Gee, it took me two days to read the whole thread, but it's really one of the most educated thread I've read on Head-Fi. Now if only everyone on this planet were so open-minded and tolerant...
Anyway, I'm in the process of rediscovering my Mahler collection. I spend months building up my cycle a couple of years ago (based solely on reviews), but then got distracted to other composers and haven't paid much attention to Mahler. This thread motivated me to start improving my cycle and find my favorites (lots of Amazon purchase from now
My current collection consists the following CDs:
Naxos/Kosler with Slovak Philharmonic: My first Mahler CD ever. Average performance with average recording, but good enough to inspire my interest in Mahler, nonetheless.
EMI/Rattle with CBSO: I'm not entirely satisfied with this purchase. I originally bought because I thought I need a better version of No.1 and I'm very happy with Rattle's 10th with Berline Philharmonic. Yet I found myself more attracted to the Kosler recording.
Sony/Bernstein with NYP (SACD): Solid performance with great dynamics, but I always felt there's something missing compared to the Kosler recording. I never quite figured out what it is, perhaps it was because the Kosler CD was my first love affair with Mahler?
DG/Bernstein with NY Philharmonic: Lack of comparison tells me I should shut up, but I think this is in itself an enjoyable recording.
Sony/Salonen with LAP: Excellent recording quality. Again lack of comparison resulted in lack of comment on performance.
EMI Klemperer legacy/Klemperer with PO: Now this is one recording that I actually have something to compare with. I was fortunate enough to attend a Philadelphia Orchestra concert in 2001. Name of the conductor escapes me, but it's most likely their previous director Wolfgang Sawallisch. The soloist *seems* to be Olga Kern, but don't quote me for it. Anyway it was a lively and touching performance. The soloist (whoever she was) did a very good job at portraiting the picture of little kids ascending to heaven, and the orchestra was up to its usual standard (I had a whole season there so I have much excuse for forgetting who the conductor was). I found the klemperer recording quite adequate in grasping the essense of this piece, and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's performance was flawless - until I recently read the lyrics. Then her performance seems completely out of place. For the uninitiate the lyric in the 4th movement was basically about kids imagining heaven as a place where they have unlimited supply of food, and the lyrics are really quite amusing. Schwarzkopt took it WAY too seriously.
5th: London/Chailly with Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
6th: DG/Karajan with BP
8th: DG/Abbado with BP
I never got around to have a good listen to these recordings, so no comment.
RCA/MTT with London SO: Very detailed perfomance as in typical MTT style. I must admit I'm one of his fan and might hold a biased opinion toward this CD. Yet I really think he did a good job presenting the piece as Mahler intended it to be. Recording quality is above average.
DG/Boulez with CSO: I think Boulez did a more than adequate job with this recording. IMHO Mahler No.9 is all about building up the atmosphere, and Boulez did all this without lossing the balance. The recording quality is above average although I found the violin part distorted at times.
EMI/Rattle with BP: As I mentioned before, I simply loved this CD. I don't have anything to compare the performance against, but this recording was so enjoyable that I don't really need objective opinion to speak of it highly.
Das Lied von der Erde:
Now this is one Mahler piece I can speak with much confidence. I own three versions myself and listen to various other versions from libraries and friends. Some of you may not know that the lyrics were actually from Chinese poets. I hated chinese literature in school, but I actually like the Geman-English translation. Go figure.
Naxos/Halasz with NSO Ireland: My first CD on this piece. Unfortunately it didn't earn any special place in my heart. I found the solos plain and the recording quality less than average. However, some people seem to be quite fond of this version.
Decca/Bernstern with Wiener Philharmoniker: My favorate version. REALLY good recording quality for something recorded 40 years ago, and the performance is unequaled. One very special feature of this CD is that Fischer-Dieskau took the mezzo-soprano part, and did a wonderful, wonderful job. Definitely recommended!
DG/Boulez with WP (SACD): This is one of my earliest SACD purchase. I bought this mainly because it's a SACD. The recording quality is obviously very good, but the performance didn't impress me much on my first listen. Therefore I never really listened to it again. I play it only to demostrate SACD to my friends.
RCA/Reiner with CSO
Sony/MTT with SFO (SACD)
Das Lied von der Erde:
Reference/Eiji Oue with Minnesota Orchestra
Now comes the question (you didn't think I was here just to make a personal statement, did you?):
Have any of you heard Neeme Jarvi's recording of Mahler No.6 (done with CSO I believe)? It's supposedly the legendary recording that pushed the speed limit on Mahler No.6 to a new level. I'm genuinely interested in this recording, but Amazon doesn't have it anymore. Anyone?