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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abbado at his best
Abbado's first recording of Mahler 3 (with the VPO) is superb in every way but this live recording with the Berliners is just as indispensable.
It takes a few minutes to get used to the odd acoustic but the opening horns signal something pretty special. In the first movement the timpani are more prominent than usual, giving the music a darker hue. As a so-called...
Published on 6 Nov 2004 by D. A. Morgan

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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Abbado's second 3rd!
Having loved Abbado's first reading Gustav Mahler Symphonie No 3 of this lengthy symphony with Jessye Norman - which gripped you by the throat at the first trombone blast - I was a little disappointed at the 'distant' feel of this live BPO recoding. The quality of the playing is superb but the sound volume leaves one craving more 'gravy.'

I would suggest...
Published on 28 Nov 2009 by Robert Brook


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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abbado at his best, 6 Nov 2004
By 
D. A. Morgan (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
Abbado's first recording of Mahler 3 (with the VPO) is superb in every way but this live recording with the Berliners is just as indispensable.
It takes a few minutes to get used to the odd acoustic but the opening horns signal something pretty special. In the first movement the timpani are more prominent than usual, giving the music a darker hue. As a so-called Wunderhorn symphony one might expect it to be sunnier here but then Abbado finds new things throughout.
Anna Larsson is fine in her solo (not a match for the more noble, creamier Jessye Norman on the VPO set) and as the last movement begins one is completely seduced by the music. As a movement it can so easily sag but here it unfolds unerringly, beautifully paced. The climax may not expand quite so gloriously as before but the frisson is there. I doubt whether there was a dry eye in the Festival Hall at the end and the prolonged applause speaks for itself.
This is a work that has been lucky on record and CD; I would certainly place this performance alongside the pioneering Horenstein and Abbado's VPO recordings as the ones to have. And, of course, it is a tribute to Abbado, a champion of Mahler's music throughout his career and surely one of the finest Mahlerians about today.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An imperfect world, 26 July 2010
By 
rjmcr (manchester, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
I'm afraid I have to pour a drop of cold water on the generally enthusiastic reviews of this recording.

Let me start by saying that this is indeed a beautiful performance, wonderfully played, and was obviously a very special night in London's concert history. It is also extraordinarily well-priced. However, two important considerations prevent me from awarding five stars.

First of all, beauty is not always what this symphony is about and I find Abbado's 'summer march' section of the first movement too restrained. Mahler's orchestration here really exceeds the limits of good taste and I always think conductors who fully embrace it, rather than try to civilise it, achieve the best results. Abbado's 'Mother Nature' is strikingly attired and enjoying herself but she's obviously driving home after the party. By comparison, Bernstein's ( DG Mahler: Symphony No.3 ), and even Rattle's ( EMI Mahler: Symphony No.3 ) are in their best party gear and dancing on the tables. Abbado gave me no adrenalin rush at the end of the movement and, for me, that puts the rest of the performance somewhat on the back foot.

Luckily, the next two movements are a joy and a brilliant showpiece for the individual talents of the Berlin Phil. In the third movement, the posthorn soloist has a couple of slightly tense notes in his perilously exposed passages, and I would have liked a dash more magic at that brilliant moment towards the end when Mahler seems to plunge us straight out of the sky in to the depths of the ocean - I want more of those swirling harps here - but otherwise this is Abbado and his orchestra at their best.

My only other minor quibbles are really questions of preference. I'm an admirer of Anna Larsson and in no way does she disappoint in the fourth movement Nietzche song. However, am I alone in thinking that the profundity of the words and the atmosphere Mahler creates are better served by an older, grander voice? I want the sound of a world-weary sage here not a fresh-voiced young maiden. For me, Christa Ludwig (for Bernstein) owns this part but I must emphasise that this is no criticism of Anna Larsson. The bell chorus is beautifully sung although, again, my preference is for boys to accompany the women to draw a contrast between the earthbound and the angelical; the CBSO children sound like there are quite a few girls present although, as I say, their singing is faultless. The Finale is my favourite part of this symphony and, indeed, of this recording. The string tone at the start is just radiant, particularly in the cellos, and Abbado paces it to perfection (if I overlook his overly extended final chord) although I again get the feeling he's holding something back. Bernstein, by contrast, is throbbing with white-hot fervour by the end. Rattle too, although his tempo in the final bars is a particular taste I've yet to acquire.

My second and far bigger reservation concerns the sound quality. The acoustic shortcomings of the Royal Festival Hall are well known but I have heard many better-sounding recordings from this venue than the one under review here. There is a distinct lack of brightness throughout which tends to punish the violins and brass most of all. At one point in the Finale, I actually thought the violins had missed a cue. The short violin solo is difficult to hear and the sustained brass chords over the closing timpani strokes are barely audible. To make matters worse, the recording itself is bass-heavy and excessively reverberant; this may be thrilling at times but it's hardly ideal across 100+ minutes of music. DG used to get similar, albeit more satisfactory, results when they tinkered with their Avery Fisher Hall recordings in New York and I wonder if they've tried the same techniques here. The overall sound picture is also quite recessed and seems to have an inordinate front-to-back depth, the brass sounding generally very distant and diffuse.
Some of the blame obviously lies with the hall but if you flip over the CD case you'll note that this recording was actually sourced from a BBC transmission which DG later obtained and released. Am I being unreasonable in expecting one of the world's largest and most pre-eminent broadcasters to be able to produce a better-engineered recording than this? I listen a lot through pretty decent headphones and I can hear either some kind of equipment hiss or static interference at several moments on these discs. They certainly can't be edits because the recording was made in one take. Through loudspeakers it's not a problem but I can't help feeling that DG were sold a bit of a pup here (hence the knockdown price...?), especially in comparison with the sparkling rainbow of sound Rattle enjoys in Birmingham (perhaps these great orchestras should tour beyond London's second-rate halls when they come to the UK!)

At the end, we get over three minutes of applause which is, on the whole, well-justified, even if its inclusion on the recording is not. Perhaps DG wanted to highlight the stature of this performance in a way that the sound engineering does not.

A big shame then, really. I had high hopes of this recording and while large parts of it undoubtedly impress me enough to warrant its retention in my collection, I still prefer Bernstein's on DG. Every single bar of it.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unforgettable London Concert, 19 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
Now we can all share the magic of a very, very special evening in the Royal Festival Hall in 1999. The Berlin Philharmonic's performance that night defies description, defies superlatives for me. Mahler's magnificent depiction of the evolution of life on Earth could surely never receive a more resounding or moving performance. The playing is peerless, and I just can't see how it can ever be bettered.
Personally I find this one of the very greatest of Mahler's symphonies. From the thrilling intensity of the first movement, through to the beautiful, angelic voices in the fifth, this is uplifting, life-enhacing music par excellence. Then there is the magnificently romantic sixth movement, the crowning glory of the whole piece.
At the end, the audience goes wild. Who can blame them?
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Desert Island Mahler 3, 12 Feb 2008
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
This review will be very brief (unlike the Symphony)
I have been collecting Mahler recordings since I was mesmerised by his music during the early 70's. I have Abbado's previous recording with the VPO and Jessye Norman. It's a beautiful recording but is somewhat limited in dynamic range and is not overly realistic. The latest (BPO recording) is stunning and although the accoustic is less than ideal (RFH London) the performance is magnificent, in particular the final movement is a dream...I could go on. At the price Amazon is asking I would suggest to anyone with a love of this music to snap it up. Grateful thanks must go to all who took part in this special performance and recording.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 2 Sep 2014
By 
DB "davidbirkett" (Co. Kildare, Ireland (but born & raised Liverpool, UK)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
Back as a student, when my classical collection was only about a dozen records, I used to try to impress other students by saying "I like Mahler" when people asked me what my classical tastes were. What a pseud I was! This claim was on the basis of a cassette recording of the 9th Symphony, which I genuinely did like, but at the time I didn't explore his music any further. Forty years on I'm finally beginning to rectify this, and I'm enjoying the experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with this work, it starts off with a peaceful, joyful march (reminiscent of Elgar) whose melody you'll probably recognise, but may not know it was by Mahler - I didn't. From then on the structure of the piece is rather complicated - I'm still trying to get my head around it, but it's nevertheless a pleasure to listen to. Check out the Wikipedia entry to find out what it's all about.

I can't comment on the relative merits of this recording compared to others, as it is the only one I have heard, but it sounded fine to me.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUMMER IS ICUMIN IN, 27 Aug 2008
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
This live performance dates from 1999 and preserves for us a visit of the Berlin Phil under Abbado to London. They did not bring their own chorus with them, and the choirs taking part are the LSO Chorus and the CBSO Youth Chorus. The contralto soloist in the 4th and 5th movements is Anna Larsson, and we are also told the names of the violinist and posthorn player who are given certain prominent parts. The first disc is given over to the multi-part first movement only, with the remaining hour or so of music on the second. Division into tracks is sensibly aligned with the rehearsal-breaks in the composer's score, and there is a final track consisting of applause lasting three minutes and 20 seconds. Mahler himself was at pains to stress the non-traditional elements that the score incorporates, and it occurred to me to wonder whether he thought of extending this spirit of inclusiveness to take in audience clapping as an integral part of the composition.

I would call the performance excellent without reservation. The great and unique Mahler sound is presented in all its splendour by the orchestra. The two choruses perform admirably in the very different roles assigned to them, and Anna Larsson is completely superb, beautiful in tone and soulful in expression. Tempi throughout are broad and unhurried, which is how I like them, and the great exalted conclusion is magnificent, well deserving the rapturous reception it got from the London audience. The recording suits me very well too, but you will certainly have to use a high volume-setting or some of the distant pianissimo effects will be verging on inaudible. This gives me no problems in a sitting-room of very average size while my neighbours are out. There is no trace of strain or distortion in the loudest sequences, and the drum reverberating through the floor thrilled me absolutely. Above all, this account captures for me the true tone and expression of Mahler as I imagine it, part transfigured, part anxious and even neurotic. This symphony is one of the most lyrical in the Mahler series, and Abbado has been rightly and successfully concerned to convey the sheer beauty of this score as well as intense personal expression that any of Mahler's music majors in.

Very properly where Mahler is concerned, there is a thoughtful liner note that tries to interpret the composer's own voluble comments on the `meaning' (if that is the right word) of the music. The eight sections of the first movement carry Mahler's own captions, some sort of image of summer `marching in' followed by what various agencies - flowers, animals, night, morning bells, love and a child - tell him. Even at this brief level of explanation angels double for the morning bells, and we have the distinguished expertise of Mr Donald Mitchell to help us integrate all this with what the composer had to say about it at greater length elsewhere. The marching has a sinister sound to it for one thing, and we could tell that from the music without any commentary. It is not my own usual idea of summer, and it is reinforced by military-sounding bugle-calls later in the work. Mr Mitchell takes us like Virgil through higher and higher circles of imagery. Evolution is apparently symbolised, by summer and by the innocent-sounding suggestions of summer, birds, animals and whatnot, at one level. However Nietzsche is here too in the fourth movement with his familiar aspiration to escape the bondage of meaning and the intellect, and in the fifth movement there is another setting from Mahler's beloved Knaben Wunderhorn, expressive of innocence obviously, whatever the further import of innocence might be in this context.

By 1999 Mr Mitchell had been at this kind of hermeneutics for a good 45 years to my certain recollection. What he doesn't try to do, no doubt wisely, is suggest what order the composer's thoughts came in - did the extraneous ideas suggest the music, was it the other way round, or is there no way of telling, as I myself suspect is the case? If one may say so without unintended disrespect, Mahler's chatter was of a familiar aesthete's kind in his time. There is no way that I can see of making anything completely coherent out of his statements, and Mr Mitchell has more sense than to try to. It is all more suggestive of a painting with different levels of images overlaid on one another, and I like to think that tact and discretion would debar any of us from asking such a Maler with naïve incomprehension `what it means'. Anyway, there is also an alternative liner note not much more than half the length in German. This I have not attempted to read from reasons of faintheartedness, but French-speaking listeners have the opportunity of reading Mr Mitchell's musings in their own tongue, presumably in an accurate and idiomatic translation.

At the end of the day, music is music. Any ideas and concepts it may be connected with do not have to be coherent, but the music itself does. I love Mahler, I felt a duty to struggle through the familiar process of wrestling with the background concepts that he himself expounded with such enthusiasm, but as usual I was happy to forget all that before long. This music coheres magnificently to my own ears, this performance coheres magnificently, the execution is superlative and the recording seems to me to do them all justice if you set your controls right. It is perhaps my own outright favourite among the Mahler symphonies, I have no good explanation for why it has been absent from my collection for so long, and whatever other fine versions may be available I would say with confidence that you ought not feel you could go wrong with this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 29 Dec 2013
By 
Lance Edwards (derbyshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
Before the Nott, this was the best recording I had found of this marvellous work. Bernstein and NYPO was still better in the earlier movements but Abbado's performance grows more and more intense and the last movement is nothing less than sublime. The recording is a little less successful than it might have been but is still good. The Nott, however, surpasses this and even the last movement comes near....
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best, 11 Nov 2013
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
I was there...and it seems as if it was yesterday. The most sublime, perfect fusion of score, interpreter and instrument - or, Mahler 3, Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker. If you listen - and I mean, really, really listen - Mahler's comment to Sibelius about a symphony being the whole world comes true in this transcendent performance. When the finale eases in, with its quotation from Beethoven's Op.135, I feel that all is well in this troubled world...and when the final bars resound like the stars and planes revolving, I promise you will levitate. I worship Abbado, and these are some of the reasons why.

Now would some bright spark please release his legendary Proms Mahler 9 from 1994 on CD? The greatest concert ever.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great music, 21 April 2013
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
The genius of Mahler is performed greatly and one of his finest works. I love Mahler and would recommend this to any young musician seeking direction and motivation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An experience to treasure forever, 21 Mar 2013
By 
Mr. R. J. Cattermoul "richard0a37" (Hilperton Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
This is one of Mahler's great symphonies. I first heard it perhaps 30 years ago, in particular the exquisitely beautiful trumpet solo that has stayed with me; a perpetual reminder that one day I must purchase my own copy.

As with all pieces of music, YouTube and Amazon provide all the available choices from which to make the perfect selection. The combination of Claudio Abbado, the Berliner Philharmoniker, Anna Larsson and the London Symphony Chorus could not be more rewarding, so when the 2-disk set plopped on my front door mat a couple of days after ordering it , I listened to it three times, my ears all the while straining for any imperfections, any flaws.

There were none. So, if you want to listen to beautiful, powerful music performed impeccably, then this is the one for you.
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Mahler: Symphony No.3
Mahler: Symphony No.3 by Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado
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