MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand."
Ileana Cotrubas, Heather Harper and Hanneke Van Bork, sopranos; Birgit Finnila and Marianne Dieleman, contraltos; William Cochran, tenor; Hermann Prey, baritone; Hans Sotin, bass; Toonkunstkoor/De Stem des Volks; Amsterdam/Collegium Musicum Amstelodamense; Children's Choirs of the Churches of St. Willibrord and St. Pius X, Amsterdam; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Bernard Haitink, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 166 TT:70:45
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BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 16 in G, Op. 31 No. 1. Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 "Tempest". Sonata No. 18 in E flat, Op. 31 No. 3 "The Hunt."
Mari Kodama, pianist
PENTATONE SACD 5186 063 TT: 72:02
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CHOPIN: Variations Brillantes, Op. 12. Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 3335. Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60. Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58.
Artur Pizarro, pianist
LINN SACD CKD 250 TT: 77:22
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Bernard Haitink began recording Mahler's symphonies with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1962 with Symphony No. 1, which he would record again in 1972. Symphony No. 3 was taped in 1966, No. 4 in 1967, No. 2 in 1968, Nos. 6, 7 and 9 in 1969, No. 5 in 1970, and the Symphony No. 8, reissued in four-channel surround sound, was recorded in September 1971, along with the Adagio from Symphony No. 10. Jaap van Ginneken, who produced most of Haitink's Amsterdam recordings, was at his least effective here. Sound on the original stereo release was congested and lacked definition; this four-channel version clarifies things somewhat, and at least we do have some brass from the rear of the hall—but balances are distant, and the sonic grandeur of Mahler's is not heard here. Riccardo Chailly's January 2000 Decca recording is infinitely more successful (see REVIEW), although that has been issued in surround sound only on DVD Audio. Haitink's performance also leaves much to be desired - the ending is entirely too hasty; I'm sure if he were to record this work again his interpretation would be more spacious.

The two solo piano recordings are of limited interest. Mari Kodama already has two Pentatone SACDs devoted to better-known Beeethoven sonatas; here she offers the three sonatas of Op. 31 including The Tempest and The Hunt. Expert performances, very well recorded, with a larger-than-life piano. Arturo Pizarro's second Chopin SACD on the Linn label features the two big piano sonatas in unconvincing readings recorded on a bass-heavy Blünther piano in the warm acoustics of the UK's Potton Hall in June 2004.

R.E.B. (June 2006)

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