Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Mahler: Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand"

by Simon Rattle
     
 
A performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony is never just an ordinary concert: With the huge corps of musicians it requires and the metaphysical heights to which it aspires, it's automatically an event of the first magnitude. In the performances of June 2004 that were recorded for this disc, that sense of occasion was raised to a still greater power, for they marked the

Overview

A performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony is never just an ordinary concert: With the huge corps of musicians it requires and the metaphysical heights to which it aspires, it's automatically an event of the first magnitude. In the performances of June 2004 that were recorded for this disc, that sense of occasion was raised to a still greater power, for they marked the return to Birmingham of former music director Simon Rattle to complete the Mahler symphony cycle that he had begun there nearly two decades ago. He's waited until now to record the daunting Eighth, but the payoff is a performance of consummate mastery, steeped in Mahlerian style and responsive to this epic score's countless nuances of feeling and drama. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra blossomed under Rattle's leadership in the 1980s and '90s, and they still sound like a top-tier orchestra under his baton. The choirs -- all four of them -- sing like the angels they are meant to represent, and the team of eight soloists is extraordinarily strong, with special recognition owed to sublime sopranos Christine Brewer and Soile Isokoski. The so-called "Symphony of a Thousand" is so rich in content and meaning that no one performance can exhaust its potential, but it's still hard to imagine a more compelling journey through the Eighth than this, especially after arriving at its conclusion, a culmination of almost unbelievably ecstatic power. This is one of the finest of Rattle's Mahler recordings, and it's now self-evidently a top recommendation for this symphony.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
Even if one always has doubts about Simon Rattle conducting Mahler -- doubts about his sincerity and his seriousness -- even if one has always questioned his radically wrong tempos in the "Second" and "Fourth" and his amazingly uncomprehending interpretations of the "Sixth" and "Seventh" -- one has to admit that Rattle has over time gradually been getting better at recording Mahler. His "Ninth" with the Vienna Philharmonic was more than tolerable and his "Tenth" with the Berlin Philharmonic was among the best in an admittedly small field. In this "Eighth" with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Rattle turns in what may be his best Mahler recording yet, a vibrant and vivid recording that is arguably the best since Solti's with the Chicago Symphony. Rattle's control of balances, of textures, and, more importantly, of tempos has improved immeasurably since his heavy-of-foot and short-of-breath "Second." Most important, however, is that Rattle's earnestness is no longer in question. In the huge waves of choral counterpoint in the opening movement, in the variety-show-cum-oratorio closing movement, and in the Barnum & Bailey final chorus, there is no doubt that Rattle and his forces really mean it. EMI's sound is so big it could comfortably accommodate Godzilla.
New York Times - James R. Oestreich
Sir Simon does indeed have an affinity for the mystical maximalism of the Eighth Symphony.... He keeps a firm rein on the cross-meanderings of the many vocal soloists, maintaining a coherent whole. And a leanness in the sound of the Birmingham orchestra keeps the work from sounding blowsy. In all, the recording seems a fitting capstone to a monumental labor rather than, as others have, merely a fulfillment of the duty of completeness.
Gramophone - Edward Seckerson
[April 2005 CD of the Month] Rattle holds the score in a perpetual state of wonder.... Rattle's Mahler Eighth is arguably the best we have had since Solti's sensationally recorded Decca account.
Philadelphia Inquirer - David Patrick Stearns
1/2 Everything is shaped with the kind of detail and intimacy that is more usually found in chamber music.... Rattle delivers an experience that's so distinctive, you wonder if you ever really knew the piece before hearing this recording.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/12/2005
Label:
Warner Classics
UPC:
0724355794529
catalogNumber:
57945

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Symphony No. 8 in E flat major ("Symphony of a Thousand")

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