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I graduated from high school in 1976 and entered college as a music major in 1978; graduated and received my degree in 1982. It was during these years that I first began to discover and really listen to classical music. I've always favored orchestral music, as I was a trumpet player in public school and college. The Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms symphonies marked my first impressions of classical music. It was with those ears, tuned to those three composers, that created a lust for more. When I first listened to Mahler, hoping to find another Beethoven, I was appalled! It would take awhile for me to realize that I "had" actually discovered a Beethoven predecessor in the music of Gustav Mahler. A natural progression of genius. Now, I cannot get enough Mahler. I recently discovered the Berliner Philharmoniker's digitalconcerthall website and I suppose that one's taste's in orchestra and conductor might well be set by which orchestra and conductor one is first exposed to. I love the Berliner Philharmoniker and its principal conductor, Sir Simon Rattle. I love their interpretation of Mahler's Second Symphony. I have a vinyl recording of Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra of Mahler's Symphony No. 2. I love this recording, but the sound quality of this recording cannot match today's sound recording technology. And being able to hear every detail in a performance is of the upmost importance to me. Some say Rattle puts more of himself, than the composer, into his interpretations of Mahler. I would argue that all conductors the same and I find nothing objectionable about that. This is what makes Mahler such wonderful music. I prefer Mahler's orchestral symphonies, but have come to love the choral and vocal sections of his Second, Third and Fourth symphonies. The sound of the human voice along side the orchestra makes these works touch the heart of all who hear them. Anything that keeps this music alive and exposes it to a new generation is good. I cannot imagine my world without Mahler. So to conclude I'd say my favorite Mahler conductors are Mehta, Rattle, Bruno Walter, Leonard Bernstein, and Levine. My favorite Mahler works: 2nd; 6th; 3rd; 5th; 4th; 1st; 9th; Adagio from 10th; 7th, in this order. I'm working on loving the 8th. I think having been a trumpet player, might have something to do with why I find the 8th so unapproachable, but I'll work on it.
As much as I love 2, 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10, and quite enjoy 1 and 4, I've never been able to come to grips with parts of 7 and 8. In any performance the first movement of 8 sounds to me like a shouting match and the outer movements of 7 are its instrumental equivalent.
Gentlemen, The Solti 4th with the Chicago Symphony and Kiri Te Kenawa is sublime. The Solti 5 is perfection. The engineers captured the rich warm sounds from Orchestral Hall perfectly! The 1980s Chicago players match the very best playing from any of the great orchestra...period! Most of you already show the 8th as the best. The 4th and the 5th are there as well! This is the best Mahler cycle!
Here is my list of preferred performances. For number 3, 5, 6 and 7 I have definite favourites. Especially Mitropoulos' M6 from New York is in a class of its own. In my opinion it is the best Mahler performance ever recorded. Barshai's M5 is definitely the best M5 ever recorded. For the 7th, I can only endure Abbado's or Tennstedt's versions without feeling distress. For the ninth, on the other hand, I cannot decide between the many excellent performances made.
No. 1: Ozawa / BSO (Tennstedt / CSO)
No. 2: Klemperer / BRSO (Jansons / Oslo live not studio)
No. 3: Horenstein / LSO (Mitropoulos / Cologne)
No. 4: Szell / Cleveland (Karajan / BPO)
No. 5: Barshai / JPD (Barbirolli / New Philharmonia)
No. 6: Mitropoulos / NYPO (Tennstedt / LPO)
No. 7: Abbado / BPO (Tennstedt / LPO)
No. 8: Rattle / NYOGB (Chailly / RCO)
No. 9: Boulez, Barbirolli, Sanderling, Maderna, Chailly ++
Lied Von Der Erde: Barenboim
The various Mahler symphonies require different performing styles, and therefore you find radically different conductors in my list. I think for instance that Karajan's smooth blend makes an excellent M4, while it is an insult to what Mahler conveyed in the 6th. The overall best Mahler conductor is in my opinion Tennstedt, but he is never my number one choice.
Oh, this is fun.
No. 1: Bernstein (DG) or Abbado (Lucerne)
No. 2: Tennstedt or Jansons
No. 3: Abbado / Lucerne or Tennstedt
No. 4: Karajan or Harding
No. 5: Bernstein / WPO or Tennstedt or Barbirolli
No. 6: Karajan or Tennstedt
No. 7: Tennstedt
No. 8: Järvi or Abbado
No. 9: Bernstein (Berliner) or Karajan (2nd) - couldn't be more different!
No. 10: Harding
Lied von der Erde: Tennstedt or Bernstein (1966 with Fischer Dieskau)
Klagendes Lied: Rattle
I agree with eyeresit, normally I also find Rattle disturbing, not sure why. If I had to pick a single cycle it would be Tennstedt - they are excellent throughout (except the 9th which doesn't really come across as great as the others). Recently I discovered the Karajan recordings, very impressive, highly recommended. Not a full cycle obviously.
For those who 'live for lists' - No, not Liszt's.
1 - Bernstein DG or Kubelik DG
2 - Klemperer EMI or Jurowski LPO
3 - Abaddo DG
4 - Maazel CBS or Rainer RCA
5 - Bernstein DG
6 - Haitink Naive
7 - Abbado DG
8- Kubelik DG
9 - Klemperer EMI or Haitink Philips
Das Lied - Haitink Philips
And please don't argue with this list as I am right, even where I can't make my mind up. This is the definative list and so this topic is now closed. One final warning, do not listen to Karajan in Mahler and only listen to the vastly overated Bernstein in the recordings mentioned above. You have all been warned.
Doc B's list accords with my preferred choices for a number of the symphonies. Given this shocking discovery and the fact that Bernstein features twice on his list, I'm now going back to bed for a week until the feeling passes.
I am not Dr B nor have I ever been a follower of Dr B. I am also not a number but a free man. I am a fruitcake baby.
Nice try Doc, but eccentric spelling and consistent struggles with the use of the apostrophe are like fingerprints. You are Kolley Kibber and I claim my ten shillings.
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