A masterpiece for peanuts...
Bob | Mobile, Alabama United States | 11/27/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you haven't heard Mahler's Eighth, you have no excuse for passing this one up at this price. The orchestra and choir play well, but many of the vocal soloists are weak. Also, the conducting is a bit hurried at times for my taste.If you really like Mahler's Eighth, I'd recommend that you go with the performances conducted by Sinopoli or Chailly. They both had better casts and better recording technologies at their disposal."
A gala occasion unveiling of Mahler's Symphony of the Thousa
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 02/11/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Gielen, who owns a reputation in 20th century music and Mahler, has recorded the Mahler Symphony 8 a couple times. This, from 1981, was the first one. A latter entry on Hannsler Classics Symphony 8 / Jacob's Ladder runs to two disks and includes a significant add-on, something rare for recordings of Mahler's "Symphony of the Thousand."
Gielen's Mahler is usually characterized as analytical, sometimes intense, and having paid strict adherence to the written score. All those attributes are apparent in this recording, taped in a one-off performance in Frankfurt when they reopened the Old Opera in August 1981.
This recording has generally gotten good press in the years it's been available, with some reservation for the pushed solos and the overall rapid pace of the music. Classical Web Mahler specialist Tony Duggan singled it out in his Mahler overview as a preferred version for people on a budget. Considering it's a concert performance on one disk (TT: 72:10), it qualifies as a bargain best buy even when compared to the more famous single disk performance from Georg Solti Mahler: Symphony No. 8.
Duggan called this a "head over heart" performance; I'm not sure I share that opinion. Gielen and forces, while pumped for the opening night of the opera, did not attempt much that could be called visionary, loving or spiritual in the first half. This is straightforward, fast, maybe even impatient. The second half is more philosophically in keeping with Goethe's text from Faust and has many lovely moments, especially in the closing pages.
The singing has been criticized here and elsewhere, but I'd temper that with the reality of having performed in front of audiences. Try singing for 70 minutes on a festive occasion in front of an audience and staying in tune with a conductor that pushes the envelope the way Gielen does and you may have a different opinion about this disk. Unlike studio jobs, there were no second tries or sectionals to re-record everyone's flubs, off-key moments, or when someone ran out of gas or air.
On the whole, this recording works for me. I haven't been a great fan of the music. I have tried a number of times to find in this what others have. While I can accept the somewhat similarly-modeled Mahler Symphony 3 as two orchestral sections surrounding a mini-oratorio about heaven, the attempt at near religious profundity in the Symphony 8 hasn't worked for me.
This recording is much better than others I've heard including those directed by Solti Mahler: Symphony No. 8, Rattle Mahler - Symphony No. 8 / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Rattle and Tilson Thomas's new super audio version Mahler: Symphony # 8 which is beautifully sung but spends too much time in the same place for me. My favorite version is Neumann's with the Czech Philharmonic, available in an expensive out of print version Symphony 3 in D, his integral set of all the Mahler symphonies Symphonies Nos 1-9, or perhaps in Japan where some of his Mahler symphonies are available in super audio format.
I'd recommend this disk to others that, like me, have had a difficult time coming to grips with this lengthy, often pretentious and bombastic music. If you love the Mahler Symphony 8 and think it is a metaphor for spiritual engagement, this recording may not be for you. If you're somewhere between those poles, you can buy this for less than $5 and the sound is great as long as you make mental notes that this is a one-off concert performance and the singers weren't always standing next to the microphones. There is audience applause at the end. too."