MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan" (Daniel Harding,
September 2009). Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection" (Ricarda
Merbeth, soprano; Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano; Netherlands Radio Choir/Mariss
Jansons, December 2009).
Symphony No. 3 in D minor "Nature." Bernarda Fink, mezzo-soprano;
Netherlands Radio Choir; Boys of the Breda Sacrament Choir; Rijnmond Boys'
Jansons, cond. February 2010). Symphony No. 4 in G (Miah Persson, soprano;
Iván Fischer, cond. April 2010). Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (Daniele
Gatti, cond. June 2010). Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic." (Lorin
Maazel, May 2011). Symphony No. 7 in E minor "Song of the Night." (Pierre
Boulez, January 2011). Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand." (Christine
Brewer, Camilla Nylund, MNaria Espada, sopranos; Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano;
Mihoko Fujimjura, alto; Robert Dean Smith, tenor;l Tommi Hakala, baritone;
Stefan Kocán, bass; Netherlands Radio Choir; State Choir "Latvija," Bavarian
Radio Choir; National Boy's Choir; National Children's Choir/Mariss Jansons,
March 2011). Symphony No. 9 in D (Bernard Haitin, May 2011). Symphony
No. 10 (arr. Cooke). (Eliahu Inbal, June 2011). Totenfeier. Das Lied
von der Erde (Anna Larsson,
alto; Robert Dean Smith, tenor; Fabio Luisi, May 2011).
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam's own label, RCO LIVE has been praised on this site for their superb issues of live performances. However, they disappoint on this new issue, both on regular DVD and Blu Ray, of all of the Mahler symphonies recorded during live performances with various conductors during the Orchestra's Mahler festival of the last three years. Inexplicably, there is no booklet accompanying the set—surely with the Orchestra's rich history of Mahler performances (one concert contained two performances of Symphony No. 4, one conducted by Mengelberg, the other by Mahler!), there is much that could be said of how the Mahler tradition continued with conductors Eduard van Beinum, Bernard Haitink and Riccardo Chailly. Of course the performances on the new set are magnificent, although some might find Boulez's interpretation of Symphony No. 7 and Maazel's straight-forward Symphony No. 6 too cool and analytical. Jansons' recordings of symphonies 2 and 3 already have been issued on SACD, and the set of symphony NO. 2 also includes a DVD, the same video seen in this new set. And this "Symphony of a Thousand" misses that appellation by perhaps 500: the choral sound is excellent but hardly massive—there is no way the number of singers Mahler wanted could be accommodated in the Concertgebgouw and still have room for an audience.Ther are a number of fine recordings of Mahler's gigantic symphony (see reviews on this site). Jansons' has its virtues, but the ending is entirely too rushed. However, Mahlerites surely will wish to own these performances, and let us hope that producers will recognize the manifold problems of this set and issue corrected versions eliminating problems outlined below.
What went wrong in the production/processing? First of all, as mentioned above, there is no accompanying booklet with complete performer information, track information, and timings. Some of the disks are reluctant to play (I heard them on Blu Ray). At first it seems there is no menu preceding each performance, but one finally appears on screen, even though it doesn't look like a menu and is very difficult to read—usually white print on a light background. There is no list of performers. no list of chapters, no extras. While there are separate tracks for each movement, there are no separate tracks for applause. Movements of each symphony and their track numbers are given on the inside jacket cover, usually in light print over light colors, virtually impossible to decipher. And for Symphony No. 8, which has only two movements, there are only two tracks (!). All other DVDs of this massive work provide separate tracks for the 26 sections. On this issue, if you wish to hear only the ending of the Mahler Eighth, you must fast forward from the beginning of track 2, for about 50 minutes (!!). The two-channel sound is excellent, multi-channel even better. There are no problems with video quality; cameras almost always are in the right place.
These are performances of enormous interest to collectors. But before you purchase it, make sure these problems have been corrected, unless you are willing to deal with deficiencies mentioned above. This site will be updated to indicate if corrections are made. Let us hope they will be!
R.E.B. (January 2013)