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VINE VOICEon 15 June 2010
Firstly why 4 stars and not 5 - and why 4 stars and not 3? This set contains a substantial number of top rank performances and this makes it good as a SET. No set is better than buying individual recordings of the symphonies but one buys a set for convenience of hearing all the symphonies easily or out of interest to see what the conductor's view is overall. There are too many good performances to give it three stars, but it only rates four because the performances are split a little strangely over the discs and the price is really rather heavy for a set of recordings 40 or more years old. That said I would prefer this set to Chailly's Mahler: The Symphonies (much more modern and also with the Concertgebouw but lacking in the natural flow and fresh atmosphere that the Philips Haiting discs produce - despite stunning sound), or to Abbado or Bernstein on DGG Mahler: Complete Symphonies and Mahler: The Symphonies respectively.

The recordings that are really worth hearing are, in my opinion, Numbers 2, 3*, 6,7* and 9*. Where there is an asterisk I believe the performances to be outstandingly good. As far as I can tell only Symphony 3 and Symphony 9 are available as individual purchases and this is really annoying as Symphony 7 is a model of musicality and very naturally recorded. Similarly, the Scherzo of Symphony 6 (movement #2 in this case) has some of the most beautifully deliniated playing of the set and has really well thought out contrasts between the scherzo and trio sections. The only quibble I have here is in the Finale where the hammer blows are not as powerful as they might be.

The First Symphony is from the early 1960's and Haitink did better later on. Symphony 4 is perfectly adequate but not a contender against Fischer's single disc Mahler - Symphony No.4. I find Symphony 5 a little pale in conception and there is a "hole in the middle" of the stereo. This is explained if you see the video of the Christmas Day concert from about this time where there seems to be a distinct left/right split in the setting out of the orchestra on the stage. Symphony 8 has fine soloists but the choral work is rather too recessed. Get Solti on Mahler: Symphony No.8.

Let us hope that this set will emerge in rather cheaper form. Knock £20 off it and it would be a contender for the best value around. As it is, and good as it is, it seems rather expensive at the moment.
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on 12 November 1999
These recordings, along with his Bruckner, are well known recordings of Mahler for a long time. This CD conversion sounds better (to me) than their first issues, especially on the 3rd. Wished that this set has 1972 recording of the 1st (420 080-2 PH) instead of 1963. 1972 version is much better.
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on 12 October 2015
I didnt expect Haitink's set of Mahler's symphonies to be as fantastic in parts as they are. For me the highlights are the truly great recordings of Numbers 2,3,6,8 and 9. Number 2 is fantastic and is only let down by the fifth movement which is very good but doesnt have a coherent feel to it. However its a great recording.Number 3 is rightly regarded as one of the greatest of Haitink's set, it just is so appealing,it is action packed and thrilling from beginning to end. Number 6 is wonderfully lyrical with just the right balance of highly strung emotions and sensible control. Number 8 is a real revelation for me, it really is beyond words how amazing Haitink's recording of the Symphony of a Thousand is, Haitink makes it sound so right, so atmospheric, so passionate. I really feel it is the greatest recording i have ever heard of this extremely difficult work.Number 9 is similar to Klemperer's in that it is understated throughout and plain but at the same time powerful and deeply affecting. The other symphonies in this set are not as successful, in my opinion. Number 1 is a spectacularly weak performance, with zero excitement. I have heard that the later remake from 1972 is much better and the latest recording of it by Haitink made about ten years ago is marvellous.Number 4 is very plain but also very boring, conveying little of the work's deep complex emotions.Number 5 just doesnt succeed in bringing the mighty symphony to life and is quickly unmemorable. Theres no plumbing of the depths of this work . Number 7 is very disappointing also and is again unmemorable. The Adagio from Symphony Number 10 is good. Overall Haitink's set is very good but is let down by some quickly forgettable bland performances but also has fantastic recordings namely Number 3 and 6 and 9.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 November 2008
Haitink's Mahler was where I started my search for ultimate recording for each symphony, and the first introduction to Mahler's music was Haitink's mahler 9th which impressed me enormously but quickly disappointed me as I found more and more greater recordings. It was same with Haitink's sluggishly slow 5th and the rather tame 8th which quickly found their way to a local secondhand shop.

Of all the recordings by Haitink, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th still stay on my shelves. 2nd is one of the finest among all 2disc recordings of the symphony, the climax being more expanssive and profound than many other recordings. That is same with 3rd with beautifully crafted and very moving last movement. 4th is wonderfully vivid and the slow movement is played very slowly with profound sense of sorrow. Ameling's youthful singing is very refreshing.

So the question is, is it worth paying more than £50 to get only three great recordings included? To me more satisfying complete sets are Kubelik's lavishing accounts (points : 9 out of 10) and Solti's gritty and powerful recordings (8 out of 10). With other conductors like Bernstein, Levine, Abbado, Sinopli, I would recommend picking juicy parts only to save your money. One lesson I've learned after buying so many Mahler CDs is that there isn't such a thing as the ultimate recording.

Mahler: Complete Symphonies
Mahler: Complete Symphonies Nos 1-9 / SOLTI /DECCA/10 CD BOX SET
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