- Symphony No. 8 in E flat major ("Symphony of a Thousand")
This version of the Eighth Symphony is one of Sir Georg Solti's greatest triumphs on record. The conductor's high-voltage interpretive style was not always ideally suited to Mahler's music -- for example, both of his recordings of the Ninth Symphony seem curiously fidgety -- but there's no question that this is one of the best recordings ever made of Mahler's mighty Eighth. Solti sculpts this sprawling score into a coherent, dramatic shape. His muscular approach makes the opening hymn "Veni, creator spiritus" (Come, Creator Spirit) a true shout of joy, and the awesome exultation of the final climax of the Symphony is as overwhelming as it should be. Everything here works to express Mahler's spiritual vision. The mysterious opening of the second section (based on the final scene of Part 2 of Goethe's "Faust") is dark, profound, and full of longing. The playing of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is extraordinary, and the singing is also consistently superb -- from Heather Harper's ethereal soprano to Martti Talvela's deep bass. Since its first release on LP in 1971, audiophiles have treasured this recording for its sonic potency -- it still has tremendous impact. The original was so good that this new remastering doesn't really have much to improve on, but the recording now fits on one disc, making it a genuine bargain.