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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish re-mastering of Bernstein's Mahler., 1 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Gustav Mahler: The Complete Symphonies & Kindertotenlieder (Audio CD)
If your first encounter with Bernstein's Mahler conducting was from this set you could be forgiven for thinking him lacking in any appreciation of the importanceof microdynamic expression in Mahler's symphonies. I have the original LP's, and although some of them have an exagerated treble, they are far more communicative than this particular re-mastering. The later Sony set is apparently an improvement though.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Mar 2013 22:19:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Mar 2013 22:22:31 GMT
apple says:
I wish people would be more critical like Dissily Mordentroge when it comes to classical music. There are always three criteria: the scores, how it was conducted and how it was recorded! There are and were great conductors who bring and brought the music to life. However, if I get an old recording and it is not sufficient re-mastered, then the sound is just horrible when played on a state of the art 'system'. Well, I'll go further to purport that some amateurish recordings with a mobile on youtube gives much more pleasure.

With this honest review in mind I now know that I have to wait before it will be available as a professionally re-mastered form under the 21st century standard.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Mar 2013 22:53:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Mar 2013 23:10:40 GMT
For reasons I wish I understood, the later re-mastering of Berstein's Mahler Symphonies ( The Royal Edition), which I've now acquired, on Sony are far superior. The exaggerated upper treble is still there but it's less irritating. His 4th however is the first instance in which I've disliked any Berntein performance with the additional disadvantage Reri Grist's solo transforms what should be a childlike approach into that of a feeble crone.The best recording of the 4th, to my ears, is still the original George Szell Cleveland Orchestra/Schwarzkopf version. Normally my taste in Mahler tends towards the more intense and romantic older performances or Walter & Bernstein. I find just about all more recent efforts manage somehow to remove the cosmological terror and vastness and deeper emotional undertones managing to 'secularise' Mahler to an obnoxious degree.
I should explain that I'm passing judgement on the sonics of these CD's via a Meridian 808.2 player which somehow manages to partially ameliorate the harshness of digital upper treble that's utterly vile on many earlier players.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Mar 2013 12:18:14 GMT
Hobhood says:
If you are luck enough to own a £10,000 + CD player you may well be noticing major differences in these re-masterings. I wonder whether the majority of listeners would have the same problem. Many of the Amazon reviews and some professional reviewers have applauded these re-masterings. They sound good for the period on my much more modestly priced equipment.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Mar 2013 12:34:44 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Apr 2013 21:38:54 BDT
I don't want to trigger a long discussion that's more about audio gear than music. Having said that, despite what I said about the Meridian 808.2 making otherwise nasty recordings sound tolererable, many of today's cheaper players come very close, such as those from Oppo. It's the earlier players, both cheap and expensive that I find sandpaper my eardrums.
Also my comments should be taken in the light of what I said earlier, that the original LP's of these recordings also had an elevated treble. So, it could be that what I'm hearing, and objecting to is simply a more acurate reflection of what the original recording engineers intended.
All I can say is thanks be I still have a treble control and can ameliorate this kind of thing. However, I can't imagine what has been done during the re-mastering that has removed so much of the microdymic expression that's on the original LP's & reel to reel tapes. The commercially released tapes I have of Bernstein conducting Mahler are absolutely fabulous even though they too have an elevated treble.
What really puzzles me though is why so many recent Mahler performances are dry and un-emotional as if the conducters have decided not to frighten audiences. I'd be interested to hear of any recent recordings that take a similar approach to Bernstien's, if there is such a thing.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Apr 2013 18:37:49 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Apr 2013 18:39:58 BDT
These remasterings are the same as those included in the 'Carnegie Hall' edition of the complete symphonies which appeared in 2009. The remasterings in the 'Royal Edition' appeared twenty years earlier in 1989 and were much inferior - indeed I think they were the same remasterings as in the original CBS compact disc issues which appeared in the mid 1980s.

However, I am never sure whether to trust Sony when they announce a remastering as in the past they have sometimes made false claims for marketing purposes. They issued Bernstein's Mahler 5 in their 'Bernstein Century' series with a lot of hype about how it had been remastered to 20-bit SBM specification, but an A/B comparison (putting the 'old' and 'new' remasterings into two identical CD players connected to the same amplifier) confirmed that the sound was unaltered. Moreover, the tiny writing near the centre of the 'Bernstein Century' Mahler 5 CD betrayed that the same factory glass master had been used to press that disc as for the issue in the 'Royal Edition'; the factory had imprinted the catalogue number of the 'Royal Edition' issue on the 'Bernstein Century' one!

Anyone interested in questions surrounding the remastering should check out the reviews on the American site ( where there are many comments. This set appears to be Sony's final word concerning the remastering. Bernstein's DG Mahler recordings are certainly worth having too, not least for his version of Symphony No. 6 with the Vienna Philharmonic which makes the extraordinary decision to include the third hammer blow but to put it earlier in the score than Mahler intended.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Apr 2013 21:47:23 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 Jun 2013 11:09:39 BDT
Raymond Clarke? Your name rings a bell from the days when I still read the audioporn press.
As to Sony playing loose with the truth about their remasterings it's a long tradition with classical pressings ( can I still use that term?) to dress up an old recording as something new, and not just with Sony.
The third hamer blow earlier than Mahler intended? I suspect this could haev been Bernstein's joke at the expense anyone half asleep in the audience. It certainly gave me a shock the first time I heard it.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Apr 2013 22:07:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Apr 2013 22:09:05 BDT
Yes, my own CD recordings were reviewed in the audio magazines, but I haven't made any commercial recordings since 2001.

Bernstein moves the hammer blow back from bar 783 of the finale to bar 773 and it makes a devastating impression in the 1988 VPO/DG recording, incomparably more so than in his 1967 NYPO/CBS version. I cannot understand why so many conductors insist on being 'purist' about omitting the third hammer blow when it is essential to the structure of the finale and when it has been known for years that Mahler removed it only for (temporary) superstitious reasons; at the end of his life he was considering reinstating it. There is nothing purist about ignoring a composer's wishes. Norman Del Mar covered this issue in his fascinating full-length book on the Sixth. Apart from Bernstein, I have only heard the third blow in recordings by Simon Rattle and Georg Solti.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jun 2013 10:41:10 BDT
Do you have such expensive equimnent to appreciate Mahler.I have been to few concert at Royal Festival Hall and still appreciate the concert with coughing and whispering.There is not an ideal Mahler symphony as there is not perfect diamond.are people with state of art Hi Fi do really appreiate recorded music or perfect sound.I remember try to get the perfect stereo sound when listening to Bob Dylan,the two speaker blow up and in the smoke came Bob Dylan singing,tell you ma and pa everything is going to be alright but my neighbour complain.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jun 2013 11:03:23 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 Jun 2013 11:10:50 BDT
You raise a number of issues that probably would best be discussed on a site devoted to audio technology. Yes, I have enjoyed lots of music on some very ordinary equipment. Mahler's 'Das Lied von der Erde' with Kathleen Ferrier on an old mono recording absolutely knocked me sideways the first time I heard it on a cheap portable transistor radio. However, to experience the genius of Mahler's orchestration and how it underscores his emotional drive really does require hearing it live or on a very revealing audio system. Take for instance Mahler's frequent use of a low bass undertow, often used at low volume under higher instruments. This often gives a peculiar sence of something really terrifying about to happen . On a system that doesn't reveal such subtleties that emotional undertow is missing.
Another aspect of such considerations is the fact that if you've heard a piece of music live and know of off by heart your mind often 'fills in the gaps' that a recorded performance leaves out. This could be the reason, apart from poverty, so many musicians run absolutely horrible audio systems as their brains hear a recorded performance as if they're reading a score and without conscious effort they somehow manage to fill in the gaps.
Hope that makes sense.
I'm unsure what you mean by 'there is an ideal Mahler symphony' . I'm guessing you mean there is no single, ideal performance. I'd agree with that so long as we can accept there are a number of utterly crappy performances out there and that everyone's best isn't going to be the same.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jun 2013 12:02:20 BDT
Thank for the e mail.You are so professional in your response.I wish we can listen to the same symphony and give a down to earth opinion.I have several Mahler compete symphonies and come to the conclusion that Bernstein on New Yorl orchestra is the the basic collection and then chose individual symphony and for No 1 go for Tennedst and listen to spend a time in country side dreaming and bass wake you up....there is ideal and I bought the complete box for this moment and it is it
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