An overlooked magnificent recording.
RENS | Dover, NH USA | 11/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Brifly: this splendid performance by one of the great Mahlerian orchestras and under the direction of a master conductor has been oddly overlooked, at least in this listing. The sound is superb and the performance ranks among the finest. Okay, if you're having only one CD of the Mahler 8th in your collection (and how can you have only one once you've heard this great work?), you would do well to choose the Solti / Chicago recording on DECCA or either of the recordings by Kubelik and the Bavarians on DG or Audite."
B. Guerrero | 12/01/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Why do like this performance so much? I think it's because that Colin Davis shows no fear of the size and scope of this colossol work. His extensive experience with Berlioz seems to pay dividends here. It might also be because the choruses are recorded in such a way that they simply sound huge - much bigger than usual. Unfortunately, that also means that the soloists are often times too close as well. That's particularly a problem with the three penitant women, and Una Poentintium's big solo afterwards (rougly translated as a penitant woman with no fancy name or title) - located just before Mater Gloriosa's offstage invitation to step up into the spheres (doesn't this whole business sort of have the feeling of "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind"?). But the male side of the equation seems to balance this out. It's nice to have Part II's opening baritone and bass solos sound more up-front. Leiferkus does that lispy thing that some male soloists seem to fall into - usually tenors. But no matter, he sings well; and Rene Pape does a great job as Pater Profundis. This is also Ben Heppner's better recording of the grueling tenor solos (his other one being the Chailly on Decca). I also like Davis' pacing of the work.
While Davis extends Part 2 out to a full hour, his Part 1 is kept down to less than 23 minutes. At the climax of Part I's big double fugue passage, he does a fine job of executing the often times awkward transition back to Tempo I in a smooth and unobtrusive manner - the reprise of "Veni, Veni Creator Spiritus". In Part 2, Davis protracts most, if not all of the sections towards the end of the work. But earlier on in Part 2, he captures the Wagnerian spirit of the first loud orchestral outbursts, as well as the accompaniment underneath the baritone and bass solos - written very much in the same Wagnerian spirt. On the highly praised Kent Nagano Mahler 8th, I found these particular passages to be dull and lifeless. He also does a nice job with the more Mendelssohn-like quality of the childrens choir passages later on. I just wish that the three penitant women went a tad faster, and were a tad farther back in the recording's perspective. But then there's Heppner's excellent "blicket auf", capped by massive tam-tam strokes at the end of the symphony. One other touch by Colin Davis deserves mention here.
Davis really makes his combined choirs hang on to the very last syllable that they sing in the entire symphony: "hiiiiiii-naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan". It's a small point, but it's absolutely thrilling. For me, it's the absolute highlight of this already fine performance. Comparisons?
The other reviewer mentioned Solti and Kubelik (Audite). The Kubelik is the best sung of any Mahler 8th, bar none. But the older recording can't match the Davis in scope or sheer spectacle. The Solti - for me, anyway - is one of the most over-rated recordings of all time. The brute force of Chicago's trumpets and trombones is a total mismatch for the more reticent, almost gentle singing of the Viennese chorus members. The organ - which sounds huge - sounds as though it were recorded in a completely different acoustic (and it was!). More odd yet, this somewhat noisy performance sounds as though it also has a rather limited dynamic range. It's very good from a purely technical perspectice - especially for its time - but just leaves me cold in comparison to the even older Bernstein/LSO Mahler 8th. No, the one Mahler 8th that the Davis most reminds me of is the recent Antoni Wit one on Naxos. That one is great, but I'm waiting for Naxos to issue it on a SACD/CD hybrid, so that I can take advantage of the DSD upgrade on my regular CD player. For the mean time, you can enjoy this DSD upgrade of Davis' already fine Mahler 8th - the one that has the size and breadth of Berlioz's largest works (Davis' specialty).
Howard C. Batt | 01/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I admit I am drawn mainly to Mahler's "Wall of Sound" because, I further admit, I have not studied enough to be intrigued by the depth of his emotions beyond what his work does for me emotionally. Sir Colin Davis is THE Sibelius conductor so far as I'm concerned - he makes Sibelius who he is in my mind. Likewise with other very emotionally driven composers - like Mahler. For the same reason I listen to Sir Colin's interpretation of Sibelius' Second Symphony over and over and over, I listen to this interpretation of Mahler's 8th. It transforms me. It moves me to the point nearly of tears. I admit the laser has nearly burned a groove marking the last six minutes of this recording - "Alles Vergangliche is nur ein Gleichnis." But those six minutes are so powerfully emotional I cannot listen only once or twice or three times. As Mahler himself said, "It is the grandest work I have ever made. And so unique in content and form that it really defies description. Just imagine that the universe starts to produce music and sound. But no human voice - rather, it is the orbiting planets and suns that you can hear ...." In this recording, Sir Colin Davis and the Symphony Orchestra of the Bayerischer Rundfunk undertake beautifully to put voice to the imagination called for by Mahler. They transport the listener to the distant place in the universe where the sounds of the orbiting planets and suns can be heard - and felt - clearly. It is a magnificent presentation of a magnificent work."