Customer Review

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Mahler 8, 28 Sept. 2011
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This review is from: Mahler Symphony No.8 [Blu-ray] [2011] (Blu-ray)
The instant the credits appear on screen it is clear that both sound and picture quality on this blu ray are going to be state of the art. The production team at Accentus {largely responsible for the acclaimed Abbado/Lucerne Mahler cycle) seem to have perfected the art of recording these works. If there are problems, they are likely to arise from your reaction to the symphony itself, and, to some extent, Chailly's interpretation.
The playing of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is uniformally excellent, and the soloists are all beyond reproach, rarely the case in recordings of this symphony. It seems invidious to single out any of them for special praise but the the two main sopranos, Erika Sunnegardh and Ricarda Merbeth in particular, are stunning. The important tenor part is beautifully sung by Stephen Gould, though in one or two places he has to strain a little to reach the high notes. The choirs too are excellent,producing a veil of sound, audibly {and realistically) placed behind the orchestra.
But here we come to the first problem: Mahler's contrapuntal writing in the first movement is so dense at times that the resulting sound lacks the sharpness we may be accustomed to in other works. Having listened to other recordings and in concert, I have however had to conclude that this is actually what it does sound like. I do not think even the Accentus sound engineers could make these passages sound clearer. Overall, however, the orchestral and choral sounds are clearly and crisply caught, with indivdual thematic threads coming over with remarkable clarity. The climactic finale of the first movement is thrillingly caught as is the finale of the symphony. I have never "felt" the percussion cut through the orchestral texture so clearly before.
Ricardo Chailly plays the work pretty much "as written", and might appear slightly cool to some listeners compared to,say, Tilson Thomas. I would have liked a little bit more "schmaltz" at times, particularly in the "Dir, der Unberuhrbaren" section (20), where I would have preferred a bit more luscious sliding on the strings and heart-stopping "holding back" within phrases. But this is a matter of taste - it is beautifully played.
To sum up, this is probably the best Mahler 8 currently available and, as it seems unlikely that Abbado will record it with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, is likely to remain so for some time. Very highly recommended.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Oct 2011 18:20:48 BDT
Mr Lloyd says:
A very fair review; "as written" is, I think, a good description. In this respect, one could perhaps view it as a reference recording (certainly from a technical point of view). Although the actual concert dates are not yet announced, Abbado will be performing Mahler 8 with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2012. Undoubtedly, Accentus will be there to capture it.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2011 08:43:29 BDT
That's good news.

Posted on 29 Oct 2011 14:52:08 BDT
Colin Probin says:
Yes a spectactular audio recording. Great news re Abbado. Only negative is on NTSC DVD and repeated on more than one player is a pause between track 18 to 19 when should be seemless. The supplier cannot help but I am awaiting response from Accentus.
Will update when..
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