Mahler: Complete Symphonies (DG Collectors Edition) Box set
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KUBELIK RAFAEL / BAVARIAN R. S
This is home, or it should be, for any prodigal Mahler-lover weary of extreme gestures and fat sonorities. Thorough reacquaintance with Kubel?k interpretations long overlooked - especially his Sixth, Eighth and Ninth symphonies - convinced me that his is the golden mean of urgent forward movement, supple change of gear and the wisdom to know where more space or emphasis than the score indicates is really needed (supremely his own rallentando into the blazing return of the 'Veni, creator spiritus' in the Eighth Symphony and the three heavenward leaps before the big collapse of the Ninth's first movement). The Bavarian strings, sinewy rather than sensuous, benefit from the extra space of the later recordings, which include the famous account of the Adagietto used in Visconti's Death in Venice. Yet the placement of first violins ranged with basses left, second violins to the right, always pays off and goes some way to accounting for the unremitting textural clarity of the performances (reinforced by ever-characterful woodwind with an uncanny knack for the grotesque).
set follows the fashion for slimline presentation, previously adopted by Philips for Haitink and EMI for Tennstedt, though there's been no change since its fatter incarnation - still one symphony per disc except for the Third, and no attempt to accommodate Fischer-Dieskau in the song cycles. As for consistency, only the admirable Edo de Waart (RCA) competes in time-span and unity of vision. Until Rattle completes his cycle - the first to end, as it surely should, with the Cooke performing version of the Tenth Symphony - there can be no healthier overall survey.
© BBC Music Magazine 2000
Top Customer Reviews
After this I started buying more celebrated performances by Barbirolli, Horenstein, Karajan and others - all so much more lush. I adapted to the epic romantic style and the heart on sleeve approach.
When I eventually returned to this set in CD form I was astonished by its sinewy leanness. It may be said that such is the emotive quality of Mahler that his music doesn't need any added emphasis and that seems to be Kubelik's attitude. The swift pacing conveys not only a more comprehensible structure but also a complete lack of self-indulgence. The closest equivalent to this approach may be Boulez whose clinical attitude can create a paradoxical fascinating repellence with respect to these works but Kubelik projects a more human sense of involvement, a warm chamber like intimacy, and a more visceral sense of drama.
I confidently predict that - as with Boulez - you will either love or hate these performances. Wallowing is most emphatically not on the bill. And the speed adopted throughout may appal many who are accustomed to emotive underlining and sensual lingering.
Even those antipathetic to Kubelik's stance may find him attractive in the early works, which are given a more rustic abrasiveness than usual. At the faster speeds, the trumpet fanfares and piccolo arabesques in the finale of no.Read more ›
Symphonies 1, 4 and 5 get renditions I would prefer to all other contenders, with 3 similarly wonderful and 2, 7 and 9 enthusiastically done if not quite so exceptional. 6 & 8 are quite satisfactory, but the only way to really 'get' the 8th is to go to it in concert. The adagio of the 10th is also included, but get Rattle's CD (BPO, EMI) for the complete picture.
Choose this and avoid Bernie's campness, Abbado's coldness, Solti's aggression, Haiitnk's dourness, Chailly's autopilot and the occasional touches of lunacy that afflict the other contenders. Kubelik makes the most satisfactory gateway into Mahler's soundworld and will refresh those who've wearied of other leaden performers. Spirited and lively musicmaking for your pleasure.
In a perfect world Symphony 1 would have the short exposition repeat in the first movement. Even without it this performance is one of the most bracing and satisfying that I know.
Symphony 2 is excellent except for the very end of the disc where the engineers limit the volume because of the difficulty of recording this work. Soloists are very fine, however.
Symphony 3 is one of my favourite performances of the work with a bright and clear approach. Movement #1 is particularly noteworthy for being held together at a fairly brisk pace without any suspicion of hurrying. The subesequent movements are most sensitively and poetically done.
Symphony 4 works extremely well, again at a fairly brisk tempo. This is an alternative to performances by Maazel, Szell and Klemperer. Freshness is the keynote again.
With Symphony 5 the direct and poetic approach produces one of the most satisfying performances that I know for Kubelik lets the music speak for itself. Part One is excellent, with a funeral march that never drags in Movement #1 and an explosion of angry energy in Movement #2. There are delightful "lifts" to the walz rhythms in Movement #3. The Adagietto is a little slow by 2007 fashion but very well brought off. Movement #5 is a racing and jolly rondo full of life-asserting vigour.
I cannot get on with either Symphony 6 or 7. In the first case I find the tempi too frenetic and in the second a mercurial performace is spoiled by rather hard recording of the strings in particular.Read more ›
In general, Kubelik's Mahler is clearly less sentimental than, for instance, Bernstein's or Abbado's. He presents Mahler's complex works without mannerism but with enthusiasm. This makes the music in each sound very crisp and straightforward, as if it were played for the first time. But Kubelik has also a consistent grasp of Mahler's oeuvre as a whole, providing a very clear picture of the nine symphonies (including the first movement of the unfinished tenth).
Even though the sound picture given these DG recordings is quite close and less spacious, the general HiFi quality is more than satisfactory.
In short, I think Kubelik's Mahler must be regarded as the first choice if you want a set with these symphonies presented by a single conductor.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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At a recent meeting of the Australian Knappertsbusch Association - a boozy, boob-ed up affair - I notice... Read more
I have heard loads of conductors conduct Mahler; but none of them come close to bringing out the irony and dark humour and poignancy and bitter struggle and mystery that Rafael... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
Some of Kubelik's finest recordings are here - particularly the First and Third. A handsome edition and an underrated set.Published 20 months ago by MR LINKS
I love the music of Mahler, and now I have the complete symphonies. The recordings are first class and the notes accompanying the CDs also help me to understand the man and his... Read morePublished on 24 Jun. 2012 by KevWas
These recordings were the first set of Mahler I ever owned, on a set of LPs which, for some strange reason i remember cost £22 back about thirty years ago! Read morePublished on 10 Feb. 2012 by Cute 'n Cuddly Bartok
I tried really hard, but just couldn't get to love this set. I am not that much a Mahlerian that I can give a lot of detail about the various performances- no doubt Kubelick knows... Read morePublished on 20 Sept. 2010 by Nozzer
Mahler: Complete Symphonies
This is a brilliant collection, neatly packaged for convenience. The sound is excellent and in many ways cannot be bettered. Read more
As a complete set, Kubelik's DG recordings are still unbeatable, because every symphony in the set is in a class of its own, unlike Solti, Bernstein, Tennstedt, Sinopoli, Haitink,... Read morePublished on 26 Nov. 2008 by Scriabinmahler