Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Mahler: Symphony No. 3
Listen to Samples
B. Guerrero | 05/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Natives of Chicago and other fans of the CSO are not going to be terribly happy with what I have to say. Believe me, I really wanted to like this recording. But overall, this recording is a solid four, not a five. There are primarily two big problems here. The first is the recorded sound, which is rather "up front" with very little if any hall ambience. Combined with Chicago's sometimes lethal brass section, that's not such a great idea (and yes, the brass do play very well throughout). The other problem is with Haitink. Yes, it's true that the performance builds to a fantastic culmination at the climax of the long brass chorale - especially right where the last cymbal crash is located. But unfortanutely, so much of what happpens, or - more precisely - what doesn't happen in the previous 90-something minutes of music, can leave one very easily feeling that it's simply too little, too late. Yes, the Chicago brass are big and loud everywhere where the music asks them to big and loud. But Haitink is often times so poker-face and four-square with his conducting, that it simply comes across as loud without much tension or genuine excitement. For example . . .
Let's take the development section of the first movement: Haitink is rather under-tempo throughout the entire development, which isn't particularly unusual. But compare this to the highly touted Jascha Horenstein M3, who's also under-tempo, and you'll hear a world of difference. Horenstein consistantly draws us to the more interesting and unusual sound effects in his balances, such as his cagey exploitation of Mahler's nutzoid tambourine and horn trills. Haitink is quite tame with these sorts of sounds. At the "southern storm" fantasy passage that caps the development (undoubtely, Tchaikovsky's "Battle With The King Rat" from his "Nutcraker" was a source of inspiration here), one gets the impression of a percussion section that's struggling to keep up with the lung power of the brass. Perhaps that's just a matter of microphone placement. Anyway, as mentioned, Haitink is somewhat under-tempo here, but when you get to the offstage snare drum solo, he speeds up slightly. Mahler calls for the exact opposite: the offstage drum solo should be much closer in tempo to the recap of the symphony's opening horn fanfare, which follows immediately after. That drum solo should be cooling us down, not pumping us up futher.
For a second example, let's take the short, choral "bim-bam" movement. The Chicago women and childrens choruses are sufficiently big sounding, but Haitink makes far too little of the contrasting orchestral interlude. While the brass snarl as they should, you hear almost nothing of the alternating salvos between the tam-tam (large orchestral gong) and suspended cymbal. Combined with Haitink's somewhat stately tempo, it leaves us an impression of this relatively short movement that borders on monotony. In turn, that means that the entire "bim-bam" movement hasn't provided sufficient contrast - both in terms of tempo and color - between the slow vocal movement, and the slow opening of the Adagio movement. Again, check out how Horenstein manages to make this a far more colorful and - yes! - menacing sounding movement, performed at an even more stately tempo!
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I simply found the first five movements to be slightly disappointing, thus softening the point of the sixth movement Adagio (which is done quite well here). Perhaps it's just me, but it also seems that Michelle De Young sounds less good with each new outing. I hear so little of that beautiful, natural sounding voice that graced the entire "der Abschied" from her recording of "Das Lied von der Erde" on Reference Recordings; now a full decade old. She sounds like someone who's trying hard to be a large voice Wagnerian these days. Perhaps the CSO brass section rubbed off on her. More likely, it may simply be that the recording itself isn't terribly flattering to her efforts.
In my opinion, fans of Haitink are better off sticking to his original 1966 Concertgebouw Mahler 3, which just got reissued in a glorious sounding remastering, coupled to his decent performance of "Das Klagende Lied". The tempi are quicker; the woodwinds are better; Maureen Forrester is outstanding; the acoustics are more flattering (without any loss of detail) - all captured before Haitink was able to form own his opinions and imprint them on the music. The other option is to pick up Haitink's equally stately live Berlin performance on DVD. While the Berlin brass - particularly their low brass - may not be quite as good as their counterparts in Chicago, the woodwinds and strings are clearly better. The Berlin timpani at the end of the symphony sound better as well.
If it's the CSO you must have in the Mahler 3rd, I'd recommend sticking to the James Levine one; recorded in the more flattering acoustics of Chicago's Medinah Temple. While Levine may be too fast with the main march in the first movement, he clearly does a better job with the inner four movements - particularly the second, third, and fifth movements."
Haitink's forth go
Prescott Cunningham Moore | 05/29/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Let's see. Another Mahler 3rd from Bernard Haitink, this time with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on their new house label CSO resound. Regardless of the merits of this performance (and, for the most part, it is a fine Mahler 3rd that lacks any real distinction), why was this recording even made? It seems Haitink has been enjoying something of an Indian Summer in his career as he is allowed to re-record the basic repertoire ad nauseam with all the worlds' major orchestras. Why he is given this privilege is anyone's guess, considering most of these remakes cannot compare to his earlier recordings.
For the LSO Live label (which seems to specializing in duplicating earlier recordings made by now aging conductors), Haitink has recorded a very fine Beethoven cycle and a pretty lackluster Brahms cycle. That the latter was only moderately successful should not be a surprise; Haitink's cycle with the Concertgebouw on Phillips already showed the conductor's lack of affinity with the music. For RCO Live label, Haitink has re-re-re-recorded the Bruckner 8th, his most lifeless performance of the symphony to date, coupled with an uninterested Concertgebouw in surprisingly bad sound. Haitink has recorded this symphony twice before, with the Vienna Philharmonic and (surprise, surprise) the Concertgebouw, both of which trump his most recent effort. Anyone interested in this usually sensitive Brucknerian's interpretations should turn to his Phillips cycle with the Concertgebouw or the various recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic on (surprise, surprise) Phillips.
Finally, here, for the CSO Resound label, Haitink has re-re-re-recorded the Mahler 3rd. I can really only see three reasons why anyone would want to acquire this release: 1) To hear Haitink's latest thoughts on the Mahler 3rd; 2) To hear the Chicago Symphony in this music; 3) To have a Mahler 3rd in SACD sound. Concerning Haitink's interpretation, his original Concertgebouw 3rd on Phillips remains one of his better achievements in his original cycle. This new release does not improve on his earlier recording and, if anything, finds the oft-square-faced Haitink at his stodgiest. Furthermore, Haitink has recorded this music with the Berlin Philharmonic on (you guessed it) Phillips in DVD format for anyone interested in visual fare, a performance that finds Haitink duplicating his earlier efforts. There goes reason number one. Concerning the Chicago Symphony, they have recorded this music before for Solti in his rough, muscular, aggressive Decca cycle. Although Solti's Mahler has aged badly, due mostly to Solti's limited grasp of the Mahler idiom, the conductor was anything but boring. His brash and wild approach certainly worked for the most part in the 3rd. Although both the minuete and finale predictably lacks the necessary sensitivity of touch, the craggy first movement sounds appropriately primitive and the scherzo is rough and ruckus. And Margaret Hillis certainly has the current chorus beat in the vocal department - Haitink's fifth movement is particularly lifeless. So, muscle for muscle, while the current Chicago Symphony has made gains in polish and balance, the older orchestra has them beat in the excitement department. So there goes reason number two. As for modern-day sound, specifically a SACD Mahler 3rd, their certainly is not a lack of greatness in this department. Despite a first movement that never takes off, Michael Tilson Thomas offers a more interesting (if not necessarily more coherent) Mahler 3rd with the fabulous San Francisco Symphony and a better sounding Michelle de Young in SACD sound coupled with the Kindertotenlieder. And Ricardo Chailly with the Royal Concertgebouw on Decca offers not only the best SACD Mahler 3rd available but one of the best Mahler 3rds period. The Concertgebouw has the Chicago Symphony beat in the playing department. While the American orchestra is famous for their brass, the Concertgebouw offers not only sumptuous string playing, the greatest woodwind section in terms of character, and big, burnished brass, but also offers an orchestral tradition steeped in the Mahler idiom. Chailly is a much more sensitive guide than Haitink has ever been and the Concertgebouw matches Chailly's excitement measure for measure. Furthermore, the Decca recording is coupled with Mahler's re-orchestration of Bach's third orchestral suite. So there goes reason three.
By no means am I attempting to say that Haitink is not a fantastic conductor, nor am I saying he is not worthy of being recorded. When in his element, Haitink has few peers, delivering razor sharp precision, perfect ensemble balance, and great energy. But when he isn't (as is the case in this recording), Haitink can sound pedantic at best and just plain boring at his worst. And considering his veritable success in Bruckner, Mahler, and Shostakovich in his previous recorded efforts, it would be nice if the Chicago Symphony recorded their new music director in music that he has not already successfully commercially recorded. This release represents all that is wrong with the classical recording industry today. For all the hubbub concerning the "death" of classical music, that this is Haitink's, what, forth go at this symphony certainly suggests the only crisis in classical music is with the classical record labels and their inability to create engaging or thought-provoking releases."
Five stars for recording and playing
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 06/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was present at one of the concerts in Oct. 2006 from which this recording of the Mahler Third is taken, and anyone in the hall would have to say that the CSO played with exceptional commitment and virtuosity. In terms of sheer execution, this is a commanding account, rich in sonority, full of incredible solo playing and overall mastery. By comparison, the Mahler Thirds from San Francisco and London with Tilson Thomas, from Berlin with Nagano, and even from Los Angeles with Salonen, run far behind. As for the CSO's own legacy, you have to go back to Solti twenty years ago for the same visceral impact.
The recorded sound can't be faulted, either. It's open, clear, and very detailed. I'd only quibble with putting the winds and brass in such a prominent perspective, overshaowing the strings, but Chicago is proudest of those sections, so I see the point. Up to now I have used Salonen's recording as the touchstone for sound, but this in-house effort seems just as good, if a bit lacking in atmosphere compared to what the Sony engineers achieved in L.A. If there isn't an SACD version to come, it's a shame given the richness of what we hear in two-channel stereo.
These virtues are enough to earn five stars, but I would withold one star when it comes to Haitink's interpreatation. In the hall the sonic impact of the orchestra was so mesmerizing that one didn't notice any falws in Haitink's interpretation. It's certainly a good one but tending on the straight-faced side compared to the free fantasy of Bernstein or the riveting excitment of Levine. Haitink doesn't iron out Mahler's emotional contrasts, yet he is more about balance and beautiful execution than deep probing of the music's meaning. Michelle DeYOung is smooth-voiced but doesn't search deep into the Nietsche poem she sings in the fourth movement; the choral work in the fifth movement is exceptionally fine. however
In al, I must grudgingly conced that I agree with the reviewer below who calls this Recording a mild disappointment, but the other reviewers who hear major problems are very far off base. This is a fine, eolquent reading that just happens to come up against great ones from Bernstein, in particular. On its own, Haitink's CSO effort belongs jsut under the top tier. (I also own two Concertgebouw readings of the Third under him, and both are essentially the same slightly reined-in interpretation that we hear here.)"