MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand"
Simone Schneider, soprano 1 / Magna peccatrix). Kacqielyn Wagner (soprano
II / Una poenitium). Regula Mühlemann (Mater gloriosa). Katherina Magiera
( (Alto I / M <io;er Samaritana). Claudia Mahnke ((Alto II / Maria Aegyptiaca).
Simon O8Neill *tenor / Doctor Marianus). Michael Nagy (baritone / Pater
ecstaticus). Evgeny Mikitin (bass / Pater profundis). Munich Philharmonic
Choir. Orfeón Donostiarra. Augsburger Domsingknaben. Munich Philharmonic
Orchestra / Valery Gergiev, cond.
Angela Meade, Erin Woll, :osette Oropesa. Elisabeth Bishop. Mihoko Fukimura
AnthoAnthony Dean Griffey Marcus Werba John Reylyea.
Two new recordings of Mahler's mighty Symphony of a Thousand, and both disappoint, if for different reasons. a rushed performance in one case, substandard audio for the other. Mahler's Symphony No. 8 received its American premiere in 1916 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. conducted by Leopold Stokowski who had attended the Munich premiere September 12, 1910. At the premiere there were more than a thousand musicians, and a promoter of the premiere called it Symphony of a Thousand, a title that Mahler disapproved of The symphony was a tremendous success and received a number of performances, in particular in 1912 with Willem Mengelberg and the Amsterdam Concertgbebouw. Since that time performances rarely meet that quota. One that did was Gustavo Dudamel's performance which is available on video (REVIEW) Most performances use a much smaller chorus including Leonard Bernstein whose Vienna Philharmonic performance has only several hundred singers (he had more for his London Symphony performance). This new Philadelphia recording was made in March 2016 in the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall. From he photo it is obvious the chorus was not as large as Mahler wishes However, it is a grand performance, among the finest I have ever heard. It is obvious this music is important to the remarkable conductor Nézet-Séguin, and his interpretation is in the true Mahler tradition, expansive in scope, nd beautifully paced. He takes his time, and his performance is perhaps the longest ever recorded. His soloists are among the best. The only negative feature of this new Philadelphia recording is the audio. Recording in the Kimmel Center always has been a problem, and here we have an audio picture that is grossly heavy in the bass, and the organ is totally out of proportion, covering many orchestral details. It is unfortunate the engineers were not up to their task. This magnificent performance deserves better.
Valery Gergiev (b. 1953) is a dynamic force on today's conducting scene. He has held major positions including the Mariinsky Theater and the London Symphony. While with the LSO, he recorded all of the Mahler symphonies, in the dismal acoustics of London's Barbican Hall—with the exception of Symphony No. 8, which was performed in London's St Paul's Cathedral. Audio was remarkably good considering the excessive resonance of the venue. It was mentioned on this site several years ago (REVIEW). Since 2015 Gergiev has been Chief Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. This Mahler recording was made at the Paris Philharmonie February 17, 2019. Supposedly it is a live performance but there are no audience sounds and no applause. It was the Munich Philharmonic that gave the premiere performance of this symphony more than a century ago. This recording is a rather hasty run-through of this music with a total playing time of less than 73 minutes, surely the fastest ever recorded. Audio is acceptable, surely better than the new Philadelphia recording, but hot of demonstration quality. There are many magnificent important older rewordings of Mahler Eight, particularly the near-definitive 1959 BBC performance conducted by Jascha Horenstein (REVIEW). This has amazing audio for its time. And there are many superb SACD releases including the recent Theirry Fischer Utah Symphony release which has multi-channel audio that does justice to this music (REVIEW).. It is unfortunate the new Philadelphia recording isn't of that sonic quality. And do not overlook the superb Riccardo chailly Leipzig video, surely one of the finest ever, with the huge forces clearly visible and state-of-the-art miulti-channel sound (REVIEW).
R.E.B. (March 2020)-