I'm a bit taken aback that Haenssler should label excellent stereo from 1981 as a historical recording. Kondrashin died that year at the age of 67 - the day after his birthday, as it happens. His Mahler recordings took place with his own Moscow Phil., but the present orchestra of Southwest Radio in Baden-Baden and Freiburg was under Michael Gielen, an experienced and exciting Mahler conductor in his own right, so the chemistry must have been good - better, I suspect, than with any Soviet orchestra at the time. Mahler wasn't a regular part of the orchestral tradition there.
The last recording of Kirill Kondrashin. It was made in the very day of his death. He was invited to replace Klauss Tennstedt, who had refused to conduct in Amsterdam. After only a half-hour rehersal Kondrashin managed to pass his own specific view of the score to the orchestra and the concert had a great success.
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
Even with 15 other versions of Rimsky's masterpiece of orchestral virtuosity to choose from — some in the top flight — this was recognized from the first as one of the most rewarding, thanks largely to Krebbers's exceptionally sweet, gently appealing and bewitching personification of the story - spinning Scheherazade and to Kondrashin's skill in pacing and shaping movements as a whole, relating the diverse tempos and building up tension and dynamics by careful control so as to create climaxes of thrilling intensity and power. the 'shipwreck' finale, in particular, was overwhelming; and this was achieved without resorting to the ultra - fast tempos adopted by some conductors to whip up excitement. The Concertgebouw's crisp, sonorous and sensitive playing (full marks both to the splendid strings and to the wind soloists) was caught with the utmost fidelity; but the Compact Disc's total exclusion even of minimal extraneous background now marks a still further improvement, as can be judged by the dead silence against which Scheherazade's pleadings are heard. The final coda is ravishingly beautiful.
Most recordings of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major present it as it was published in 1899, in the definitive four-movement version. Yet an earlier state of the work was the 1888 tone poem Der Titan, which not only lent its title as an unofficial nickname for the work, but also contained the Blumine movement, which Mahler dropped from the final score. Curiously, many modern conductors have incorporated it back into the symphony as the second movement, even though its slow tempo and sentimental mood break the momentum and excitement created by the joyous first movement.
When at last it was revealed what Mahler’s final intentions were regarding the ordering of the inner movements of his 6th Symphony, 90 years of theory, history, & performance practice went right out the window. For theorists, it altered the harmonic structure of Mahler’s A minor Symphony. For historians, it modified the meaning of Mahler’s “Tragic” Symphony. For players & conductors, it changed the musical progress of Mahler’s 6th Symphony. For listeners, it made Mahler’s deepest & darkest symphony even deeper & darker. With the achingly nostalgic Andante moderato now coming before the bitingly bitter Scherzo, the triumph of the opening Allegro energico sounds even more hollow & empty & the collapse of the closing Allegro moderato sounds even more final & total.
Fans of Gustav Mahler's joyous Symphony No. 4 in G major will relish this buoyant performance by Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, featuring soprano Miah Persson, for it is wholly in keeping with the light tone and merry spirit of the score and is as delightful as any other recording on the market.