Mahler Blogs


Did you know? Gustav Mahler has a blog! Universal Editions is celebrating the odd conjunction of the sesquicentennial of the composer’s birth and the centennial of his death. That seems to promise a plethora of festivals and recordings, which is manna for a Mahlerian like myself, and sure enough the San Francisco Symphony has scheduled a Mahler mini-festival. It coincides with the release of their recording of the Symphony No. 8, which will all but complete their tremendous Mahler cycle. What’s even more exciting is that some of the concertizing will be a part of Michael Tilson Thomas’ “Keeping Score” series, which rivals Bernstein’s appearances on TV as a fascinating and satisfying production of classical music for a general audience.

What cycles will come? Deutsche Gramaphone will certainly box their Boulez cycle, and although I have mixed feelings about the recordings, once they’re put in a box all bets are off. Claudio Abbado has been re-recording many of the Symphonies, and they have been good to excellent; his new 6th and 9th are exceptional. Gergiev’s and Zinman’s cycles continue (I have Zinman’s new 6th to listen to and write about). And we can all tune into the internet and hear Bernard Haitink lead the 9th at the Proms, but only for a few more days. And, in the spirit of the music, and in response to Alex Ross, Opera Chic and Tim Smith, here’s my Mahler list of the moment:

No. 1: Rafael Kubelik leading the Bavarian Radio Symphony, in concert (Audite); better in every way than his celebrated studio recording
No. 2: Stokowksi and the LSO, with Dame Janet Baker, in concert (BBC Legends); this is astonishing and gripping all the way through, and one of the greatest recordings of music ever made. Don’t forget to breath
No. 3: Gary Bertini and the Cologne Radio Symphony (EMI); part of his superb EMI set, a recording that grows in stature with each listen
No. 4: MTT and the San Francisco Symphony (SF Symphony); exquisite and profound, extraordinary recording quality
No. 5: Daniele Gatti, Royal Philharmonic (Conifer); a conception that seems absolutely perfect and thrillingly wild in execution
No. 6: Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in concert (DG); incisive, focussed and aptly grim
No. 7: Simon Rattle and the CBSO in concert (EMI); very exciting, and conceives of the music like no one else
No. 8: Jascha Horenstein and the LSO (BBC Legends); extraordinarily beautiful
Das Lied von der Erde: Carlo Maria Giulini, Berlin Philharmonic, Brigitte Fassbaender & Francisco Araiza (DG); makes the case that this grand score is actually intimate, and the playing is exceptionally musical
No. 9: Bruno Walter, VPO (Dutton); on the eve of the Nazi Anschluss, a requiem, and not a comforting one – intense and profoundly important.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.

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  • Wonderful blog! the bits on Sibelius and Motian in other entries are excellent and insightful.

    May I suggest some additions to your Mahler list:
    Horenstein for the 4th, the 6th (BBC version), 9th (both the Vox and the BBC) and Lied Von Der Erde.
    John Barbirolli for the 5th
    Michael Gielen for the 7th.

    Looking forward to hearing Haitink do the 9th at Avery Fischer tomorrow.

    • Thank you Michael. I envy you catching the concert tomorrow. And thanks for the Mahler recommendations to – I do not know the Horenstein 6th, and will look for it, his Mahler is important to hear I think. I do like the Gielen 7th a lot, I have his cycle which is strong. I do disagree on the Barbirolli 5th, though; it used to be a favorite but over the years it seemed to diminish in quality and conception. I’m still looking for the ultimate 5th, wondering when Gergiev’s one comes out.

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