Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986

By Lewis M. Smoley | Go to book overview

SYMPHONY NO. 8 IN E-FLAT MAJOR
("SYMPHONY OF A THOUSAND")

Movements:

Part I : Veni Creator Spiritus

Part II: Finale Scene from Goethe's Faust, Part II

ABBADO, CLAUDIO/Berlin Philharmonic; Cheryl Studer, Sylvia McNair, Andrea Rost, sopranos; Anne Sofie von Otter, Rosemarie Lang, altos; Peter Seifert, tenor; Bryn Terfel, baritone; Jan-Hendrik Rootering, bass; Berlin Radio Chorus; Prague Philharmonic Choir; Tölzer Knabenchor - 2-DG 445 843; 10-DG 447 023 (1995) 181:20)*+ At long last Abbado completes his symphony cycle for DG with this stunning performance accompanied by one of the best team of soloists ever to appear on a commercial recording of this massive choral symphony. With such notable vocalists as Cheryl Studer, Sylvia McNair and Bryn Terfel the recording promises much. True to their reputations they sing superbly. Choral forces are also excellent DG's stunning sonics enhance the brilliant playing of the BPO, providing full dynamic range. The only surprise here is the lack of drive and intensity that characterized Abbado's early Mahler performances. Now a more temperate approach prevails, still generating enormous power but with a more majestic bearing. Without Abbado's earlier impetuosity, Part I seems mild and restrained. Legato playing is stressed over sharp articulation. In Part II, a warm glow pervades the opening and returns, after a moderately passionate piu mosso orchestral diversion, to the hushed Wäldung chorus colored in pastel shadings. Bryn Terfel as Pater Ecstaticus tries to sing passionately despite Abbado's mild mannered accompaniment. Too much restraint de-energizes the solo sections, causing intensity to abate. Studer, McNair and von Otter sing beautifully in their respective roles, and team up for a trio that blows by like a gentle breeze Abbado maintains both a lyrical style and spacious tempo throughout most of what follows. After the Chorus Mysticus exudes a warm glow, he is able to move his forces forward ever so gradually to a conclusion well worth waiting for: overwhelming in its grandeur and magnificent in its proportions.

ABRAVANEL, MAURICE/Utah Symphony; Jeanine Crader, Lynn Owen, Blanche Christensen, sopranos; Nancy Williams, Marlena Kleinman, altos; Stanley Kolk, tenor; David Clatworthy, baritone; Malcolm Smith, bass; University of Utah Chorus; Children's Chorus, Salt Lake City Schools - 2-Vanguard VRS 1120/1 (1964); 11-

-189-

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Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Symphony No. 1 in D Major ("Titan") 1
  • Symphony No. 2 in C Minor ("Resurrection") 33
  • Symphony No. 3 in D Minor 59
  • Symphony No. 4 in G Major 81
  • Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor 107
  • Symphony No. 6 in a Minor ("Tragic") 141
  • Symphony No. 7 in E Minor ("Song of the Night") 167
  • Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major ("Symphony of a Thousand") 189
  • Das Lied Von der Erde 205
  • Symphony No. 9 in D Major 225
  • Symphony No. 10 in F-Sharp Major (Unfinished) 255
  • Bibliography 268
  • Index to Conductors 269
  • Index to Orchestras 284
  • Index to Soloists 298
  • Index to Choruses 322
  • Index to Record Labels 334
  • About the Author 355
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