Top positive review
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An early recording by Mehta that was sensational in 1975 and still very satisfying in today's more competitive market
on 14 March 2014
This disc was a demonstration recording by Decca in 1975 and I can well recall its impact on a pair of LPs given the replay equipment I owned at that time. The new remastering using 24 bit technology is very successful and is a vivid reminder of that impact, especially given the considerable improvement in the quality of the replay equipment now used.
Apart from the quality of the actual recording, there are other key factors that individually add immensely to the enjoyment of this disc and accumulatively they make for an exciting and rewarding emotional and musical experience.
One key factor is the excellence of the orchestral response of the VPO which individually and collectively simply offer a magnificent body of sound absolutely perfectly suited to Mahler's personal vision. They, in turn, are supported by the very professional singing of the Vienna State Opera choir which rises to every demand that Mahler and Mehta make during the extended last movement. Finally there are the outstanding contributions of the two soloists, Christa Ludwig and Ileana Cotrubas. Christa Ludwig in particular gives a glowing and unforced performance of the fourth movement.
Mehta himself delivers a reading that is arresting from the start and builds steadily and unfalteringly to one of the most compelling finales yet recorded on CD. This is a young man's reading and is full of forward momentum and drive. That is why the conclusion works so well. Others, such as the respected and much admired Klemperer reading offer different experiences resulting from a longer maturation period. However, it is worth reminding oneself that this was an early Mahler symphony and its blazing commitment is that of a young man. It is therefore completely acceptable and appropriate that Mehta's passionately youthful reading should receive so much praise.
Other more recent readings and recordings of considerable note should be mentioned and include the Blu-ray/DVD discs of Abbado's and Chailly's readings. These are both superb in their different ways and offer even better sound in surround format plus the obvious advantage of visual impact which is a real bonus in such a spectacular work of spectacle. Those two discs can also be played without the visuals but with the full sonic experience. They cost much more than this excellent remastered CD though.
I would therefore suggest that Mehta's disc offers a reading and recording of such stature that it deserves to be seriously considered as an essential part of any collector's library.