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Posted June 15, 2011
Dimitri Mitropoulos's Mahler from his time with the New York Philharmonic was somewhat over-shadowed by his replacement Leonard Bernstein. But Mahler recordings conducted by Mitropoulos from New York and other orchestras are of very high quality. Recordings of the 1st, 5th, 9th, & 10th Symphonies have probably the highest reputation.
Mitropoulos's surviving New York recording of the 3rd Symphony was severely cut to fit into a radio broadcast schedule. Luckily, there exists a recording with the Kolner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester of a full, live, performance of the 3rd Symphony from October 31, 1960. It definitely trumps the New York recording, and perhaps deserves a place among Mitropoulos's best Mahler. This new disc from ICQ Classics is the first CD release of this performance.
The recording has some significant historic interest, since it represents the very last performance by this great conductor. Mitropoulos suffered a heart attack during the long first movement, and, refusing medical attention, conducted the remainder of the work from a chair. He died three days later, while rehearsing the same work in Milan. I find it very moving to listen to this music, written by someone who lived much of his life with serious illness, and whose preoccupation with death played such an large role in his music.
The Koln orchestra shines in both the Mahler Symphony and Debussy's La Mer, which was recorded a few days before the Mahler, and which nicely fills out the second CD of this set. It's great to have this music available, not only for its historic significance, but for the music itself. This is music that can be appreciated by any Mahlerian, and not just a hard-core Mitropoulitan. The sound is very good: warm and full, with the excitement that comes with the best live recordings. This is very highly recommended!