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Symphony No. 9
Symphony No. 8 Unfinished
Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carlo Maria Guilini
recorded 1977, Medinah Temple, Chicago (Mahler) and 1978, Orchestra Hall, Chicago, (Schubert).
DGG Originals 463 609-2 (2 discs nas) [115.43]
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Yet a further recycling of the Mahler symphony by DGG. It has been available before both as a Galliera double, and then as a DGG Double. Now it resurfaces as an Original, this time with an additional work making the issue even more attractive, albeit a little more expensive than last time..

The Schubert has also been available on Galliera, coupled with Dvorak's New World Symphony. There was also a later performance on Sony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, so there is no gap in the catalogue being filled with this issue, except that the earlier discs are now difficult to find.

Guilini's style is well known, tending as it does to very subtle orchestral balance allied to lovingly interpreted long breathed melodies. Both works issued here respond to this treatment, and if you haven't heard these performances before, you are in for a treat. The remastering has been done very well, although the original recordings always were very good. The recording quality is less immediate than many of the Decca Chicago recordings and for many this will be a case for rejoicing. There are one or two bits of spotlighting, but nothing serious.

Both recordings were originally prize winners, the Schubert winning the Critica Discographia Italiana prize in 1978. The Mahler however, managed no less than eight awards from around the world. These were the Grand Prix du Discophile Repertoire 1977, Prix Mondiale du Disque, Montreux 1977, Record Academy Prize, Tokyo 1977, International Record Critics Award 1977, Deutscher Schallplatenpreis 1978, Grand Prix International du Disque 1978, Grammy Award 1978 and the Grand Premio del Disco "Ritmo", Madrid in 1978.

Over the years, Guilini recorded relatively little Mahler, concentrating on one or two main works, in a similar fashion to how he approaches most composers which he conducts. Mahler for example, as far as I am aware, was represented only by this 9th Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde.

Mahler's Ninth is superbly played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and you may feel that it is a strange combination of Guilini's delicate style set against, at the time, Solti's massive music making machine. In fact, the bringing together of these two initially disparate types of approach works extremely well.

Guilini brings to the Mahler a romantic atmosphere in which the tragic content of the work is displayed superbly well. Indeed the ends of the first and last movements are as fine as I have heard anywhere. The power and precision of the orchestra are harnessed by Guilini and are made to sound softer and warmer than usual - a certain bonus for those of us used to the sound of this orchestra under Solti in Mahler. It must have been as big a shock for them as it was for me. The timings of the movements are slower than most of the competition, but such is the concentration of the conducting and playing, this increase in time is certainly not a drawback.

Turning now to the Schubert, there is nothing further to say as the features displayed in the Mahler are here also in abundance. Both performance and recording is very good, and will be sure to be enjoyed by all who love the style of Guilini's interpretations. I must say that I enjoyed both works very much.


John Phillips

See also review by Tony Duggan


John Phillips

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