Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Detlef Roth, Gustav Mahler, Kent Nagano|
Mahler: Symphonie Nr. 8 [Hybrid SACD]
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Caveat lector: this is an amateur review.
Pater Ecstaticus | Norway | 09/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all the playing of the orchestra: I think it is polished and very sweet, and very refined also, relishing in all the gorgeous tone-colours, but I like that in Mahler's Eighth Symphony, so it is just great. This may for a part be the result of the very clear, very well defined but never harsh (rather the opposite!) recording here - the best recording ever of this symphony up to now, for as far as I know and for as far as I am concerned. This must be the most sensually (even sensuously) beautiful Mahler 8 I ever heard. But the conductor finds a way to never make the music sound syrupy or sentimental; but indeed full of (love) sentiment - and loads of it! (Remember that his wife Alma was the dedicatee of this symphony - the sentiments expressed in the music must surely also be a reflection of Gustav Mahler's love for this 'musa inspiratrice', Alma.)
The orchestral playing on this (studio) recording is in my view he result of a real overarching vision: not to read to much into the music beforehand - no 'hineininterpretieren', no 'pushing the issue' too much - to let the music unfold itself, like a celestial phenomenon that we see evolving before us. All instrument groups - together with (beautiful!) instrument solos clearly defined (just revel in that luxuriously beautiful sound of the organ here) - are perfectly balanced so as to make an impression of what I would like to describe as 'intimacy' (how very unlike Sir Georg Solti's hectic, somewhat episodic vision; or how very different from Sir Simon Rattle's very lean and nimble Mahler 8). This is a very personal and (yes!) involved Mahler 8 which not everybody might like. You may find it too detached-sounding (as in 'uninvolved') or slow or undercharacterized, or whatever. For example, the conductor often proceeds so 'careful' and 'civilised' (if I may characterize it as such) and downright slow at times as to make some people believe that this conductor has no feeling for what Mahler is trying to tell us - no feeling with the 'deeper' meanings of a musical passage. For example: especially the tempo when Mater gloriosa soars into view ('Adagissimo' or 'very slowly') has maybe never been played at such a 'very slow' pace. It may not be to your liking (just go and listen to Simon Rattle for a completely different and especially quicker kind of approach to Mahler 8, which, incidentally, I would like to characterise as uninvolved-sounding!), but I am really endeared to Nagano's approach. He gives me the time to really 'sink' into the music when listening. Yes, I think that may be it: Nagano (intentially or not) makes you listen and think it all through at the same time. He lets the music speak in a grand but refined and distinguished manner. An intellectual and philosophical (in the good senses of the words) approach...?
Then the choirs and soloists. The boy choir sounds just fine: sweet, aptly childlike (or beter: cherubic/seraphic) and round of tone but with clear diction. The choirs too are the best one could hope for: distinguished singing, massive-sounding (a living and freely breathing phenomenon within this Mahler-world, this Mahler-universe) but clearly audible pronunciation. As for the soloists, I think they are all agreable enough to listen to. No A+ voices, all, though. They all finely fit in with the 'personal' and 'intimate' feel that this recording overall has. All I can say is whether I like voice or not. Purely a sense of emotional impact with me, sorry. (Speaking about emotional impact: just listen to the Doctor Marianus sung by Giuseppe Zampieri in Mitropoulos' Mahler 8!) But I especially like the vulnarability of Lynne Dawsons Una Poenitentium. I also very much like Gambills very lyrical but clear and firm Doctor Marianus, although his sometimes pinched(?) sounding timbre may not be to everyone's liking.
To round off then, a beauteous, polished, sweet, civilised, relaxed - but never ever dull! (compare with Haitink) - Mahler 8 with a wide breast the result of a conductor who really takes his time to let all of the gorgeous textures and colours unfold to the full - which I think is a blessing in Mahler 8. This music can easily be overdone but here it receives a respectful treatment by a thoughtful and refined conductor. One can really hear that Nagano is both an opera and symphony conductor in his treating of the symphony as a dramatic whole, a story that must unfold on itself. I would even like to compare it to Claudio Abbado's really wonderful (all star cast) and (just as finely dramatic) Mahler 8: the same finely honed 'dramatic' or even 'operatic'(?) approach.
And just a final remark: A+ for the insightful and beautifully illustrated booklet and for the beautifully finished packaging in all. Everything about this Mahler 8 just fits together wonderfully."