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Mahler: 10 Symphonies based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Rafael Kubelik's lineage alone would seem to give him a greater claim as an 'authentic' Mahler interpreter than anyone else who has recorded a complete cycle. He was introduced to this music at an early age by such Mahler proteges as Bruno Walter and Fritz Busch, and his father (Jan Kubelik, concertmaster in Prague in the years when Mahler guest-conducted there) no doubt had many first-hand insights into the composer's performing style to pass along. But those biographical facts don't tell the whole story. What does is the whole of this 10-CD set, which speaks for itself. Along with a sure hand in unfolding the symphonic arguments made by these gigantic scores, there's a naturalness of timbre, phrasing and rhythmic elan that feels ineffably 'right' while conveying vividly the composer's musical character. Too, Kubelik's seating of the orchestral sections adds clarity to the often complex textures while also realizing some ear-catching antiphonal effects that are completely lost in other performances. An example is the opening of the Ninth, where the melody begun in the second violins on stage right is taken up on stage left by the first violins. Frequently this combination brings out the Czech, rather than Austrian-Germanic, side of Mahler's musical persona, but let's remember that the village of Mahler's formative years was Austrian in name only, and an approach that puts Mahler in the same family tree as Smetana is perfectly in keeping with the background that did so much to shape his personality. You'll be able to find other complete sets (or individual recordings) with more consistently polished playing, greater dynamic and frequency range (although the 1967-71 DG recordings are generally well-judged) or isolated moments of higher drama, but the combination of attributes here is difficult to find in any other complete series.
The great Czech director Kubelik is one of the absolute references with regard to the music of Mahler. At the end of the sixties, along with Leonard Bernstein was one of the first to rediscover the work in these wonderful recordings and even now you can feel the true spirit of Mahler, the feeling, the passion, the references to folk and roots of its eastern symphonies. The sound is great, despite the age of the recordings, a clear sign of the great skill of the technicians of the period (1967-1972)