Gustav Mahler composed this extraordinary work in only six weeks during the summer of 1906. Standing alongside his monumental 9th Symphony which he composed the following year, it remains one of THE symphonies of the 20thC. The work is broken down into two movements; Veni, Creator Spiritus, and the closing scene Part II from Goethe's Faust. Despite two rather different movements, they both work superbly. After listening to this version since I first purchased it during the spring of 1973, I still consider it to be the best currently available. Of course, other listeners will have their own favourites, and I would imagine Klaus Tennstedt's version recorded with the London Philharmonic wouldnt be far behind as regarding performance and sound.
In this version however, Solti succeeds admirably in maintaining a perfect balance between chorus, vocalists and orchestra. The playing by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is first class. The singing by vocalists Heather Harper; Lucia Popp; Arleen Auger; Yvonne Minton; Helen Watts; Rene Kollo (who sounds at his finest here) John Shirley-Quirk and Marti Talvela is so consistence throughout. And the chorus of the Vienna State Opera; Singverein Chorus and the Vienna Boys Choir enhanced the profound emotional aspect of this monumental work. The sound engineers must be mentioned as well for the sound quality throughout this fine recording is absolutely superb helped of course by the acoustics of the Sofiensaal, Vienna.
Mahler himself was pleased with the triumphant reception he received after its first performance in 1910 in Munich. Probably because he may have been aware that his own life was coming to its close, (he died the following year, 1911 not having heard his 9th Symphony performed in public)and that he perhaps felt that he through this work, was becoming closer to God. Many admirers of this work such as myself, feel that listening to this version can be an emotional experience. Listen for example to the section when Mater Gloriosa appears with the words "Komm! Hebe dich zu hohern Spharen!", and the extraordinary musical interlude before the very final choral section dominated by the sound of harmonium, pianoforte, celesta, and then the organ, harps and woodwind as this profound work is brought to its conclusion amidst the soaring sound of brass.
One of the great works of the 20thC.