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on 7 March 2001
Yesterday, on the 6th of March, I bought the new M8 by the renowned Concertgebouw Orchestra. What can I say? IMHO, this is the one! Not the one and only...but still...This masterpiece with 8 soloists, extended orchestral forces and with the duration of more than 82 minutes, really cannot be expected to be completely flawless. However, besides from a few minor drawbacks that one may have concerning the tempi (that here and there are on the slower side), I would be surprised if you will NOT be amazed. In this recording, you will find brilliant playing, absolutely superb sound, magnificent choirs and a perfect mix between blasting fire and calm subtleness.
I would not suggest that it should replace your favorite 8th, but you most certainly should give your best 8th so far a real match with this one! I am truly astonished by the clarity that is presented to you in this recording by Decca. To be honest...it is almost too perfect.
In some cases this can be disturbing, since "too perfect" often tends to take away a lot of the magic, but in Mahler's 8th. I think the vastness in the sound scope, the great number of voices and instruments that are all supposed to fit in and find their place - well, to put it simply; it calls for a perfect recording and a perfect performance. Otherwise, the chances are great that all is blurred and sometimes really hard to comprehend. Thus, this work needs clarity and spacing, it needs subtle soloists who know when to take a step back. I have heard many versions and am forced to say that it too often has gotten tiresome to grasp the entity of the complicated double fugues. Of course, everyone is trying to get through. Therefore, the tempi chosen by Chailly feel right in this place, thus succeeding to come through and deliver a brilliant 8th.
In one way, it is unfair to record this work poorly, to not give it the opportunity to present what it really is about. Order this and you will get a masterful performance from all involved, of which some may be new experience for you. Baritone, Peter Mattei is easily one of the greatest singers I've encountered. I heard him sing the baritone solo in Brahms' German Requiem. I was totally blown away by his uncomplicated and totally controlled timbre, the tonal body is utterly rich and full. If you have the chance to see/hear him live, be sure to take the chance! Soprano, Ruth Ziesak, who sings the Mater Gloriosa, is really fantastic in Blomstedt's recording of Mahler's 2nd. Even if the recording and reading is somewhat plain in that case, Ziesak's singing is so superbly subtle and beautiful, as on this recording. I cannot really find any weak spots in this recording, other then the magic that you miss from e.g. Horenstein's live recording with the LSO (re-issued by the BBC). But this is definitely the best studio recording of the 8th. I have heard so far. For all of you who have not yet found your way to the 8th., or simply have not liked it so far, here you will get a fair chance to understand and actually hear the work. Take a look at the price; think about this review one extra minute and you will see that this 2 CD Decca recording is a total "no-brainer".
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