What a year. There are more concerts to come, but my experience hearing Simon Rattle lead the Philadelphia Orchestra in Mahler 6 Monday night at Carnegie put a cap on a run of unforgettable performances. Read my review of last night at the New York Classical Review here, and catch up on these reviews from earlier in the year of New York Philharmonic performances: Mahler 6 with Semyon Bychkov, Mahler 9 with Bernard Haitink, Das Lied von der Erde (and Sibelius 7) with Alan Gilbert.
Sharing reviews is always tinged with the frustration of not being able to share the experience, nor of recalling anything but the memory of an overall impact. But there’s a welcome exception: the Philharmonic has released a digital recording from the Bychkov/Mahler 6 run, and it is as great as my memories, one of the finest performances of the symphony you’ll hear. You can stream it/buy it from iTunes, or do the same at Amazon, where the audio is better. Note that the cover image has Gilbert’s name, but it’s Bychkov conducting.
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.
My friends at medici.tv, 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.
Looking out for your wallet, once again, so you don’t have to …
You may have seen [this handsome box set of the Mahler symphonies](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CSDCC8A/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER) 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 [importCDs.com](http://www.importcds.com/music/2750658/ozawa-symphonies).
(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.
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.
Great recordings of masterpieces from the romantic era. All highly recommended, especially the upcoming Harmonia Mundi releases:
- Otto Klemperer, Philarhamonia Orchestra, New Phlharmonia Orchestra: Gustav Mahler: Symphonies 2, 4, 7 9, Das Lied von der Erde
- Friedrich Gulda, Beethoven: 32 Piano Sonatas, Variations, Bagatelles
- Isabelle Faust, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Alexander Melnikov, Beethoven: Piano Trios Op. 70 No. 2, Op. 97 ‘Archduke’
- Jean-Guihen Queyras, Ensemble Resonanz: Berg: Lyrische Suite, Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht ★★★★★
- Jerusalem String Quartet: Janacek & Smetana: String Quartets ★★★★★