Mahler, Then And Now

Tonight I’m cov­er­ing the sec­ond install­ment of the Argento Ensemble’s “Mahler in New York” series, which pairs con­tem­po­rary com­poses with cham­ber arrange­ments of Mahler. Tonight the fea­ture is the Schoenberg/Riehn reduc­tion of Das Lied von der Erde, and I’m expect­ing big things after Argento’s tremen­dous play­ing of Sym­phony No. 9.

Dur­ing a break in this morning’s action (review, Bitches Brew), I dialed up Das Lied and dis­cov­ered this gem:

It had escaped my atten­tion last year, prob­a­bly because it was a download-only release. I hit play with­out know­ing exactly what it was, and got to enjoy what is now an infre­quent expe­ri­ence, hear­ing a famil­iar piece played in a new (and superb) man­ner. This is a new arrange­ment by Glen Cortese, done in 2006, and the ensem­ble on the record is Musica Saecu­lo­rum, a period instru­ment group.

There needs to be more period Mahler, if only so we can hear how the music sounds. When Mahler was com­pos­ing and con­duct­ing, many of the instru­ments were what we now con­sid­er­ing period types, the orches­tral blend was dif­fer­ent, the strings eschewed vibrato. That was the sound he heard, and that’s par­tic­u­larly ger­mane because of the extreme value Mahler put into his orches­tra­tions. Cur­rently there is only one other period record­ing of Maher, Mahler: Sym­phony No. 4, which I strongly recommend.

It will take more than one lis­ten to see how much Mahler is in this new Das Lied, but it is so refresh­ing, so vibrant to hear, the singing is ter­rific. I’m lov­ing it.

Mahler: The Movie

My friends at, who stream and record excel­lent clas­si­cal music con­certs, and now offer­ing their first film:

Holy shit, how could you not watch that? Russell’s ver­sion of Mahler’s life is, unsur­pris­ingly, a bit deranged, but that’s why we love him, and love Mahler. Do check it out, and all the other great music medici has to offer—the other new addi­tion is con­certs from Carnegie Hall.

Consumer Reports

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series Con­sumer Reports

Look­ing out for your wal­let, once again, so you don’t have to … 51BjGfrKYhL._SX300_.jpg

You may have seen this hand­some box set of the Mahler sym­phonies on Ama­zon. Think long and hard about it, Mahle­ri­ans: Ozawa is under­rated in this music and the sound of the Boston Sym­phony play­ing Mahler alone makes it worth repeated lis­ten­ing. But don’t be daunted by the price, the same set is already avail­able for less than half the Ama­zon price at

(If you do shop at Ama­zon, remem­ber to use the links you find here on this blog. You help sup­port this site by toss­ing a tiny amount of the pur­chase price into my pocket, rather than Jeff Bezos’, at no extra cost to you.)

Also com­ing out and absolutely essen­tial is the final record­ing made by Clau­dio Abbado, lead­ing the Lucerne Fes­ti­val Orches­tra in Bruckner’s Sym­phony No. 9. Live in con­cert, this is one of those rare and extra­or­di­nary doc­u­ments of an event. It’s not just that this is arguably the finest record­ing of this music, but that the com­bi­na­tion of ten­sion, expres­sion, the incred­i­bly focussed play­ing and the live audi­ence makes this an expe­ri­ence that goes far beyond just lis­ten­ing to music. One of the great things you will have in your cul­ture collection.

Consumer Reports

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series Con­sumer Reports

Look­ing out for your dol­lars, so you don’t have to …

Must Haves and New Releases

* DG is releas­ing a new Clau­dio Abbado Mahler cycle. This one col­lects his live record­ings with the Berlin Phil­har­monic and the Lucerne Fes­ti­val Orches­tra, and com­pletely super­sedes his pre­vi­ous cycle in terms of music mak­ing and record­ing qual­ity. Every­thing is strong, and Sym­phonies 1, 3, 5 and 9 are among the finest on record. You can pre-order through Ama­zon or, for half the price, the Presto Clas­si­cal site. You’ll also get is sooner through Presto, though once the domes­tic release date nears, the Ama­zon price is likely to drop below $50.

* Not avail­able in the US domes­tic mar­ket, there’s another great DG box com­ing out, 23 CDs of record­ings from the great con­duc­tor Rafael Kube­lik. This one col­lects the com­plete sym­phonies of Mahler, Beethoven, Dvo­rak, and Schu­mann. These are fine record­ings and this box is a great value.

* Beethoven Sym­phonies 1 — 9, George Szell con­duct­ing the Cleve­land Orches­tra. The best first choice for a Beethoven set, and arguably the finest cycle ever recorded, this has gone in and out of print for the last thirty years, but is avail­able again for less than $20. If you don’t have this, order it today.