Thursday, July 10, 2008
Mahler 8 - Symphony of a Thousand Mistakes?
What stunning sound the BBC engineers achieved for their live broadcast of Valery Gergiev's Mahler 8 with the London Symphony Orchestra this evening. Yes, the close miking of the instruments necessitated by the very long resonance of the building was evident. But St Paul's Cathedral is one of the most difficult spaces in the world both to perform and record in, and the BBC Radio 3 technicians produced some of the best sound I have heard from my B & W Nautilus 803 loudspeakers for a long time. Valery Gergiev's operatic approach to symphonies is not usually to my taste, but it worked a treat with Mahler's flawed but exhilarating Eighth. Quite unmissable radio, catch it for the next seven days here.
One of the talking heads introducing the performance recounted how the work fell out of favour after Mahler's death and how surprising it was that the work was considered for a time to be lacking the genius of the composer's other symphonies. Well that is a view that some fine musicians still hold today. Have you ever heard Bernard Haitink conduct Mahler 8 in a concert?
Yes, he did record it for Philips in 1971 as part of a complete cycle of the symphonies with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and I think there was a Berlin performance captured on video. But the reason why concert performances by Haitink of the Symphony of a Thousand are rarer than the proverbial hen's teeth is just the cost and logistical challenges of performing it. But presumably he will give it a very rare performance as part of his Chicago Symphony Mahler cycle?
My header image is a scan of the box of the original Decca vinyl LP release of Solti's Mahler 8 which was recorded in Vienna's Sofiensaal with the Chicago Symphony in 1971. Now that recording is the original long ride in a fast machine, and although I also have the CD transfer the original vinyl pressings sound far superior. Fascinating that Solti recorded Mahler in Vienna with an orchestra from Chicago, could it have been because of this?
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