avery-Fisher Hall to the equation (scheduled for complete rebuiliding of the interior) and you find many of the music lovers of NY subscribing to and buying out the Carnegie Hall season where we get the chance to hear the best orchestras of the world in a hall that has one of the greatest accoustics in the world rather than subscribing to series of the NYPO.
post #2413 of 3714
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Sarvis
I have a partial Abravanel/Utah Symphony Mahler set on vinyl (2,4,7,8) that I am willing to give away to the first person who PMs me asking for them. They are all in great shape; they are just extras in my massive collection. (Those who know me well here will testify that I do this sort of thing all the time - I frequently cull my collection, and what I can't easily sell I give away - it makes me feel good that good music is getting out there to those who will appreciate it). I will even pay the shipping (in the US - outside US PM me and we can work something out).

Anyway, if anyone is interested just PM me.

Doc
No takers? I thought i would offer this first to the initiated, then on to the newbies...

I'll post this in a new thread.
post #2414 of 3714
PS: If consistency is the vital element for a great Mahler orchestra, how in the world did Chicago, Vienna and New York ever make your list? Each made many mediocre Mahler recordings with different conductors. One only need hear Solti's 3, 4, 7, or 9. Vienna made many fine recordings, but their early work with Scherchen is hardly world-class, and several of Maazels are deadly dull. New York played like pigs in the 60s. Hard edged, strident -- hardly qualities one wants in Mahler. All three certainly made fine recordings, but they made their share of woofs, too. London has a much better track record. If you've never heard Cincinnatti, they're doing M9 next season. Go. Get some real Cincinnati Chili (Spaghetti) then head to the concert. I've been all over this country hearing our orchestras, and I promise you that some of the best music making and the highest quality orchestras are not the Big 5. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, St. Louis are just stunning. As good as anything you'll hear in NY, Philly, Boston, Chicago or Detroit. And lower ticket prices, too.
post #2415 of 3714

Off on vacation!

Hello everyone,

I'm off on a much-needed vacation for the next 3 weeks. I've loaded the iPod with my current favorite Mahlers (M2/Kubelik/Audite, M3/Kubelik/Audite, M5/Barbirolli, M7/Abbado), tons of Bach (my other great musical passion: the B Minor Mass never leaves my iPod), and a few audiobooks (complete Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, read by Adams).

I'll certainly be acquiring more Mahler while I'm away, since I'll be in Europe where it's easier to shop for this (and cheaper!). Thanks to all of you for your recommendations since I joined the thread; I've taken note of them for my shopping list.

So I'll see you in a few weeks. In the meantime, keep the wonderful conversation going, and I'll catch up when I return.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Music
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Misc.-Category Forums › Music › Mahler Symphonies Favorite Recordings