Giulinis Mahler recordings are few but notable. The earliest is of the First Symphony, made in 1971 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra a performance that seems to radiate from within, full of delicate colours and telling details as well as a strong sense of architecture. Giulini conducted the Ninth Symphony for the first time at Florence in November 1971 before performing it on a number of occasions in Chicago, where he made his famous Deutsche Grammophon recording of the work in 1976.
A host of accomplished conductors including Daniel Harding, Daniele Gatti, Bernard Haitink and Eliahu Inbal lead the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in these performances of Mahler's Symphonies Nos. 1-10. Recorded in Amsterdam over two seasons in 2010/11, the collection also includes 'Das Lied von der Erde'.
You will probably be as incredulous as I was to learn that the greatest cycle of Mahler symphonies comes not from any of the usual suspects - Abbado, Bernstein, Chially, Haitink, Kubelik, Rattle, Sinopoli, Solti, Tennstedt - but from the unsung Gary Bertini, who spent the better part of his career as music director of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. Unlike any of those more publicized sets, each of which includes a misfire or two, Bertini is consistently successful from first to last; his performance of each of these works can stand comparison with the very best available.
"Bernstein stamps his outsize personality on every bar and regularly has you convinced it is Mahler's own" (Gramophone). Filmed on tour at Berlin's Philharmonie, this account of the valedictory Ninth Symphony is an intense interpretation, expressing Bernstein's conviction that modern man had at last caught up with the message encoded in Mahler's last completed work. Having made his famous 1966 studio recording of "Das Lied vin der Erde" in Vienna, Bernstein re-recorded this in Israel with the same searing subjectivity. René Kollo draws on the voice of a great Wagner tenor, while Christa Ludwig, the greatest exponent of the contralto songs at the time, is unbearably poignant in the final movement's fusion of elation and sadness.