17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I first heard this version during the 1970s and it has held up well even after all those years. For a true Mahlerian like myself, this version surpassess all others. Some Mahler scholars may point out the weaknesses with this work due to its inconsistancies, for example the long drawn out opening of Part Two. But Solti's interpretation enhances the emotional aspects of the work and it just simply allows the music and chorus to flow towards its wonderful climax. Sound is brilliant on the CD, and the overall performance is wonderful to listen too.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This latest reissue of the classic account of 8th sounds great! I don't know very much about the 24-bit Super Digital Transfer, but is it my illusion that vocal and choral part sound more detailed and enhanced compared to the earlier issue? It adds to the sense of space and atmosphere towards the awe-inspiring finale.
As for the performance itself, it never looses its freshness, and it gives me the same impact and the transcendental experience as I listened to it for the first time. Lucia Popp and Arleen Auger's intensely beautiful singing still sends shivers down my spine. Solti conducts the both parts masterfully to let the music speak for itself most eloquently, without resorting to vulgar exaggeration and without losing the driving force of the whole symphony while, at the same time, letting every detail of the orchestration hang together seamlessly. The result is the truly heaven-bound listening experience (Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan)!
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2000
When asked which of Mahler's symphonies he liked the most, Dmitri Shostakovich replied with "all of them, except the eighth". It is unlikely that he ever heard Georg Solti's classic rendition now remastered for Decca's Legends series.
Nicknamed the "Symphony of a Thousand" due to the massive orchestral and choral forces needed to perform it, it can often develop a life of its own, even in the most capable of hands. As with all Mahler's symphonies, the secret of success is in pacing. Under Solti, the problems that many find insurmountable are made insignificant. From the very first explosion of the chorus, the listener is gripped, and Solti's rigid mastery of tempo does not let you go until several seconds after the disc has ceased, some eighty minutes later.
The other issue with the Eighth is that it also, wuite literally, a "Symphony of Two Halves", and the problem of sustaining a sense of integrity between the glories of the Mass in part one and the more personalized universality of the Faust legend in part two can make it a disjointed affair. But with all the soloists, led by the pre-eminent Mahlerian of her day, Heather Harper, on top form, the two halves are seamlessly drawn together.
It cannot be denied, then, that Mahler's vision of the Eighth is problematic; Solti and his serried ranks allow us to share, for a short time at least, in that vision and to wonder at it.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2010
No doubt I will be shot down in flames and negative votes for the comments I am about to make on this vastly overrated recording of Mahler's Eighth but I have persevered with it on and off over several years and my perception has never changed.
Mahler's Eighth used to be thought of as a blaring, vulgar monstrosity and anyone who holds that view today will find plenty to support their argument on this disc. Solti makes no attempt whatsoever to look beyond the notes on the page and unearth the wealth of musical detail or meaning that lies just beneath the surface. At no point do I get the feeling that he even 'gets' this work, let alone loves it, and we merely lurch from one climax to the next. The prelude to Part II is always a good test and here we find leaden and heavy-handed pizzicato almost drowning out the melancholic woodwind; try Tennstedt, Abbado or Rattle to hear how it should be done. To be fair, Part II is more tolerable than Part I where Solti's drive is relentless and leaves me, at least, glad when it's finished.
With the exception of Shirley-Quirk's overparted and frightened Pater Ecstaticus, the soloists are a great asset, no question, but they're not handled particularly well by the recording engineers. Rene Kollo sounds as if he sings much of Part I out in the foyer while Harper and Popp are far too close for my liking. They have all been matched or even surpassed individually (if not in ensemble) on other recordings, although you won't hear a better high C than Popp's just before Alles Vergangliche launches in earnest; Harper's just sounds tense.
I always think English-speaking choirs sound better in this work, especially in the Latin of Part I, and I hear nothing here to change my mind. Diction, attack and ensemble are all less than sharp and the back end of Accende lumen sensibus, for example, sounds terribly messy. The Viennese boys are also far, far too plummy.
The sound engineering is a bit of a pig's ear, quite frankly. When you consider the sounds Decca got from Solti and the VPO when recording Gotterdammerung in the same hall seven years earlier, one has to wonder what they were all playing at here. I always get the sense that there's a huge amount of knob-twiddling going on at the mixing desk as the engineers frantically try to contain the loudest passages and emphasise the quieter ones. There's a particularly noticeable volume adjustment in the final chorus, to cite just one example. The organ is also rather crudely managed, particularly in Hostem repellas where it leaps out of the soundscape in a very artifical way.
I won't be listening to this recording again as it really is akin to being beaten around the head for an hour. Far better Mahler conductors have made far better recordings of this symphony and have far more to say about it than Solti. Tennstedt is quite superb and very reasonably priced on its own [ Mahler: Symphony No.8 ] or coupled with a charming account of the Fourth [ Mahler - Symphonies Nos 4 and 8 ]. Abbado takes a similarly romantic view although it is still rather more expensive [ Mahler: Symphony No.8 ]. Bernstein's old LSO recording on Sony is worth a look and has Mahlerian credentials that outweigh the occasionally dated sound [ Mahler - Symphony No 8 ]. Finally, consider Rattle with a superb cast but slightly dry sound [ Mahler: Symphony No. 8 ].
On the other hand, if you want a recording that sounds like the hall was being charged for by the minute, stick with Solti.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2008
I'm not a musicologist, musician or music expert of any kind, just someone that has listened to a number of Mahler recordings and honestly believes that he has a certain affinity and understanding of this particular composer.
To a great extend,I fully subscribe most of the negative comments made by Mr Lloyd. Usually I find most readings of popular pieces of music to be a matter or taste or preference and, therefore, very difficult to assess with a minimum of objectivity. But from now and then you encounter a rendition of a work that simply goes beyond your tolerance level and of course you have to protest. Solti's version of Mahler's 8th is a case in point. To put it simple terms this recording is ugly and chaotic, the sound is bombastic, overblown and completely without integration and balance, particularly the first part of the symphony. But Solti's conducting doesn't help either. Again in the first part of the symphony, it's all about orchestral muscle and gimmicks which completely fails to bring about the lyrical qualities and subtleties of Mahler's music. The second part is much better but also lacks the delicate touch required to bring about their dramatic undertones which Kubelik for instance manages quite successfully in which a far more atmospheric and sympathetic interpretation of Mahler's 8th.
8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2004
Having read the enthusiastic reviews of this recording, I bought it expecting to find a stunning, life changing performance of Mahler 8. I didn't.
To say this work is problematic is not really that accurate. The only real problem it has is with the people who perform it who find it difficult to accept as a symphony, historically a purely orchestral form.
It would be fair to say that all recordings of this work have their problems. With such a large number of people involved the possibility for errors is high. In general though, live recordings lack the accuracy of studio recordings, and studio recordings lack the atmosphere and tension of live recordings. But this recoding (studio) seems not only to lack atmosphere but also some accuracy; there are number of problems including intonation and ensemble.
Solti perhaps takes the first movement at a slightly more impetuous Allegro than Mahler had intended, and in doing so looses a great many of the intricate details that Mahler’s inventive orchestration supplies. Ensemble within the orchestra is not always accurate, and some entries are just shoddy. There is a genuine rush to this movement, ever increasing as the end is approached. Mahler indicates ‘somewhat pressing to the end’, where Solti does quite an enthused accelerando. Any atmosphere that had been created is simply trampled over. Sure it’s exciting, but not believable and certainly not spiritual, something the sacred text ‘Veni creator spiritus’ demands. One redeeming feature is that, unlike many other recordings, the organ is clearly audible.
Although the second movement suffers from some of the same problems, it is much better. Don’t be fooled however, the texture, scoring and mood of this movement works to Solti’s advantage. It’s generally sparse, without brass (see later), and mysterious. But even here atmosphere is lacking. Rather than the mystical opening with delicate pizzicato cellos and basses, here they nonchalantly pizz through the opening with no feeling whatsoever.
Another problem comes at the very end of the symphony where the players obviously played louder than the engineers were expecting, resulting in distortion. This, as well as affecting the sound quality, also puts a muffler on the glorious final passages.
Whilst I have nothing against American orchestras per say, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is really not the right orchestra for this Mahler. Some of their other Mahler recordings are very convincing (Mahler 2, Abbado), but here the harsh edgy string and woodwind sounds, and the brash staccato brass playing particularly, disrupt the atmosphere of the music.
The recording was made in the Sofiensaal, Vienna where the musicians were positioned so that there was a great distance between Solti and the singers. This in part explains the distantness of some sung passages. There are intonation problems with the soloists, probably caused by placing them behind the orchestra, not in front. In general the musicians here feel out of their depth and the recording as a whole is not convincing. This is really not as legendary as some would make out.
The whole symphony has a curious feeling of Solti being aware of the future advent of CD and anxious that he should get it all on to one disk, which he does with only 12 seconds spare. It is sad that so many recordings made since have simply copied Solti’s approach, and as such this work is still unknown. One recording which allows the symphony the full space it needs for its climaxes is the 1995 DG version with Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker. Its price tag will undoubtedly put some off but for an account with real emotion and virtuosity, this is still the recording which stands out.
Mahler said of his eighth symphony ‘…the experience of the music should be overwhelming, it should leave you feeling, however briefly, that this is unquestionably the greatest piece of music ever written.’ This is what Abbado shows you.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2006
This was my first version of this symphony, and I have never been able to find a recording which matches it. It is without doubt one of my favourite Mahler recordings.
To be honest I don' think I ever will, as for a work like this, the first recording heard usually becomes the benchmark. For example, I much prefer Solti's brisker tempo in the opening movement to the slower, more spaced out versions (Chailly and Horenstein spring to mind)and I find myself trying to will the others on. The opening 'call-to-arms-esque' choral entry of 'Veni! Creator Spiritus' is the most striking as well.
One of the most important parts in this work is the organ, which is so much more prominent in this recording. Some of the soprano bits, especially in Part I, are divine.
Overall the sound is extremely well-balanced, with a slight emphasis on the brass in their passages but it never interferes. There is some slight distortion in the very first movement, and toward the end of Part II, which I would guess is the fault of the engineers, but again it doesn't cause problems.
No Mahler fan should be without this recording. Just get it...
4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2002
Georg Solti is not my favourite conductor by any means, the man has been accused of knowing how the music went but not why, but this is, without doubt, the greatest recorded performance of Mahlers 8th. A work of dubious merit set alongside this composers other works, I think, but Solti and his team could persuade me otherwise, that is until Rattle records it with the BPO.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2011
This was an unfortunate choice to download.There are constant interruptions in the movements due to the "songs" attitude even for classical music.
To add to the chagrin, I later discovered that I could have bought the same performance on CD for the same price. This would have provided the following extras:
Full notes and track listings
Last but not least a libretto for the vocal passages.
All in all a bit of a turnoff for the download option.