Mehta has rather a good track record in recording Mahler and did a great job refining the sound of the Bayerische Staatsorchester, even if all the fine work of an hour and a half is slightly compromised by some bad trumpet tuning right at the climactic close of the work. This is his third recording of this symphony and a worthy memento of an excellent live performance in the warm first rate sound afforded by the Grosser Saal des Wiener Musikvereins, with a minimum of coughing and minimal extraneous noise in general.
My first impressions were that Mehta's approach is rather leisurely, relaxed and even ponderous but it soon becomes apparent that he has a grasp of the architecture of the work. His grip never slackens and he manages to present the symphony like a great, glorious tapestry gradually being unrolled before your eyes. Veteran Slovenian mezzo-soprano Marjana Lipovsek is not ideal - rather gusty, with a wobbly top and now lacking the rich, burnished tone this part requires - but she sings with understanding, feeling and character. The Vienna Boys' Choir are a great asset, having precisely that smooth luxuriance of tone required and lovely intonation, of course. In Mehta's conception, the famous paean to love running through the last section is gorgeously played but more indulgent than rapt, more sensuous than spiritual. It is here that you most appreciate what a fine orchestra this now is.
This recording has been released on a relatively obscure label so has not received the exposure it deserves. With apologies to a previous reviewer's assertion, this performance was in fact on 16 September 2004. In the last analysis, this doesn't have the vertical thrust of rival versions by such as Tennstedt but it does affirm the beauty that Mahler found in the world.