Led by Lorin Maazel, the Philharmonia Orchestra are captured at their very best in these live performances of Mahler's Nine Symphonies. Recorded in concert at London's Royal Festival Hall, the symphonies include performances by soloists and ensembles including Sarah Connolly, Michelle Deyoung, Philharmonia Voices and the BBC Symphony Chorus. Praise for these performances has been near universal…'You get that audience perspective as if you were sitting in the hall, and its got all the energy and focus of a live or concert recording.' (BBC Radio 3) '…Maazel could sustain this score in a way that seemed to transcend reality…a tremendously moving experience.' (Classical Source) 'an extraordinary reading of the Ninth…a performance touched by greatness.' (Musicweb International).
This 16-disc set contains what is without a doubt the most distinguished collection of Mahler performances ever to have been assembled in one place. DG has sensibly collected all of Bernstein's Mahler for Polygram labels, including the London "Das Lied von der Erde," and all of the orchestral song cycles: "Song of a Wayfarer," "Kindertotenlieder," "Rückert-Lieder," and "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." All of these recordings have been issued separately to general critical acclaim, and despite a veritable warehouse of new Mahler discs in the '90s, Bernstein's versions by and large still reign supreme.
This cycle of Nielsen symphonies is a partial crossover from the Bis label, not a remake. The connection with Bis assures that the sonics given to the Gothenburg Sym. will be excellent, and the clarity of the wind playing, the inner detail and clean dynamics are a big plus. Jarvi isn't especially tuned in to the mystery and tragedy of Nielsen's later works. He zips too quickly through the first movement of the Fifth, missing its combination of anguish and chaos. He isn't expansive or joyous enough in Sym. #3, even though the subtitle is 'Espansiva.'
This Scriabin set is one of the finer offerings in Universal's Trio series. Vladimir Ashkenazy's crisp phrasing and lean orchestral sonorities contrast markedly with the lush appointments of Riccardo Muti's cycle, which relies heavily on the voluptuous sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra to make its effect. In this regard Muti scores over Ashkenazy in the First symphony, where the Russian conductor's crisp, no-nonsense approach sounds comparatively restrained (especially the highly emotive second movement). But the tables turn in Symphony No. 2. Here Ashkenazy's clarity and focus give much needed shape and rhythmic definition to this music, which tends to meander in Muti's hands. The finale is a perfect example: muscle with Ashkenazy; mush with Muti.