Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Tudor 7188


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 


 
REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 8 in E flat major Symphony of A Thousand (1906) [81:55]
Pater Profundus - Askar Abdrazakov and Alfred Muff (basses)
Doctor Marianus - Anthony Dean Griffey (tenor)
Maria Aegyptica - Birgit Remmert (mezzo)
Mater Gloriosa - Lisa Larsson (soprano)
Una Poenitentium - Juliane Banse (soprano)
Mulier Samaritana - Yvonne Naef (mezzo)
Magna Peccatrix - Melanie Diener (soprano)
Pater Ecstaticus - Stephen Powell (baritone)
Schweizer Kammerchor/Fritz Näf (rehearsal)
WDR Rundfunkchor Köln/Robert Blank (rehearsal)
Zürcher Sängerknaben/Konrad von Aarburg (rehearsal)
Kinderchor Kaltbrunn/Daniel Winiger (rehearsal)
Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra/David Zinman
rec. 27 February-3 March 2009, Tonhalle, Zurich, Switzerland. Texts included
BMG-RCA RED SEAL 88697 579262 [24:25 + 57:30]

Experience Classicsonline

At last, David Zinman’s long-awaited Mahler Eighth has arrived. His has been a most rewarding cycle so far; indeed, the Second, Fourth and Fifth are among the finest I’ve heard in recent years. I was slightly less enthusiastic about the First and Third, but there is still much to enjoy in those readings. The Sixth and Seventh strike me as the least successful of the lot, with Zinman less surefooted in these more precipitous scores. Again, though, the freshness and transparency he brings to these symphonies is wholly admirable, and the benefits in terms of clarity, colour and line can outweigh minor structural issues.

Speaking of which I’ve found the most successful Eighths demand a conductor with a long view, one with a sure sense of the music’s final destination and, in Part II, an ability to sustain momentum and pulse. There are many fine Mahler Eighths out there, from Bernstein in the 1960s (CBS/Sony) through to classic Solti in the 1970s (Decca), Tennstedt in the 1980s (EMI), Gielen in 1992 and 2001 (Sony and Hänssler) and, most recently, Antoni Wit on Naxos. The latter was something of a revelation, Wit combining all - or most - of those essential qualities in a recording of real thrust and power. To my mind that’s a much more compelling and coherent performance than Boulez on DG - review - which, for all its starry credentials, is only sporadically successful overall.

The choruses and soloists who play such a pivotal role in this work need to be well drilled and blended. In the main the recordings I’ve mentioned work well in that regard, although there are inevitable caveats about certain solos and choral balances. I’m inclined to be more forgiving of such lapses if the overall thrust and shape of this symphony is properly managed, so that when the finale hoves into view there’s a thrilling sense of musical and emotional catharsis. But it must be carefully prepared for, one musical and dramatic peak after another, and that’s often where performances of the Eighth come unstuck.

One recording I haven’t mentioned so far is the famous Horenstein/LSO version from 1959 (BBC Legends). Of the many recordings and live performances I’ve heard over the years this holds a special place in my affections. For starters it has all the tension and risk-taking that come with a live performance - and the fluffs - but any criticisms are simply swept away by the majesty and power of this classic reading. What’s more, the BBC engineers surpassed themselves with a recording of astonishing depth and detail. Mandatory listening for all Mahlerians, I’d say, and a reminder of just how high the bar has been set for this symphony.

In Zinman’s hands the opening hymn has plenty of weight, the organ very much in evidence. True, there may be less impetuoso than usual here, but as the work unfolds it becomes clear Zinman has opted for a broad, rather measured, view of this music, with tempi adjusted accordingly. In ‘Imple superna gratia’ the soloists aren’t as focused as they need to be - more on that later - although the bells are nicely caught and the organ adds to the well-upholstered sound. And that’s a real disappointment; after producing seven airy, spacious and finely detailed recordings in the cycle so far, the RCA engineers have come up with a close, rather diffuse sound for the Eighth.

At Tempo I Zinman’s tempi become more of an issue; yes, Mahler does write ‘ohne hastig’, but this is just too ponderous for my tastes. And in the ‘Accende lumen sensibus’ I missed that initial orchestral flare, just before Mahler really turns up the wick and the choruses take flame. I also missed the sense of breadth and width that the best Eighths convey, and I did begin to wonder whether the forces here assembled proved too much for the Tonhalle. That might explain the narrow soundstage and the lack of air in this recording, noticeable on both the CD and SACD layers. So, when the opening hymn returns it sounds congested and rather joyless.

The boys’ splendid singing in ‘Gloria Patri Domino’ certainly lifted my spirits a little. The timps are just superb here, the organ a powerful, pulsing presence. And at last there’s real radiance at the close. But this all comes at a cost, the general lethargy of this performance making the climaxes seem overheated by comparison. I began to wonder just how Zinman was going to navigate the literal and metaphorical peaks and valleys of Part II. Wit is very persuasive here, and there’s a wonderfully rapt quality to his reading as well.

Zinman’s Part II starts well enough, but it’s clear there’s little of the mystery that others find at this point. On the plus side, Zinman does uncover the loveliest colours and teases out all kinds of instrumental nuances. These are qualities I admire in the rest of his cycle, but this time round that accompanying lightness of touch seems to have deserted him. That said, there is plenty of urgency and amplitude in the Più mosso section, the Zurich band playing with commendable passion and bite, the lower brass suitably sonorous. After that the chorus and echo section - ‘Waldung, sie schwankt heran’ - seems a touch prosaic, even contrived, adding to the growing sense that Part II is going to be just as uneven - and frustrating - as Part I.

This movement is just too fragmented for my tastes, a series of discrete tableaux rather than a meticulously organised symphonic whole. The soloists aren’t terribly focused either; they don’t give the impression they’re listening to each other and singing as a close-knit team. Stephen Powell’s Pater Ecstaticus is reasonably well sung, although he does struggle under pressure, and the Pater Profundus - shared between Askar Abdrazakov and Alfred Muff - isn’t very well projected. Zinman’s mannered phrasing and slow tempi cause real problems for these soloists, who have to resort to a Wagnerian bark rather than cultivate a smoother vocal line. Thank heavens for the angelic choirs, who give this broken-backed performance a much-needed lift.

Tenor Anthony Dean Griffey’s ‘Höchste Herrscherin der Welt!’ comes across as rather plaintive, his voice marred by a distracting beat. There’s some soothing balm in the gorgeous harp figures of ‘Dir, der Unberührbaren’. Oh, if only this performance were so beguiling all the time. As for the women, Juliane Banse’s Una Poenitentium has plenty of reach and Melanie Diener’s Magna Peccatrix is fine, but Yvonne Naef’s Mulier Samaritana is much too uneven. There are times when vocal shortcomings might be less of an issue; for instance, Wit’s soloists aren’t A-listers, but the overall sweep and surge of his reading is such that it hardly matters. In Zinman’s case sluggish tempi - and the close recording - leave the singers cruelly exposed.

Doctor Marianus’s commanding ‘Blicket auf’ should arrive as if on the crest of a deep swell that soon breaks as a great wave in the symphony’s closing pages. Sadly, it’s no such thing; but since the undertow that usually propels us towards the shore is missing from this performance, that’s hardly surprising. The choruses acquit themselves very well at the close, the organ, tam tam and cymbals simply magnificent. this is one of Mahler’s most overwhelming finales and, in fairness to Zinman and his crew, they bring it off rather well.

Perhaps when a recording is as eagerly awaited as this any sense of disappointment is bound to be magnified. And I can’t tell you how underwhelmed I am by this new Eighth; that it fails in so many ways - musically, dramatically, sonically - is cause for regret, especially when Zinman’s earlier recordings hinted at a great Mahler cycle in the making. True, few conductors are equally successful in all the symphonies, and at least the Ninth, Tenth and Das Lied von der Erde are still to come.

Ever the optimist, all I can say is onward the Ninth!

Dan Morgan

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.