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More Details for IPCD 1005-2 Mahler Symphony No. 8

Reviews for IPCD 1005-2



Mahler Symphony No. 8

Mimi Coertse - Hilde Zadek - Ina Maliniuk Lucrezia West - Giuseppe Zampiere - Herman Prey - Otto Edelmann
Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor

Salzburg Festival 1960


It was a world event, this performance of Gustav Mahler's Eighth Symphony, so called the Symphony of a Thousand, at the Salzburg Festival of 1960. It is a world event because this live event was broadcast to as wide as Finland, to Canada, USA, Argentina and South Africa, to eastern European States, to France and England. Even today the event of Mahler's Eighth is a rare occurrence. But the meaning of this concert in 1960, on the hundredth anniversary of Gustav Mahler's birthday, couldn't be overrated in retrospect. This isn't only because of the aura of a one-of-a-kind concert, but by the content itself - the interpretation of Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand under the direction of Dimitri Mitropoulos. This outstanding work was enhanced with a dramatic impulse maybe never again reached.


Sure, such musical great moments you could hear until now on other recordings. As well, unofficial copies of this concert were exchanged amongst Mahler fanatics. The young Canadian label, Immortal Performances, puts out this performance again in a quality that clearly surpasses any release you could get before. It's not only because the sound magician, Richard Caniell, didn't much interfere in the original recording, as he describes in his Recording Notes, it is the tone of the presentation of this historical recording - so that music lovers can re-experience the proportional dynamics of the concert. In this he succeeded convincingly, one only has to hear the dynamic expansion of the second part of the Veni Creator Spiritus - Imple superna gratia.


The care with which the production was created doesn't only show in the sonics, it shows in the well-thought-out composition of the various articles and reaches all the way to the choice of the cover, including the interpretation of the presented motiv used on the cover. On the double CD you can not only find the recording of Mahler's Eighth, but, as well, the slow movement of the Sixth Symphony directed by Mitroupolis (in a recording with the Cologne Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra of 1959) and the final movement of the Ninth Symphony with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra of January 1960. These two highly interesting and very valuable additions are to be found at the beginning of CD-1 so the two parts of the Mahler's Eighth, the Hymnus, Veni Creator Spiritus and the last scene of Goethe's Faust II, are each put on one CD.


Dimitri Mitropoulos, who paved the way for Gustav Mahler's symphonies on the recording, proves in this legendary performance to be an outstanding conductor. The compelling power of this performance is by itself breathtaking. But if you hear a comparison of the most recent releases of Mahler's Eighth with Simon Rattle or Michael Tilson Thomas, then the performance of Mitropoulos is even more glorious. Especially it is astonishing how Mitropoulos binds together this gigantic, colossal masterpiece with well-thought-through and sensitive dramaturgy, and devises highlights and keeps the tension going also in the quiet and silent sections. So the Symphony of a Thousand doesn't break up in monstrous components (that would make the gigantic masses of sound even more difficult to endure) but puts the different sound elements and movements together forming a clear, compelling symphonic course. It is not a drawback that the many of the details are not as illuminated as by the younger conductors. The small technical mistakes played here and there are forgiven because of the extraordinary, brilliant rendering of the overall performance. Besides the visionary compression of this monstrous dimension into a well-displayed dramaturgy, it is foremost a vital rubato that Mitropoulos' interpretation distinguishes. And in the added movements of the Sixth and Ninth Symphony, Mitropoulos follows the energy waves of the music in a highly sensitive way and keeps the tempo flexible within a phrase, so that he can react in the most lively way to the changing tension. So this gives the performance a one-of-a-kind vitality. At the same time it is hard to believe how Mitropoulos achieved such a flexibility to hold together singers and the orchestra - smashing!


But Mitropoulos could not have directed such a gripping Symphony of a Thousand without the heart and mind of the phenomenal gathering of singers and instrumentalists. There are three highly celebrated Choirs: the Vienna Boys' Choir, the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. And there are seven first-class soloists: Hilde Zadek, Mimi Coertse, Lucretia West, Ira Malaniuk, Giuseppe Zampieri, Hermann Prey and Otto Edelmann. They all delve deep into the music, Zampieri's italianità giving the utopian power of the music occasionally a feeling of opera. And last but not least there is the Vienna Philharmonic which plays with such a immense passion that it deeply draws one in from the beginning to the end.


Of course, even a very careful sound reconstruction cannot make a historical recording an audiophile treasure: the praise belongs to Richard Caniell, the sound engineer, because of the extensive, outstanding abundance and richness of the sound of this recording. He has achieved this and has produced a document in sound of a breathtaking concert.


Tobias Pfleger, Editor
Klassik.com




Mahler Symphony No. 8


Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor


Salzburg Festival 1960


IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1005, mono (2 CDs: 126:13) Broadcast: Salzburg 8/28/1960; Cologne 8/31/1959; New York 1/23/1960


This recording was reviewed back in Fanfare 33:2 by Christopher Abbot and Paul Ingram, and perhaps because my name was mentioned in one of those reviews, now I am being given a crack at it as well. Mahlerians will, as the cliché goes, need no introduction to any of these performances because they have been circulating, in one form or another, for a long time. Their musical virtues, if not absolutely agreed upon, have been discussed extensively, and I don’t intend to rehash them. Suffice it to say that Mitropoulos’s Mahler was important when it was new, and continues to have something to tell listeners today. The sense of discovery is palpable, and Mitropoulos never lets the music tell us more about him than it tells us about Mahler—or about ourselves as a society. As a result, these performances don’t have the sometimes hysterical (albeit exciting) roller-coaster quality of Bernstein’s or the “let’s wow ’em” quality of Solti’s. Yes, those are generalizations, but they are beside the point here anyway. To the extent that Mahler can be conducted objectively and with a sense of assured, alert relaxation (I don’t think that is an oxymoron), Mitropoulos does just that.


So if these recordings have been around for a while, why is Immortal Performances putting them out there yet again? What makes, in particular, Immortal Performances’ Mahler Eight better than, say, Music & Arts’ 1021? Good question, and producer/restorer Richard Caniell addresses it in his well-researched and very enjoyable booklet note to this release. “Essentially,” Caniell writes, “the differences in Part I are immediately hearable in the larger size and orchestral tonality of our master. In Part II, our preservations and these previous releases largely began with the same sound but as they progressed conspicuous differences emerged.” In short, Immortal Performances promises a wider dynamic range and freedom from the gimmickry of electronic stereo and ill-advised frequency boosting. “In the CD release by a leading company in the field,” Caniell writes, “it was the tinny, underwhelming, gross reduction of Mahler’s heaven-storming finale in this, and the sets which pirated it, that finally convinced me another edition was greatly needed.”


So I did an A-to-B comparison between the Immortal Performances and Music & Arts releases. There’s no question that the latter is more compressed—try listening 10 minutes into part I, for example (and the discrepancy only becomes more pronounced as the movement progresses)—and there is an echoic quality that is completely absent on the Immortal Performances discs. It is easier to hear what is going on in the Immortal Performances release. That’s a two-sided coin, though, because one sometimes hears a minor crackle in the Immortal Performances release where none is heard on Music & Arts. All in all, the differences between the two releases are hardly negligible. What can be heard on Music & Arts is “prettified,” but perhaps not entirely honest. In fact, hearing it makes me feel a little guilty. What can be heard on Immortal Performances sounds much truer and more realistic. Not everyone wants truth and realism, though. After all, what else would explain the popularity of London/Decca Phase 4 recordings during the 1970s? The discrepancies between Immortal Performances and Music & Arts in the movements from the Sixth and Ninth Symphonies are much less dramatic. Again, there is a little crackle in the former, but not enough to be of any importance.


I think it is charming that Caniell retained the voices of the original broadcast’s announcers in Mahler’s Eighth. It creates period flavor, and if one doesn’t like it, one can skip it, because Caniell tracks the Symphony more extensively than does Music & Arts. (Indeed, Music & Arts meanly limits itself to one track per movement.)


If you’re familiar with Mitropoulos’s Salzburg Mahler 8 but never understood why it is such an important document, hearing the Immortal Performances release may well change your mind.


Raymond Tuttle
FANFARE
March/April 2010




Mahler Symphony No. 8


Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor


Salzburg Festival 1960


IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES 1005, mono (2 CDs: 126:13) Broadcast: Salzburg 8/28/1960; Cologne 8/31/1959; New York 1/23/1960


This release raises the recording era’s age-old question: can even the most sophisticated and talented audio engineer, let’s say, turn a sow’s ear 50-year-old master-tape into a silk purse consumer product approaching the sonics of contemporary CD recordings? I’d say, “Yes,” with certain reservations. And, in line with my family’s hereditary condition of being of two minds about nearly everything, I’d say “No,” and tell you what those reservations are. It’s not for nothing that I am Oblomov.


With regard to the “Yes”: this much-heralded recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, played by the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and the concert ensemble of the Vienna State Opera Chorus, all under the baton of Maestro Dimitri Mitropoulos during the 1960 Salzburg Festival, was one of the greatest, perhaps “The Greatest” up to that moment. It’s a performance of a Symphony that was rarely performed owing to the expense of the forces required. Listening to it, with its varied use of orchestra, vocal soloists, choruses, and organ, one can understand why Mahler and Mitropoulos were held in such high esteem by the public. It is truly a marvelous combination of all the forces required. With such an informed reading by one of the most avid Mahler interpreters, this recording has withstood the test of time and many “pirate” editions because it still touches upon the mystery and mysticism in Mahler’s music better than most.


With all this in mind, Richard Caniell, a gifted and highly professional recording engineer and CEO of the newly arrived Immortal Performances label, took to the idea of having his remastered performance of the Mahler Eighth serve as the maiden voyage of his new label, and released it during the summer of 2009. The exercise of the new technology, that is, the ability to edit by shaping the sound while in the digital domain, was expected to remove all the warts and blemishes of the broadcast tape CD. Plus, it was implied in the promotional material that this immortal performance—“The Ultimate in Historic Broadcast Recordings”—ought to approach the level of technological excellence that the latest developments in engineering had brought to audio and the market place. This is, I feel, an example of marketing hyperbole that raises too-high expectations, because no one can completely turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. But some come closer than others, and certainly Richard Caniell has, so far, come closest.


There remains an interest in “immortal performances” from the mono, pre-digital era. How do they sound? By just slapping the tape on and feeding it to an analog-to-digital converter and burning a disc, they sound about typical of the era in which they were made. But if someone like Richard Caniell undertakes to restore a recording with the love and care of an art-restoration specialist plying his craft to a damaged museum masterpiece, they can be quite good indeed. And, if your collection suffers from a paucity of Mahler, especially vintage Mahler, this most recent restoration is something quite excellent.


A final caveat: you know the computer acronym GIGO? That stands for garbage in, garbage out! In many ways, doing a restoration is only as strong as its weakest link. If the “original” was a broadcast tape, there was certainly some limiting going on. And if the microphone cables were of the old type, they introduced some colorations into the recording. And if the tape recorders didn’t have automatic limiters (which had some problems of their own), there could be some breakup on some tutti passages. All this is to alert the would-be purchaser that it is highly unlikely that he/she will get a perfect recording. What the buyer will get is a wonderfully restored account of the music, one that comes as close as possible, given the technology of today, with only a few momentary anomalies. Is it worth having? If you are reading this, I guess so. Can the best of recording engineers overcome the problems I’ve outlined? Well, to a considerable extent, yes. Therefore, I heartily recommend this recording.


Ilya Oblomov
FANFARE
March/April 2010



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