12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Some superb recordings but the package needs tidying up,
This review is from: Mahler: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
Firstly why 4 stars and not 5 - and why 4 stars and not 3? This set contains a substantial number of top rank performances and this makes it good as a SET. No set is better than buying individual recordings of the symphonies but one buys a set for convenience of hearing all the symphonies easily or out of interest to see what the conductor's view is overall. There are too many good performances to give it three stars, but it only rates four because the performances are split a little strangely over the discs and the price is really rather heavy for a set of recordings 40 or more years old. That said I would prefer this set to Chailly's Mahler: The Symphonies (much more modern and also with the Concertgebouw but lacking in the natural flow and fresh atmosphere that the Philips Haiting discs produce - despite stunning sound), or to Abbado or Bernstein on DGG Mahler: Complete Symphonies and Mahler: The Symphonies respectively.
The recordings that are really worth hearing are, in my opinion, Numbers 2, 3*, 6,7* and 9*. Where there is an asterisk I believe the performances to be outstandingly good. As far as I can tell only Symphony 3 and Symphony 9 are available as individual purchases and this is really annoying as Symphony 7 is a model of musicality and very naturally recorded. Similarly, the Scherzo of Symphony 6 (movement #2 in this case) has some of the most beautifully deliniated playing of the set and has really well thought out contrasts between the scherzo and trio sections. The only quibble I have here is in the Finale where the hammer blows are not as powerful as they might be.
The First Symphony is from the early 1960's and Haitink did better later on. Symphony 4 is perfectly adequate but not a contender against Fischer's single disc Mahler - Symphony No.4. I find Symphony 5 a little pale in conception and there is a "hole in the middle" of the stereo. This is explained if you see the video of the Christmas Day concert from about this time where there seems to be a distinct left/right split in the setting out of the orchestra on the stage. Symphony 8 has fine soloists but the choral work is rather too recessed. Get Solti on Mahler: Symphony No.8.
Let us hope that this set will emerge in rather cheaper form. Knock £20 off it and it would be a contender for the best value around. As it is, and good as it is, it seems rather expensive at the moment.