Six symphony cycles to mark Mahler's centenary

Gustav Mahler - we mark his anniversary (Photo: Tully Potter)Gustav Mahler - we mark his anniversary (Photo: Tully Potter)

May 18 marks the centenary of the death, in Vienna, of Gustav Mahler. Few composers enjoy his popularity, a popularity that has grown enormously during the past half century. Once conductors aspired to record a Beethoven symphony cycles, these days a Mahler cycle is more sought after. As an anniversary gesture, we offer a number of different symphony cycles – The Gramophone Mahler cycle, A cycle by living conductors, A live Mahler cycle, A not-the-obvious cycle, A historic cycle (featuring conductors who knew and worked with Mahler) and a DVD Mahler cycle. 

But Mahler is a composer who draws strong reactions, and we'd like your thoughts and recommendations to supplement ours, so please do add your Mahler favourites (and dislikes) in the Forum thread we've started…

The Gramophone Mahler cycle

A cycle that draws on Gramophone’s current recommendations and The Gramophone Classical Music Guide, mindful of Gramophone Award winners (though we have replaced the studio/EMI Tennstedt Eighth with the recently released live recording from LPO, and the CBSO Rattle Mahler Second with the live BPO re-make).

No 1 – BRSO / Rafael Kubelík (DG) Buy from Amazon

No 2 – Royal; Kozená; Berlin Radio Chorus; BPO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) Buy from Amazon

No 3 – Lipton; Schola Cantorum; Choir of the Transfiguration; NYPO / Leonard Bernstein (Sony Classical) Buy from Amazon

No 4 – Battle; VPO / Lorin Maazel (Sony Classical) Buy from Amazon

No 5 – Philharmonia / Sir John Barbirolli (EMI) Buy from Amazon

No 6 – BPO / Claudio Abbado (DG) – Gramophone Award winner – Buy from Amazon

No 7 – BPO / Claudio Abbado (DG) Buy from Amazon

No 8 – Varady; Eaglen; Bullock; Schmidt; Rappé; Riegel; Schulte; Sotin; Eton College Boys’ Choir; London Symphony Chorus; LPO & Choir / Klaus Tennstedt (LPO) Buy from Amazon 

No 9 – BPO / Herbert von Karajan (DG) – Gramophone Award winner – Buy from Amazon

No 10 – BPO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) – Gramophone Award winner – Buy from Amazon

 

A living Mahler cycle

A cycle featuring conductors who are still alive and representing contemporary Mahler performance practice. 

No 1 (incl Blumine) – Netherlands SO / Jan Willem de Vriend (Challenge Classics) Buy from Amazon

No 2 – Royal; Kozená; Berlin Radio Chorus; BPO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) Buy from Amazon

No 3 – DeYoung; Women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Chicago Children's Choir, Chicago SO / Bernard Haitink (CSO Resound) Buy from Amazon

No 4 – Persson; Budapest Festival Orch / Iván Fischer (Channel Classics) Buy from Amazon

No 5 – BPO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) Buy from Amazon Read Sir Simon Rattle's views on Mahler's Fifth Symphony

No 6 – BPO / Claudio Abbado (DG) – Gramophone Award winner – Buy from Amazon

No 7 – LSO / Valery Gergiev (LSO Live) Buy from Amazon Read Valery Gergiev's views on Mahler's Seventh Symphony

No 8 – Wall; Heever; Claycomb; Karnéus; Naef; Griffey; Kelsey; Morris; San Francisco Girls’ Chorus; SFSO & Chorus / Michael Tilson Thomas (SFS Media) Buy from Amazon Read Michael Tilson Thomas's views on Mahler's Eighth Symphony

No 9 – BPO / Claudio Abbado (DG) Buy from Amazon

No 10 – BPO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) – Gramophone Award winner – Buy from Amazon

 

A live Mahler cycle

Few composers benefit more than the adrenalin-rush of a live performance; this is music that seems to draw its power from the presence of an audience. The list of live Mahler recordings is a long one, and growing by the month. Here are the ten symphonies caught on the wing…

No 1 – Concertgebouw / Leonard Bernstein (DG) buy from Amazon

No 2 – Persson; Stotijn; Chicago SO / Bernard Haitink (CSO-Resound) Buy from Amazon

No 3 – Fink; Netherlands Radio Choir; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Mariss Jansons (RCO Live) Buy from Amazon

No 4 – Banse; Staatskapelle Dresden / Giuseppe Sinopoli (Profil) Buy from Amazon

No 5 – VPO / Leonard Bernstein (DG) Buy from Amazon

No 6 – SFSO / Michael Tilson Thomas (SFS Media) Buy from Amazon

No 7 – LSO / Valery Gergiev (LSO Live) Buy from Amazon

No 8 – Varady; Eaglen; Bullock; Schmidt; Rappé; Riegel; Schulte; Sotin; Eton College Choir; London Symnphony Choir; LPO & Choir / Klaus Tennstedt (LPO) Buy from Amazon

No 9 – BPO / Herbert von Karajan (DG) – Gramophone Award winner – Buy from Amazon

No 10 – BPO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) – Gramophone Award winner – Buy from Amazon

 

A not-the-obvious Mahler cycle

A cycle of symphonies well worth listening to: they may not be the first names to come to mind, but they're all major musicians with something very special to say.

No 1 – Bamberg SO / Jonathan Nott (Tudor)  Buy from Amazon

No 2 – Rubens; Vermillion; Stuttgart RSO / Sir Roger Norrington (Hänssler) Buy from Amazon

No 3 – WDRSO / Semyon Bychkov (Avie) Buy from Amazon

No 4 – Tilling; Philharmonia / Benjamin Zander (Telarc) Buy from Amazon

No 5 – Junge Deutsche Philharmonie / Rudolf Barshai (Brilliant Classics) Buy from Amazon

No 6 – SWR SO / Michael Gielen (Hänssler) Buy from Amazon

No 7 – Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra / David Zinman (RCA Red Seal) Buy from Amazon

No 8 – Marc; Wray, Boesinger; Pecková; Grunewald; Winslade; Lika; Michaels-Moore; Europa Chorakademie; Aurelius Boys Choir of Caiw; SWR SO / Michael Gielen (Hänssler) Buy from Amazon

No 9 – Royal Stockholm SO / Alan Gilbert (BIS) Buy from Amazon

No 10 (ed Barshai) – Junge Deutsche Philharmonie / Rudolf Barshai (Brilliant Classics) Buy from Amazon

 

An historic Mahler cycle 

Mahler's dates (1860-1911) mean that there were a handful of conductors, born in the last decades of the 19th century, who not only worked with Mahler but who lived on into the age of recording. Bruno Walter gave the premieres of the Ninth Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde. Oskar Fried worked with Mahler and conducted the Second Symphony in Berlin in 1905 (when Otto Klemperer conducted the off-stage forces): he was also the first conductor to record a Mahler symphony (No 2 in 1924). Willem Mengelberg met Mahler in 1902 and went on to establish the Mahler tradition in Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. He was one of Mahler's favourite interpreters of his music. Klemperer met Mahler when he directed the off-stage brass for Oskar Fried in Berlin; the two men became friends and Klemperer later assisted Mahler in the 1910 premiere of the Eighth Symphony. He regularly performed Mahler's music and, late in life, recorded a number of key works for EMI with the Philharmonia. The London-born Charles Adler worked often with Mahler as chorus master and he too was involved in the premiere of the Eighth Symphony. He recorded a lot of Mahler's music, including the first disc of Symphony No 3. Leopold Stokowski could possibly have heard Mahler conduct, though there are no records of an encounter, but he was the first conductor to record the Symphony No 8. Jascha Horenstein moved to Vienna in the year of Mahler's death but studied with many people who would have known Mahler, Hans Rosbaud was an early champion of Mahler's music and Berthold Goldschmidt, a composer-conductor like Mahler, presided over the first performances of Derek Cooke's performing edition of the Tenth Symphony. 

No 1 – LPO / Bruno Walter (Testament) Buy from Amazon

No 2 – Bindernagel; Berlin State Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Oskar Fried (Naxos) Buy from Amazon

No 3 – Rössl-Majdan; Vienna SO & Vienna Boys’ Choir / Charles Adler (Music & Arts) Buy from Amazon

No 4 – Vincent; Concertgebouw / Willem Mengelberg (Philips) Buy from Amazon

No 5 – Philharmonic-SO of New York / Bruno Walter (Naxos) Buy from Amazon

No 6 – Bournemouth SO / Jascha Horenstein (BBC Legends) Buy from Amazon

No 7 – SWF RSO / Hans Rosbaud (Wergo) Buy from Amazon

No 8 – Philharmonic-SO of New York / Leopold Stokowski (Music & Arts, Archipel, Arkadia) Buy from Amazon

No 9 – VPO / Bruno Walter (EMI, Naxos, Dutton et al) Buy from Amazon

No 10 – LSO, Philharmonia / Berthold Goldschmidt (Testament) Buy from Amazon

 

A DVD Mahler cycle

Drama aplenty in these cycles with the cameras present. From one of Mahler's most fervent champions, Leonard Bernstein, via one of today's greatest Mahler conductor Claudio Abbado, to the hottest young conductor around, Gustavo Dudamel, ten to watch.

No 1 – LAPO / Gustavo Dudamel (DG) Buy from Amazon

No 2 – Armstrong; Baker; VPO / Leonard Bernstein (DG) Buy from Amazon

No 3 – Quivar; BPO / Bernard Haitink (Philips) Buy from Amazon

No 4 – Kozená; Lucerne Festival Orchestra / Claudio Abbado (Accentus) Buy from Amazon

No 5 – BPO / Sir Simon Rattle (EMI) Buy from Amazon Read Sir Simon Rattle's views on Mahler's Fifth Symphony

No 6 – Lucerne Festival Orch / Claudio Abbado (Euroarts) Buy from Amazon

No 7 – VPO / Leonard Bernstein (DG) Buy from Amazon

No 8 – Varady; Eaglen; Bullock; Schmidt; Rappé; Riegel; Schuklte; Sotin; Eton College Choir; London Symphony Choir; LPO & Choir / Klaus Tennstedt (EMI) Buy from Amazon

No 9 – Lucerne Festival Orch / Claudio Abbado (Accentus) Buy from Amazon

No 10 (Adagio) – Cleveland Orchestra / Pierre Boulez (Accentus) Buy from Amazon

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