Mahler: Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand"
Even though Gustav Mahler's vast "Symphony No. 8 in E flat major, Symphony of a Thousand," is the most difficult of his works to mount -- with an expanded orchestra, an organ, eight vocal soloists, boys choir, two large adult choirs, and an off-stage brass ensemble, it outstrips even the massive instrumentation used in the "Symphony No. 2, Resurrection" -- it has become one of the most frequently recorded of the cycle. Indeed, its increased popularity is due in part to the greater availability of recordings of the work. This Naxos recording by Antoni Wit and the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, augmented by various singers and choirs, is one in a long list of perfectly acceptable renditions, though like most, it is not ideal in every respect. Some slight coordination problems between the choirs and the orchestra make the Veni, Creator Spiritus seem a little loose in the tutti passages; and the the vocal solos and ensemble passages are given too much rubato, specifically at "Infirma nostri corporis" and "Da gaudiorum praemia," an effect that breaks the movement's momentum. Part II bears these affecting touches better, since the final scene from "Faust" amounts to a sacred opera in Wit's interpretation, and such flexible pacing is a time-honored post-Romantic mannerism. On the whole, this performance is enthusiastic and polished, and there are no dull stretches or major mistakes to complain about; for a good recording to study the piece, this double-disc will fill the bill nicely, especially at the affordable price. The sound quality is fine throughout, and many of the orchestral niceties missed on other releases come through quite clearly.