Originally Posted by DarkAngel
You are beyond hope, an incurable sick Mahler addict stripped of any shred of common sense or restraint, in words a perfect addition to discussion.
Your first task is very difficult, but we need to see your three favorite performances for each Mahler symphony......and any short comments that come to mind.
Hail, Dark Angel!
Three favorite performances... OK, I'll give this a shot, but I'll warn you, my favorites are changeable. I think they vary with the barometric pressure or something. For today, here's the forecast:
1. Horenstein/LSO (Unicorn)- Arguably, this is a "late Mahler" interpretation grafted onto an "early Mahler" work, but it fires me up so much, I feel like I could conquer the world after I hear it. Still too fast in the funeral march, tho.
2. Eschenbach/HSO (Koch)- Not ideally recorded, but Eschenbach is a dedicated (if somewhat interventionist) Mahlerite. I like that he delves into so many of the details that others gloss over.
3. Abbado/CSO (DG)- The early Abbado recording is hard to find now, but it's fresher than the BPO remake, plus the sound seems less processed. Abbado underplays the power a little, but he is again one of the few who actually bothers to read Mahler's score and bring it to life as written: Thus, the constant ebb and flow of tempos during the first movement.
1. Bernstein (both Sony and DG)- I can't decide between the two Lenny discs. The earlier one is fresher, but the ambition and reach of the later one is amazing.
2. Klemperer/Bavarian RSO (EMI)- I like this even better than the fiery studio recording, except the sound isn't quite as roomy. I do wish that K would pay more attention to the score, though. He tromps right through a lot of Mahler's detailed instructions.
3. ??? In a state of changing opinions right now, can't decided on my 3rd 2nd. Possibilities: Abbado/CSO, poetic & visionary, spaciously recorded; haven't heard his VPO remake. Rattle/CBSO, heard once & was intrigued; need to hear again. Solti/CSO is a great adrenaline rush in M2.
1. Zander/PO (Telarc)- See the website for my review of this one. In short, it's feisty and alive, and I like it. Best in Z's Mahler cycle so far.
2. Rattle/CBSO (EMI)- A wonderfully fresh performance, recorded far better than any other EMI disc of recent years.
3. Horenstein/LSO (Unicorn)- A little severe in places, but still good. Brass-dominated recording perspective.
1. Gatti/RPO (RCA)- Daniele Gatti's the real thing. Now that Harmonia Mundi has picked him up, I hope they'll do a Mahler cycle. Gatti's M4 won't be to everyone's taste. He gets inside the details and plays up the eccentric side of the work. Beautifully recorded, too.
2. Inbal/FRSO (Denon)- I haven't heard all of Inbal's cycle (must get that Brilliant box) but of the ones I have heard (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10) this was the best. All sorts of felicitous touches: gorgeous portamento, detailed tempo adjustments.
3. MTT/SFSO (SFSMedia)- See website for review of this. It is almost unbelievably refined... really otherworldly. MTT takes a rather leisurely stroll through Mahler's countryside. And maybe he keeps the glass window of a limo between himself and all that nature, but it sure is purdy. But reading Jar's comments on this thread reminds me that I need to go back and visit Reiner's recording again. I also enjoy Szell's, though his blatant disregard for Mahler's specified tempo changes continues to irk me.
1. Gatti/RPO (Conifer)- Currently long gone from the catalogue, but I hope it comes back. Gatti conducts this music like his life depends on it. This one is not recorded as well as the M4 mentioned above, but it's passable.
2. Chailly/RCO (Decca)- Not a big Chailly fan, at least in Mahler, but the Concertgebouw knows what to do here, and he lets them do it. Recorded sound is luscious, and I love hearing the obbligato horn in the scherzo up in front.
3. Tennstedt/LPO (EMI)- This is the live recording from 1991, not the studio recording in the box set. Very hard to find, but worth the search. This is Tennstedt post-cancer, so it is very contemplative, quite slow in places, but done with great intensity. It remains an individual performance, not the sort of thing you'd want to listen to everyday, but great for special occasions. Tennstedt is one of the few who "gets" it in the trio of the scherzo: The pizzicato strings quietly start an introspective waltz, then a bassoon joins them, they stop and the bassoon trails off, then the strings resume the waltz. This moment usually passes by poker-faced in most performances, but the first time I heard Tennstedt's live version, I was shocked. He makes it into a personality-driven vignette: The strings start their guitar-like strum, then the bassoon enters very loudly and rudely. The strings suddenly pull way back and the bassoon is left to trail off like a loud jerk that suddenly realizes he's just made an ass of himself. Then the strings resume and an oboe oh-so-carefully joins in, and after a moment of doubt, the strings accept the oboe, and then everyone else gradually joins in. I was shocked at Tennstedt's handling of this moment. It was like a little operatic scene for instruments. And then I dug out my Mahler 5 score... and found that Tennstedt was doing the passage exactly as written. How many others have missed this charming, hilarious slice-of-life scene? Almost all of them. I should point out that the live Tennstedt is from a concert in the Royal Festival Hall, which means that the sound is not very good. But I hope that doesn't keep EMI from reissuing this some day.
1. Zander/PO (Telarc)- See website for review. Powerful and relentless, this piece is right up Z's alley. He tears into it like a barroom brawl. Fine recording.
2. Bernstein/VPO (DG)- I'm probably the only person who generally likes Bernstein's DG cycle better than his earlier Columbia cycle. I find the earlier versions not completely formed interpretively, whereas the later ones are. This one is devastatingly committed. OK recording, though a little harsh.
3. Boulez/VPO (DG)- Amazingly lucid, without seeming remote. Best of the Boulez cycle, both in performance and recording.
1. Rattle/CBSO (EMI)- The first movement isn't ideally focused, but Rattle & Co find an endlessly creative supply of characterizations for this restless piece. Best is the scherzo, where they find some really whacked-out textures. Decently recorded.
2. Solti/CSO (Decca)- I'm a little leery of relentlessly fast performances of this work (which is to say most all performances), but this one is so hyped-up and giddy, I can't resist it. Somewhat garish early 70's recording.
3. Bernstein/NYP (DG)- Amazingly penetrating. Decently recorded.
1. Horenstein/LSO (BBC)- Cosmic scope of a great conductor caught in a moment of live intensity in shockingly good sound.
2. Sinopoli/PO (DG)- Lyrical and quirky, best from Sinopoli's cycle. Spacious recording.
3. Solti/CSO (Decca)- Still amazing in its high-voltage excitement. Listenable recording.
1. Horenstein/LSO (Music & Arts)- This is not to be confused with the BBC issue of a live Mahler 9 from September of 1966 by these same forces. This was from April of that year, and was a regular concert. The Proms "revival" was evidently done with a minimum of rehearsal, so it loses much of the fanatical intensity of Horenstein's detailing. The sad thing is that the Proms version has much better recorded sound. The M&A version basically sounds like a mono aircheck, but it is worth listening to (if you can stand it), because Horenstein was more "on" this night than in September, and his timpanist doesn't get lost in the third movement, either. The audience is noisier and there are more flubbed notes in April, but it is a more searing performance, especially in the second movement.
2. Bernstein/RCO (DG)- Hyper-emotional, but vivid like no other. Decent sound.
3. Abbado/BPO (DG)- After some years in the 1990's where he seemed to get caught up in fussing with refining the BPO's sound, Abbado was nearly taken out by stomach cancer. He has since recovered and, boy, did it refocus his priorities. This recent live 9th burns like a laser beam. Tolerable recording.
#10 Adagio only:
1. Sinopoli/PO (DG)- Slow, torturous, cerebral expostulation of this movement, truly emphasizes its otherworldliness. Decent recorded sound.
#10 Cooke version:
1. Wigglesworth/BBCNOW- Refer to Masonjar's comments earlier on this thread. I was at that concert, too, and was equally blown away. This recording is good, though nowhere in the league of that concert. Wigglesworth is amazing, and sooner or later a major orchestra is going to realize it and snap him up. Hello, are you listening, Chicago???
2. Rattle/CBSO- I have the new Rattle/BPO version, but I haven't been able to bring myself to listen to it much. (Same boat as Masonjar, after the W concert.) Since I haven't listened to it much, it hasn't had a chance yet to supplant the older CBSO version with its frightening drum thwacks.
Das Lied: (which might as well be included in the symphonies)
#1. Horenstein/BBCNSO- Intense, etched-in-stone sort of performance. Slower than any other performance. Also slower than any other conductor could handle it. Alfreda Hodgson's greatest moment. Decent recorded sound.
#2. Klemperer/PO- Typically direct, emotional Mahler from Klemperer with no corners rounded off. Just amazing. The recording is a little gauche, but it doesn't ultimately matter in the wake of such a communicative performance. Wunderlich is wunderbar, and Christa Ludwig is second to none.
#3. Haitink/RCO- Refined but sincere, Haitink's recording has an exquisite poise that suits this music perfectly. Janet Baker is wonderful.
Whew, there it be-- for the moment, at least. I'm sure I'll disagree with this list soon, or realize I inexplicably left off some favorites. I just got a review copy of the MTT M9, and look forward to tearing into that sometime in the next week or so.