A great performance with superb sound.
RENS | Dover, NH USA | 11/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Kubelik's first recording of the Mahler 8th with his Bavarian musicians, dating from the early 1970s. The sound is spacious, and the performance remains one of the best ever recorded. At this price, it is a steal! Only the Solti recording on DECCA offers so great a recording at so low a price. Best to have both! Equally impressive is Kubelik's second recording of the 8th on Audite, also with his Bavarians, who long have been one of the great Mahlerian orchestras."
A fresh approach to the Eighth to vie with Solti's aggressiv
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 03/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"MAHLER. Symphony No. 8. Martina Arroyo, Erna * Spoorenberg, Edith Mathis (sops); Jülia Hamari, Norma Procter (conus); Donald Grobe (ten); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar); Franz Crass (bass); boys' voices of the Regensberg Cathedral Choir; women's voices of the Munich Motet Choir; Bavarian, North German and West German Radio Choruses; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Rafael Kubelik.
This is a non-blockbuster alaternative for someone who wants a Mahler Eighth on single disc and is put off by Solti's aggressiveness. Kubelik's Eighth first appeared in 1971 but was not that well received by the critics. Since the reading is essentially the same as a live concert recording on Audite from the same time, I'll repeat my remarks about it, keeping in mind that DG's studio engineering is several notches better.
By no means is this the best sung, best recorded, or best played Eighth on records -- not by a considerable distance. Yet Kubelik takes a fresh approach to a score that can topple over from its own weight. A single intent moves with clarity and enthusiasm from first to last, providing a lift that many more disciplined studio accounts can't match. The 'Veni, Creator Spiritus' is swift and joyous (but full of slapdash execution). The major challenge for any Eighth comes in Part II, the rambling Goethe setting, which requires interpretive insight to paper over stretches of lagging, thin composition. Here the conductor must do almost as much fill-in as with the sketches of the incomplete Tenth.
One notices the good and bad immediately. Kubelik continues to be direct and fresh in his interpretation--he never loses your attention for a moment--but the orchestral soloists are pedestrian and often thin-sounding (first oboe, plus a blatty, sour first trumpet). If you are expecting the grandeur of the New York or Berlin Phil., you'll be sorely disappointed. Personally, I favor inspiration over execution, so I wasn't overly bothered. The exposed vocal parts are extremely difficult. Kubelik's lineup includes some famous names, as follows:
Edith Mathis (soprano), Martina Arroyo (soprano), Erna Spoorenberg (soprano), Julia Hamari (alto), Norma Procter (alto), Donald Grobe (tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Franz Crass (bass).
As you'd expect, the most well-known singers come off the best. Close miking helps Fischer-Dieskau, who I doubt could carry over such massive forces. His tendency to bark isn't reined in, however. Franz Crass is more powerful and dramatically convincing. Tenor Donald Grobe is unknown to me; it was daring not to pick a dramatic tenor on the order of Ben Heppner or James King, and I don't think the risk quite paid off. Grobe veers out of tune and has to force his voice too often. The great peroration that begins with "Blicket auf!" is not the triumphant event that Heppner makes it under Colin Davis (BMG(. The women are consistently fine and don't force as much as the men. All the choral forces are excellent and phrase with flexiblity and naturalness.
Naturalness is the hallmark of the whole performance, and on tht score I concur with the enthusiasm of previous reviewers. But for sonics and execution, one shouldn't expect the moon.