Many music lovers will by now have their own cherished CD versions of Mahler symphonies. Because the CDs won't wear out, and because Mahler tends to inspire fixed loyalties, internet browsers are unlikely to be considering a new purchase. Nevertheless, I offer a few comments in case there are some that are first time collectors or who cannot resist buying something about the size of a bathroom tile that will allow them to hear all Mahler's symphonies at home.
German conductor Klaus Tennstedt recorded these works with the London Philharmonic Orchestra between 1977 and 1986. EMI have compressed the whole project into this tile-size box comprising 11 CDs. Included is the 28 minute adagio movement of the 10th symphony, the only movement Mahler completed. Several of the symphonies are of longer duration than can be accommodated on a single CD, so expect that some overlapping occurs.
It is the freshness and glow of the music that impresses most in Tennstedt's survey, rather than manic intensity or incandescence. Rarely have I been so totally satisfied with a 4th or so disappointed with a 9th as here. Best of all are the performances of the 3rd and the 8th. There is some stunning horn playing in the former, where the Kingsway Hall recording is the best of the series.
Having heard all these works performed at one time or another in Vienna, London and Australia, I are aware that they are immeasurably more effective in a live performance than between a set of headphones. I recommend this set, nevertheless, to those who want inexpensive and frequent access to one conductor's recorded survey of them.
on 11 February 2008
If, like me you are relatively new to the colossal Symphonic edifices of Gustav Mahler, and don't want to spend a fortune to start with to start your journey, then this is a splendid set to begin with dating from the 70's and 80's.
I have heard other performances of some of the symphonies before and these match up wholeheartedly.
The London Philharmonic are in cracking form throughout. Meticulously drilled by German conductor Klaus Tenstedt who lives and breathes every note of these incredible works.
Performance standards are far and above the asking price for these discs.
The sleeve notes are a little disappointing as they group together various sypmhonies when explaining them. But you DO get texts for symphonies 2,3,4 and 8..wich is a nice plus!
All-in-all, I want to thank Amazon and EMI Classics for a great purchase...
on 5 July 2004
From the start of the First Symphony Tennstedt makes his intentions known. He is not interested in questions of how individual symphonies reflected the state of Mahler's mind at the time they were written. He is not interested in making this symphony triumphant or that one tragic. He is going to let the music speak for itself, in its own time.
This is a sound attitude to take with a composer whose musical voice plumbs the depths and rises to the heavens without any extra help.
What has impressed me most about this box set is the consistency of the performances which makes it easy to play through the entire set and hear how Mahler developed his art.
All Mahler fans have their own favourite performances of individual symphonies and there is always more that can be brought out in an individual performance. While the performances of symphonies 2 5 and 7 here are good and telling on their own terms there are certainly other conductors who have brought out more from these scores.
When it comes to symphony No 7 Tennstedt has chosen the usual modern timings for the movements which means that he takes 15 minutes for the 4th movement, a little faster than some but nowhere near Mahler's own timing of 12 minutes at the premier. I must say I prefer Mahler's own speed. Simon Rattle's performance with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, also on EMI, takes Mahler's lead and is worth investigating. The effect is to lighten the spirits of the whole work and make sense of Mahler's comment that it was a 'happy' symphony.
What are the high points to the Cycle ? Symphonies 3 and 8 here are often singled out, but they are actually simply up to the high overall standard.
The set does end on a high note with a clear persuasive reading of Symphony number 9 and the beggining Adagio movement of the unfinished 10th Symphony. The performance of the 9th Symphony has the majestic sweep of a master summing up his musical achievement and is entirely right and satisfying at the end of this high quality cycle. Tennstedt's master stroke is the way in which the final movement of the 9th fades, only for the music to be reborn in the Adagio of the 10th. By handling it in this way Tennstedt acknowledges both the end of the cycle of completed symphonies and the promise of further triumph's had Mahler lived, that the 10th represents.
My only regret after listening to the 10th's Adagio here is that Tennstedt did not record a performing version of the whole symphony, as I fond his approach more suited to the music than those of others who have recorded it so far.
These are good quality recordings from the beggining of the digital era. They are generally excellent and clear with the London Philharmonic Orchestra aquitting themselves well, as do the various Choirs and solo singers. There is perhaps a little too much brightness in the higher frequencies, especially in the brass. There is also a very wide dynamic range so that if you want to hear everything in the quietest passages you make find yourself overwhemed by the sound coming out of your speakers a few minutes later. This may be an accurate representation of the performances, but doesn't make for the easiest listening.
Overall a fine set. These are in no way Budget Price Performances, so at this price snap them up!
on 25 June 2014
Klaus Tennstedt was perhaps the greatest Mahler conductor ever recorded. I know there was bruno walter Bernstein and Abbado whose fans might lay claim for their maestro but in the end of course it doesn't matter as they have all things to say. The reason for this review is to encourage people to get Tennstedt live wherever possible as it is like night and day. It is akin to Furtwangler whose live Beethoven 9th for example should keep you awake at night ! I would pick out the later symphonies in tennstedt's recordings of Mahler, the 6th,and 7th paticularly. I know getting all the symphonies separately involves a lot more cost but it is worth it. One symphony which is very difficult to get live is the 9th which holds a special place for me in Mahler's output. There is a live recording from Philadelphia conducted by Tennstedt available from Japan (Navikiese label) or listen to it first on youtube. It is a bit like the Furtwangler Beethoven 9th from wartime Berlin - 'rage,rage against the dieing of the light'.There is none of Abbado's resignation this is almost like an animal howling in pain and makes a very uncomfortable listen. Then when should Mahler ever be comfortable ?
on 26 July 2005
I can't add any more to what has been said regarding the content of this box set except to say: the sound quality is incredible. Out of all my classical CDs I rate these the highest in terms of hi-fi. Just listen to the first minute of the 5th symphony to understand what I mean - Clean, crisp and full dynamics across the frequency range. Recommended.