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Mahler Symphonies Favorite Recordings - Page 25

post #361 of 3714

I'm such an idiot.

Originally Posted by DarkAngel
I have never seen/heard the Szell Mahler 5, but own Szell/Sony 4 & 6 and find them near the top of any list for those two.
How interesting, neither have I.

I looked at your post and was wondering, hmm, when did I mention Szell? Then I looked at my post and realized what an idiot I am. It was Maazel with VPO, not Szell with VPO (although he did conduct VPO at the age of 16 ). I don't know what happened when I wrote my review, possibly too much caffine or because I've been staring at my unshipped CD order for too long.

This is the most embarrassing thing I've done in a long while.
post #362 of 3714
I am new to this Mahler thread, wow a lot of great insight. Just thought I would chime in about my two favorite recordings so far. I come at this from a professional clarinetist's perspective. This can be great but also a curse. If there is one person in a woodwind section who isn't playing well, especially the principal clarinetist, I have a hard time enjoying the recording. I am getting better at this, and it is great to get some great insight from a wholistic sense that you are all providing. Thank you.

I just listened to the Rattle Mahler 10 with the BPO and was absolutely blown away. I know all the Mahler symphonies very well, performed most of them, but I have never really listened to the 10th. I must say that I was mesmerized by the quality of the playing. I really heard no blemishes or weak links on any principal instrument. In fact, they were all amazing, and these recordings are being done live!! I know they are edited from multiple performances, but the quality from a performers view is astounding. The detail, intonation, beautiful characteristic tones are striking. I was thrilled when Rattle got this job, and I believe that this may be THE orchestra of the next decade. I have listened to Mahler 5 and Gurrelieder and they were equally impressive (although I didn't like the microphone placement in Gurrelieder. It was hard to hear the textural layers in the orchestra during the vocal numbers). Rattle has got the charisma and artistry and he has an orchestral machine that is unbelievable. Anyway, the 10th blew me away.

I am a huge fan of the George Szell Cleveland orchestra, and was happy to hear that the 6th is highly regarded. I don't own it and will buy it very soon. The 4th symphony is one of my favorite recordings I own in my entire collection. The recording quality is great and doesn't have the hiss that some of the earlier Szell recordings have. The playing again is first rate and the pacing and flow of the interpretation is right on. I never tire of listening to this recording, and I use this recording as one of my references when judging new equipment. However, I have always thought my appreciation for this recording was prejudiced because the principal clarinetist was one of the greatest of all time (my teachers teacher), and his playing on this recording is perfection. I am happy to see that the recording is highly regarded by those of you who can judge these recordings more accurately than I can.

Anyway, as I am delving into better audio equipment my passion for listening and acquiring new recordings is increasing dramatically. It is great to have such intelligent threads and commentary on classical masterpieces. You all really know your stuff and I would feel confident making my buying decisions from the discussions here. Thanks for the great insights.

post #363 of 3714
dashea, Rattle's 10th with BPO is unquestionably a very good CD, and it's great to hear that verified by a professional musician. Regarding the picking-on-your-instrument thing, I think it really quite common with professional musicians. I have several friends who play in a professional orchestra, and everytime we go to a concert they always have something to say about the performance of their own instruments. One of them is a trumpet player, and I often pity the trumpet players in the wind band he conducts on the side. They get disproportional attention from him and often have a hard time before and after a performance.

I recently acquired two of Bruno Walter's historical Mahler recordings. Das Lied von der Erde (with Kathleen Ferrier & Julius Patzak) was interesting but doesn't really stand out among the zillion different versions out there. The 9th with VPO, on the other hand, is rather remarkable and therefore I've decided to bore you all with a review:

Since I was introduced to the 9th symphony by modern performances, my impression of how it should be done is very much the modern way. Therefore, all the description here are relative to the mainstream modern rendition of this work.

Being recorded in 1938, the sound quality obviously leaves much to be desired. It was particularly bad in the beginning of the 1st movement and got progressively better. I don't really understand how recording worked back then (it seemed to involve wax somehow) so I'm not going to comment. Performance wise, the first half of 1st movement doesn't differ from modern ones much. Walter's conducting possess much energy and is quite rigorous as most musicians of his days, and the first movement was presented in a calculated and gentle manner.

Despite the ubiquitous criticism toward modern conductors' slower approaches to Mahler's symphonies, I was still utterly shocked by Walter's intepretation of the 2nd movement. Gone was the familiar gradualism and suspense; the accelerated play simply overwhelms its audience and leaves them breathless. The strings was much firmer and more confident than modern performances. However, one negative effect of this massive quickening, in my opinion, is the loss of detail of each soli instruments. As we entered the second part of this movement, the variations in speed became considerably more perceptible yet perfectly transparent. In a way it was like an emotion roller-caster, and converted this movement's role from a transitional sidekick to a leading cast.

Instead of an undifferentiated accelaration like before, Walter dramatized the opening of the third movement. I also suspect the version he had is different from what we commonly hear nowadays since there are notable discrepancies in length of certain notes.

Unsurprisingly, the 4th movement was very fast, and perhaps even more so than the other 3 movements. I must say this makes it tremedously less depressing. The first thought that occurred to me was: "Gee he really wanted to get done with it ASAP", as the pain and grief we're used to hear in this movement were barely detectable. Perhaps this really was his intention. This symphony was Mahler's farewell to this world, and as close to Mahler as Walter was, it was probably excruciating for him to linger for long. With that in mind, this movement suddenly seemed as emotional as any other version.

In all, I tend consider this CD more of an alternative interpretation rather than the reference recording as some choose to do. It is fun to listen to this recording once in a while, but to put it on my regular list will probably be quite a mental anguish; largely due to poor sound quality. If somehow I can get hold of his 1961 recording with Columbia, however, I'm sure it would become my favorite version of the 9th symphony.
post #364 of 3714
Thread Starter 
I have imposed a no "mono" restriction on my classical purchases, no recordings before mid 1950's for me (I do have a couple mono Maria Callas recitals however from 1950's)

rather remarkable and therefore I've decided to bore you all with a review
satirical witt always appreciated, he he.

I have the famous Walter/Sony Mahler 1+2 2CD stereo set which is remastered to great effect and universally praised by critics. But I was interested in you description of early Walter acellerated performance in 1938 since all his newer stereo work I own is noticeably slower/broader than other conductors and I don't really care for Walter's languid style. (Beehtoven 6 and Brahms 2/3 are pretty good though)

Seems most conductors follow this pattern of vigorous energetic performances in thier youth and then slower broader style in older age (Solti maybe the exception here)

You are right that the Walter/Sony/Columbia SO stereo 9th is hard to find, Arkiv has niece import set of stereo Walter/Sony 1,2,4,5,9:

When I reach for Mahler 9 I usually go with Karajan/DG, but also spend time with Barbirolli/EMI GROTC and Bernstein/Sony.

Do you own many mono recordings?
Do you like Walter performances in general?

Welcome to Mahler thread, look forward to hearing your impressions.
post #365 of 3714

I really don't have many mono CDs, as I didn't pay all that money for Hifi equipments to abuse my ears. I only buy mono recordings if I think the performance might hold significant historical or reference value.

To answer your question, I went through my entire current collection and only managed to find one mono CD. I didn't even bother taking the majority of them when I last moved. In case you ask, the only mono CD I have (apart from the Walter CDs, of course) is Tchaikovsky's 6th by Paul van Kempen with the Concertgebouw. I must confess that this was an impulse buy because I was curious about it. It is a Japan domestic-only release by Philips, and I was quite into Tchaikovsky at the time. It was really quite a remarkable performance and became my favorite version of this work. Even so, I still don't listen to it very often unless I'm really in the mood for some Tchaikovsky. My favorite modern version of his 6th is Celibidache with Munich PO. It was recorded weeks before his sudden departure.

Sorry I wandered a bit far. Back to Mahler now.

I didn't have much experience with Walter's work until recently. I always thought he died before the stereo recording era and never bothered to look into the his recordings. I only found out about his recordings in the 60s when I wrote the above review. However, from my limited experience with his 9th and Das Lied von der Erde (1952), I wouldn't describe his style at the time as languid. Although I wouldn't be surprised a bit if he later changed his style; it's just what time usually do to us.

Thanks for the link. Amazon has it as well and I'll probably buy from them (I live in NZ). It probably won't happen for quite a while, however, since I have a ridiculously long wish list. One can only carry so much credit card debt.
post #366 of 3714
Mahler is too important to let the thread slide so I thought it needed a bump.

Actually I have done some listening to the new MTT Mahler 3 and 6 recordings. Does anybody else feel that the recording quality is not right? Sure the "sound" is spectacular but I feel that these recordings are more to show off a hi fi system at some audio shop then to present a normal performance. The clarity is stunning but it doesn't sound natural to me. Of course I am not listening on an SACD player which may be the problem. Even with this, the sense of space seems all wrong. It sounds like they isolated instrumental families a bit and had an unorthodox seating. I might be wrong on this and am just speculating, but I lose my orchestral orientation. It is almost as if they did some sort of cross feed. Also, the strings are cold and don't have the warmth I am accustomed to.

I can appreciate MTT's attempts to be cutting edge and they symphonies are beautifully presented, they just sound "funny" to me.

I have listened to the Rattle recording of Mahler 5 again and have these impressions. The first two movements are very good, but nothing that jumps out at me. The Adagietto and Finale on the other hand are remarkeable. In a performance, there are magic moments when a performing group is all in the zone and they try to take it to the edge and I sense this in these last two movements on many occasions. Rattle takes the orchestra to soft dynamic levels which are at the edge and then adds great breadth as he builds his phrases back up again. Also some of the shaping and timing of phrasings are exquisite. Again, only possible when you have a great conductor who is inspiring you to take chances and make something special happen. I watched some videos of Rattle conducting, I see it in him. Those facial expressions and gestures will inspire musicians to do great things. The last two movements of Mahler 5 are great. The first two are fine, but I have never really connected with them on a music level so I might not be getting all I can out of the listening experience.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

post #367 of 3714
Thread Starter 
Unfortunately don't have any of the new MTT/Delos hybrid series so can't comment, still seems very pricey for these new releases, and used are also still expensive. I will say I have never heard anything except excellent sound from any Delos CD recording so far.

The Litton/Delos Mahler recordings I have are excellent sound quality.

Also don't have the Rattle/EMI 5th.........but have many other Rattle performances of Mahler.

************************************************** ****

While we are spending money......look at this rave review of the new live Abbado/DG Mahler 2nd:


I can tell by the description that I must have this version, it has the energy and heightened contrasts I seek out, soon it will be mine

post #368 of 3714
The two-channel tracks (CD and SACD) of the MTT/SFSO recordings can be a bit bright. It's wonderful in multichannel. It may be that they optimized the recording for multichannel.

post #369 of 3714
Originally Posted by AndreYew
The two-channel tracks (CD and SACD) of the MTT/SFSO recordings can be a bit bright. It's wonderful in multichannel.
Good grief! I was just going to say that I'll post my impressions after I get those CDs and my yet-to-be-determined SACD player. I've always heard that the resolution of SACD 2 channel is much better than that of multichannel in most SACDs. I hope the MTT/SFSO recordings are just an exception. It'll probably cost 10 times as much for me to have a multichannel system that rivals my two channel setup.

The MTT/SFSO SACDs are not only pricy, but also hard to get. My Amazon order has been open for weeks now and the shipping date just keeps getting pushed back.
post #370 of 3714
Regarding the MTT/SFS recordings, I find them to be quite incredible. I have all of the ones that have come out so far as well as multiple recordings of each Mahler symphony, and Tilson Thomas's are my favorite in almost every case. First of all, I firmly believe that the SFS is the finest orchestra in the world currently. The playing is virtuosic in every section, and Tilson Thomas is an incredible conductor (if you ever have a chance to see him live, DO IT). The sound quality in SACD is phenomenal if you ask me. I haven't listened to the CD layers except in the car, so I don't have a very strong opinion on that. The dynamic range is stunning, as is the detail. The best example of this I think is in the 6th Symphony at the very end of the last movement. The music falls and falls in dynamics until it is barely a whisper, and yet every detail can be heard. Then the orchestra goes silent, and the recording also goes silent. No hiss, no noise, just blackness. Then right before the last "hammer blow" you can hear the entire orchestra breathe in unison, and no matter how well you prepare yourself for the explosive finale blast, it will hit you with such force every time that you still jump. It is thunderously loud, and yet just 30 seconds ago it was whisper quiet.

As far as his interpretations go, I like them. I can't wait for their version of the 2nd to be released, as it is my favorite of Mahler's symphonies, but it is the first one that I don't know if it will be able to top my favorite version (Kaplan/LSO). We shall see.

And just as a sidenote, I don't think you've really experienced Mahler until you see it live. It truly is a spectacle and an emotional thing. One day I will see a performance of one of his symphonies will full orchestra, full choir, and pipe organ (like the 2nd or the 8th).

post #371 of 3714
I totally agree about experiencing Mahler live. It is also amazing to be in the orchestra playing it.

I will have to try and here the MTT recordings on an SACD player. I thought they sounded great even with the CD layers. My initial impressions were about the different soundstage I was hearing. The clarity and instrumental separation was so good, it almost didn't sound natural to me any more, eventhough I could really appreciate the quality of what I was hearing. In a live concert, you don't hear that much separation and I always feel part of the orchestral sound is the layers of blend between instrumental families.

I really agree with you about MTT and the greatness of the San Francisco Symphony. I have always been a big fan of this orchestra. Anyway, I guess I need to get a SACD player now and give these another listen. Sorry about my wallet.

post #372 of 3714
Thread Starter 
SFSO is not very widely recorded for the last 10-15yrs, not sure if that's by thier own choosing or ???????

In the late 1970's and 1980's Herbert Bloomstedt had many highly rated recordings with SFSO on London label that I own, seems they had much higher visibility than today. MTT seems to be active again, but he went through extended period where he recorded very little. Don't know SFSO history of which conductor followed Bloomstedt or did Tilsom Thomas take over from Bloomstedt?

I lived in Chicago from 1980-92 and Solti was very high visibility, and traveled around the world with CSO and recorded large number of albums for London label. He was quite a unique character, passionate and outspoken about classical music.....we need more like him today! There was high hopes Abbado would accept CSO position after Solti's death, but unfortunately Barenboim was given position and been big let down from Solti days.
post #373 of 3714
Glad to see some positive comments on the new MTT/SFSO Mahler cycle - I can't wait to get my hands on them!

I was in SF earlier this year and managed to attend one of SFSO's concerts. The highlight was Beethoven's No.7. I can't remember what the fillers were except there was a piano concerto by a less well-known composer from Beethoven's era. I'm a big fan of Tilson Thomas, and he certainly did not disappoint. Lots of details were presented without sacrificing musicality, although I suspect the trumpet chair wasn't quite himself for the first few minutes. Overall the concert was satisfying and see Tilson Thomas in action was well worth it.
post #374 of 3714
I've heard MTT and SFSO do the Mahler 8th live, and it was an awesome experience. The Los Angeles Philharmonic with Esa-Pekka Salonen is also one of the world's great orchestras capable of extraordinarily precise, expressive playing even at very high tempi --- for some this may be a heretical statement, but they remind me of the Chicago Symphony under Reiner. I think we're very lucky in California to have these two great orchestras and conductors, and now one of the great concert halls of the world (Walt Disney Concert Hall).

Recently, the orchestras did a conductor exchange with MTT conducting an incredible Mahler 6th down here, and E-PS conducting the SFSO. Reviews from the Bay Area were uniformly positive, and remarked that Salonen pushed the SFSO players to a new edge in technical performance (ie. very fast, very wide dynamic range).

post #375 of 3714
Originally Posted by AndreYew
I've heard MTT and SFSO do the Mahler 8th live, and it was an awesome experience. The Los Angeles Philharmonic with Esa-Pekka Salonen is also one of the world's great orchestras capable of extraordinarily precise, expressive playing even at very high tempi --- for some this may be a heretical statement, but they remind me of the Chicago Symphony under Reiner. I think we're very lucky in California to have these two great orchestras and conductors, and now one of the great concert halls of the world (Walt Disney Concert Hall).

Recently, the orchestras did a conductor exchange with MTT conducting an incredible Mahler 6th down here, and E-PS conducting the SFSO. Reviews from the Bay Area were uniformly positive, and remarked that Salonen pushed the SFSO players to a new edge in technical performance (ie. very fast, very wide dynamic range).

I always loved hearing guest conductors with the Cleveland Orchestra (I probably saw at least 50 concerts from '85 to '95).. Don't get me wrong, Dohnanyi was a great leader and he always got amazingly beautiful sounds from the orchestra. But when someone else would come to town and take the reigns, it was sometimes like hearing a new orchestra. I remember Salonen conducing Messaien's TURANGALILA SYMPHONIE back in 1990 or so. Exactly like you said above, he pushed the orchetra way beyond their normal boundaries.. the climaxes of the Messaien were were huge.. Doch hardly ever let them get that loud. That has to be so much fun for a conductor, sort of like getting to drive a Porche 911 after driving your normal car for years.. It was like that hearing Mark Wigglesworth conduct the Mahler 10th a few years back. He got sounds from that orchestra that I didn't know they were capable of.. (though, they are one of the best orchestras in the world, so of course they're capable)..

I'm glad I took advantage of all those $2 concerts back when I was a student and live a 15 minute walk from Severance Hall!

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