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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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2 of 4 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
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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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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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, 26 Sep 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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