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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty, clarity and refinement - if that's what you want in this work, 28 Aug. 2014
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray (Audio CD)
The clarity and beauty of sound, and the fine control Jansons wields over his vast forces are the most striking aspect of this live recording. The famed acoustics of the Concertgebouw must have enhanced the transparency of Jansons' reading; his orchestra plays with both refinement and power and the massed choirs are simply splendid, shading their phrasing with exquisite dynamic gradations and bringing flawless unity to their singing. The children are especially admirable; there must have been a lot of rehearsal time devoted to the preparation of this concert and the result is the most homogeneous performance of this most challenging of works that I have heard.

The disadvantage to Jansons' conscious quest for beauty is that at times proceedings lack momentum - although I don't necessarily require Solti's propulsive wallop and the climax of Part 1 still really delivers, while the more ethereal, lightly scored passages which prepare the way for the transcendent apotheosis are rapt and radiant, greatly aided by the purity of the children's' voices; the resolution of the whole work is grand and noble without being really overwhelming, but that is of a piece with Jansons' conception and many will find it preferable to vulgar excess.

Previous reviewers have remarked as much; where I part company with several of them is in their assessment of the solo singing. The women range between good and excellent, although Christine Brewer sounds shriller here than is usually the case; some of her - admittedly almost impossible - sustained high notes in Part 1 border on a screech, nor is Camilla Nylund entirely free from that fault - or indeed wobble. Otherwise, the ladies are distinguished; Stephanie Blythe is especially and typically rich-toned. My gripe comes with the three male singers. Least disappointing is Robert Dean Smith, who is in good voice by his own standards. He never had an ingratiating tenor timbre and to me always sounds strained, but he avoids barking and makes something of the text. The baritone and bass are dreadful: Tommi Hakala proves to be the exception to my rule that Finnish singers are nearly always first rate; he is grey and forced of tone, while bass Stefan Kocàn is throaty and strangulated. Think of partnerships like Thomas Allen and Hans Sotin or John Shirley-Quirk and Martti Talvela and weep.

Plenty of other valuable recordings feature soloists who struggle with this cruelly demanding music and I don't expect perfection. Tennstedt is still for me the most successful of all in this mega-symphony but both his EMI studio and live 1991 recordings suffer from vocal deficiencies, as do both of Bernstein's accounts - although I think both more nearly convey the true spirit of the work. Some of the best female solo singing I know is found in Sinopoli's recording; his men, too, are less impressive. Maazel and Kubelik deliver versions from opposite ends of the interpretative spectrum and if I had to plump for one recording, I think I would buck the trend and go either for Sinopoli or that EMI studio recording by Tennstedt - with Solti in reserve for cheap thrills.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top recommendation for this work by a CONSIDERABLE margin. Glorious and life affirming!, 12 Mar. 2015
By 
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray (Audio CD)
My review of this recording is long overdue, and in truth has been prompted has been prompted by the flimsiest of reasons-my enjoyment of Camilla Nylund's singing in the Dresden Strauss Gala I reviewed recently. As she is a prime participant in this performance, I felt compelled to experience the performance both visually via the bonus Blu-ray and of course sonically via the cd medium.
In fact, I went further and have been listening also via Blu-ray in sound only mode as a further comparison.
Part of my enthusiasm has been my surprise, for in recording after recording I have found the inherent wobble in Ms Nylund's voice grating, but like Gwyneth Jones before her, caught in the right performance her voice loses the instability and soars as one would always want it to-sampling her "Transfigurations" Recital CD of Strauss and Wagner gives ample evidence of this-what is great is really great, but much of it is sadly at the other extreme! But enough of La Nylund-she is but one component in this truly magnificent enterprise!

Perception is everything of course, and I never cease to be amazed at how they differ. My perception of this performance differs from that of Ralph Moore in his excellent review in 2 major ways-firstly that I find nothing leisurely about the tempo for the second part, and I find the male soloists to be very good-not among the greatest but not in away less than -well, very good!
This is the least performed of all the Mahler Symphonies for one obvious reason-the sheer numbers involved-and the less obvious one that many eminent Mahler conductors simply don't like it!
Haitink and Kubelik both recorded their lack of interest in performing it, Haitink specifically in his famous interview about "The Tyranny of the Complete Set.", and one suspects that many other noted Mahlerians feel the same way.

In truth not a symphony but an Oratorio, no matter how loosely the definition of symphony is applied, this was the most well received of Mahler's works during his lifetime, the first performance in Munich having genuinely more than 1000 performers and creating a sensation. By the time Mahler conducted the premiere, he had in fact written his last notes of music-the unfinished Tenth rested on his desk with only the Adagio and a major part of the "Purgatorio" scored.

Early recordings suffered from the technical difficulties of capturing such large and disparate forces successfully in sound that could be reproduced at home and still do justice to the work. No such difficulties arise now, and this recording more than any other I have heard captures the sonic impact of the work.
Listening from Blu-ray, the sound is slightly less plush and glamorous, but has more presence and the various sections are more clearly defined, balance and detail more sharply delineated. I have no hesitation in pronouncing it the Best Recorded Ever.

Jansons is not one to impose an "off the wall" interpretation on ANY of his Mahler-he seeks no new portals through which we can peer into new dimensions of Mahler's inspiration, but rather seeks to ensure that what is on written page is performed with clarity, simplicity and with a natural energy derived from the music, not the conductor's idiosyncracity.
Some commentators find this dull or bland-I've even heard "too beautiful."
When confronted with a performance like this, my reaction is an overwhelming sense of joy.
From the thunderous opening chords, Jansons propels the work with just the right amount of energy, applying subtle rubato when warranted but weaving the first part into a cohesive entity, not in the least "bitty".

The second part too moves comparatively swiftly, and Jansons resists the temptation to slow down excessively especially from "Blicket Auf...." when so many interpreters apply the brakes to add even more weight to the huge finale.
Playing and Chorus work are utterly beyond praise! Watching the concert reveals that there were in the region of 600 participating-there is no lack of weight!

The soloists are in my view the finest group ever assembled. Christine Brewer is fearless and accurate in her thankless part, Nylund is excellent (and her décolleté on the platform is eye opening as well as ear opening) and the other ladies are to my ears faultless.
Similarly, Robert Dean Smith lacks the ringing tones of a young Kollo, Heppner or Richard Leech but his lyrical, deeply expressive singing works perfectly here.
I really don't hear the baritone and bass as anything other than very fine-OK, the bass is thinner of tone than Sotin or Talvela but is more than adequate to the task.

This is now First Choice-Absolute Recommendation by a considerable margin.

Tennstedt live with the LPO and exalted soloists (except for Kenneth Riegel whose tenor I cannot take in this work!) gives the most energized, riveting performance of all-highly individual-but the live recording from the RFH is not the best-a fair degree of tape hiss too-and is a necessary adjunct to this recording.
I find his studio recording undermanned, underpowered and underwhelming!
Solti, cracking with energy and brilliance is at least a "must hear" though successive re-masterings have tended to show up the recording's age rather than enhancing it, and I would add a word for the deeply felt, wonderfully played and terrifically well sung Sir Colin Davis BRSO recording, which was re-mastered soon after the original highly criticized recording on its release in Hybrid SACD and rebalanced stereo and is now a sonic spectacular too. Those with a taste for the startling might try the Svetlanov Russian recording-there is much to surprise and delight!

Don't hesitate-this is the one! 5 Stars. Stewart Crowe.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Package, 2 Aug. 2013
By 
Mr. G. C. Stone "mgcs" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray (Audio CD)
First heard this in a radio review and the performance grabbed my attention immediately. Strong, totally engaging, yet restrained - getting to the heart of the aching beauty that shines like a searchlight through this work. As a live performance it feels even more vital, even more connected - the living breathing impact of the performers and the time in which the performance 'exists' makes this a magical experience. And then there's the technical care and effort. The sound here is truly amazing. Like me, do you often feel that for all he clarity of CD and digital, that something is missing, that there is an essence lost? The effort here on sound quality, and a truly 'live' experience is simply stunning. First hearing was a revelation - this is the disc I would use to show anyone how good my hi-fi is - magnificent. And if this isn't good enough, there is a full blu-ray rendering of the performance as an added 'bonus' - again mastered to the highest technical standards. This is why Mahler is still one of the cornerstones of western culture and our grappling with life, beauty and mortality. This is what great performances are about and why we constantly revisit these great works. This is what modern recording and digital capability should be about. And this is what 'value' and approaching a project with the right intentions is about too - nothing cynical, no meanness of spirit or pocket - the complete package. This is the antithesis of disposal, mp3/download/pile it high, squeeze the pennies modern cynicism. Rejoice and enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 20 April 2015
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray (Audio CD)
Superb, the performance was sublime and the sound quality in SACD format was thrilling!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 15 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray (Audio CD)
just love it
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, 26 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray (Audio CD)
Great Work

Really enjoyed it. I have not heard this work before and chose following good reviews. Blue ray a good bonus.
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Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray
Mahler: Symphony No.8 (RCO/Jansons) SACD plus bonus Blu-ray by Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Audio CD - 2013)
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