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on 29 July 2011
There have been a number of fair comments about the audio set up on this DVD in terms of surround sound, but for those of us with stereo systems what about the performance of this enjoyable and popular Mahler Symphony?

I would like to echo the comments of the reviewer on Amazon.com : this is an exceptional performance, with the usual wonderful ensemble from the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and excellent solo passages from the many principals as you would expect. There is a fine contribution from the Czech mezzo Magdalena Kozena in the last movement, conveying a child's eye view of Heaven. Claudio Abbado is fully at home in this work. It sounded perfectly OK via my Blu-ray player and my Mission speakers, clear and full-bodied.

For me the yardstick against which performances of the Mahler 4 must be measured is the Cleveland Orchestra's recording conducted by George Szell, and I think this one is definitely in the same league. The beautiful slow movement is particularly engaging. Another great performance in the Abbado Mahler series, and a sizeable bonus in the five Ruckert Lieder, beautifully sung by Magdalena Kozena and superbly accompanied by the orchestra.
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Abbado has the enviable reputation of being one of the world's finest Mahler conductors. This has been further reinforced by his set of performances held at Lucerne with his hand-picked orchestra constituting the Lucerne Festival orchestra.

This very large orchestra, apart from containing musicians of outstanding individual abilities, also lays great stress upon their empathy and experience with the world of chamber music. Thus is achieved the unusual combination of orchestral size allied to individual and corporate sensitivity. This suits Abbado's particular vision of Mahler and is apparent throughout this fine performance.

A word of caution though: The recording of this performance visually is up to the usual standard, but the surround sound has been the subject of much heated debate - largely because it isn't there. There was a technical breakdown concerning the recording of the surround sound of this issue. It was decided to fake the surround sound from the stereo master. It might have been a better decision to have issued the disc as just stereo - but the problem for Euroarts was that Blu-ray customers expect and demand surround sound. The result has been confusion at best and anger at worst. I personally prefer this issue to the earlier DVD with the Mahler Youth Orchestra on DVD and real surround sound simply because I prefer the 'fill-up' or coupling being offered. The interpretation of the symphony is very similar.

The upcoming series planned by Chailly, also on Blu-ray, might become a serious competitor to Abbado however. It certainly might resolve the issue of which Mahler 4 to buy. Chailly's Mahler 2 and 8 are now available. Some find Chailly preferable as an approach - being a degree less overtly emotional and more orchestrally cohesive rather than sharing Abbado's expanded chamber music approach perhaps. I personally find both approaches equally satisfying in their different ways (see my Chailly review of Mahler 2 for further details).

........................................

Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

Sadly, I cannot comment on the sound which seems to be the focus of attention of most reviews.

However, we are supposed to be talking about Claudio Abbado's Mahler ! Nobody can deny that Abbado is a superb conductor and a superb Mahler conductor. The Berlin Philharmonic do not engage Bonzos. And the Lucerne Festival Orchestra is a superb orchestra, with several familiar Berlin faces in it. They play with great style, passion and enthusiasm. The whole enterprise is absolutely perfect. Yet I am often left strangely unmoved. It is all very clinical and surgical. I realise that many people had the same view of Abbado's predecessor, Herbert von Karajan but not me. Haitink is often regarded as cool, analytical and unemotional but I find Haitink's Mahler deeply moving. Letting Mahler speak for himself seems to work well for Mahler. So there we are: horses for courses ! (U.K. review)
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on 4 February 2011
As ever, we are indebted to Godbluffer's continuing forensic investigation into Mahler releases from EuroArts. I bought this disc several months ago, and, as usual, gave it only a cursory check. It didn't seem too bad, but I should have known better. It was only when his review appeared here that I decided it was about time to look into things more carefully. It's a very serious matter if problems continue to arise with these products, since it potentially erodes trust in all EuroArts output. This has now sent me scuttling back to all my recent blu-rays to check them out in detail.

However, what is absolutely clear about this Mahler 4 is that THE AUDIO SET-UP HAS BEEN REVERSED. If you select DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, you will get the PCM Stereo 2.0 output. So, if you select PCM Stereo, you will actually be hearing the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. This is already perfectly clear if you change between set-ups during the opening scenes and the initial applause. If you stand next to your right rear speaker it becomes blatantly obvious that this is the case. The sound space opens up fully as it should. This really is a most unfortunate outcome after the problems with the Mahler 2.

I fully agree with Godbluffer that there are no problems with the Mahler 1, 3 & 6.

Today, I have contacted EuroArts directly in Berlin, and I suspect that they will be taking urgent steps to deal with this further problem. The Mahler 2 re-vamp is also nearing completion.

I have received the Mahler 9 today and already have the Simon Bolivar Orchestra concert with Abbado produced by Accentus. Sonically, both seem very good to me. The visual image in particular is astonishing in its depth, colour and sharpness.
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on 23 December 2010
At the same day I received an email from Euroarts that the blu-ray of Mahler 2 will finally see an improved release in the first half of January 2011, I'm a bit sad to report that the brand new blu-ray of Mahler 4 also isn't quite what it should have been. Again it sounds like the technicians have been using a stereo source to create the surround track for this one. The positive is that this time the quality of that source is actually good; it sounds refined and there are no squashed dynamics, so buyers who only have a stereo set-up and are not planning to upgrade to a surround set-up should be pretty pleased with the result here.
People with surround set-ups and with discerning ears will be frustrated though, as the "surround" effect here really doesn't entail more than some very modest action in the rear speakers, and just a little less modest action in the center speaker, but it's very obvious that it's nothing more than a mix-down from a stereo source; there are none of the dedicated, yet natural sounding, center speaker effects that can be heard on the BD's of Mahler 1, 3 and 6. With the Mahler 2 I could understand that in 2003 there wasn't yet as much dedication to HD, making it at least understandable that there wasn't a satifying 5.1 mix for the HD edit of that concert, but the Mahler 4 was recorded in 2009, so how is it possible that something similar happened again here? I will again be contacting Euroarts about this and I hope it's deemed bad enough for another replacement to issued in the near future, just like with the Mahler 2. I will be keeping you posted for any updates!
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on 7 February 2011
I have also been in contact with Euroarts (regarding Mahler 2) and mentioned the confused reviews surrounding Mahler 4. The official review on bluray.com said the audio was manifestly excellent, contrary to other reviews. Rudi Gaudron of Euroarts confirmed the reporting of a reversed audio issue which had not shown itself on the test disc.Mahler 2 is indeed being revamped and investigations are now taking place into Mahler 4. Watch this space!
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on 29 December 2010
I have to agree with Godbluffer's assessment of this disc. If I had watched this on TV I would have rated it as excellent in all respects. It is only when you listen through well set-up surround speakers that the deficiencies really present themselves. Try starting the Euroarts Blueray disc of Mahler 3 in stereo mode and then go to Audio Setup and change to DTS 5.1. A completely new, engaging and almost holographic, but natural soundworld suddenly appears from the speakers. The sound of the audience before the start of the concert envelopes you, and the sound of the music grips you from the start, Do the same with this disc and the sound stays essentially the same. I'm not even sure if the front centre speaker is doing anything at all, and hardly any sound comes out of the rear speakers. It is clearly NOT true surround sound, though the information viewable on screen states that it is DTS MA 5.1. The engineers don't even appeared to have tried to make it sound like ANY type of surround sound, This is STEREO, regardless of what it says on the disc.

Why can Euroarts apparently no longer provide a true 5.1 sound track when EVERY standard new DVD or Bluray you buy these days can? There was a time, not so long ago, when you bought a Euroarts DVD knowing that you were almost certainly getting state of the art picture AND sound quality. Those days seem to be gone. The people who are now producing Euroarts DVDs and Bluerays are going to put them out of business if they don't take an immediate grip on the quality of their current issues.

I won't be buying future Euroarts discs, including the eagerly anticipated Abbado Mahler 9, until I see some reviews assuring me that I am not being fobbed-off with unsatisfactory - and fake - sound. What a pity it is that the superb efforts of Abbado and his musicians are being let down by, what I can only assume, are cost-cutting measures.
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on 27 December 2010
As said in the title, the multichannel is a fake, nothing more than a bad remasterisation of the stereo part (which is good)
The Mahler 5 will be released in Blu-ray in february, after the 2nd and the 4th, EuroArts don't make a new mistake !
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on 6 January 2014
This DVD was received promptly and in first class condition.
It is an excellent recording as is usual the case with Claudio Abbado
discs and would recommend these recordings to all of my music friends.
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