Lorin Maazel's early recordings are the ones collected here and they are his finest work. Maazel was always a gifted conductor but as he aged he had a tendency to slow his tempi substantially, which I find conveys a somewhat diffuse and unfocused quality to his interpretations. His early work, however, is incisive, dramatic, beautifully articulated and well-textured. He extracts wonderful performances from his orchestras, with a special ability to make woodwinds and strings combine to magical effect.
Jack Renner and Robert Woods dared to aim high, think big and take risks. In 1977, they had the audacity – and the funding – to hire the Cleveland Orchestra and music director Lorin Maazel to launch their company, TELARC Records. Their debut album, Direct from Cleveland, was the first modern-day direct-to-disc long-play recording of a symphonic ensemble, and it put the small company on the audiophile map.(Simeon Louis Sandiford, SoundStage!2Network)
A Masterful Performance - This performance of Mahler's first symphony must rank among the interpretations of Walter, Bernstein, Horenstein, all great Mahler conducters. Lorin Maazel's tempos are always intriguing, at times slower than the norm, other times, faster. Never a dull moment in this, or any of the other Mahler Symphonies recorded by Maazel with the Vienna Philharmonic on their 150th Anniversary. Regarding the orchestra itself, it must be the ultimate Mahler orchestra, the string sections a perfect example of musical warmth and the brass a terrific example of power. If you can find the entire set as it was released originally, as 14 Compact Discs, please buy it, the performances are worthy of the extra money. If you cannot find it, purchase the symphonies separately as Sony re-releases them. Definitely worth it for these amazing performances. - from Amazon.com
Contrary to his recording of Symphony no. 4, Maazel’s recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 get divided reviews. My opinion is pretty much like this one from Amazon.com:
This is one of the best Mahler 5 recordings I have heard. The Vienna Philharmonic sounds absolutely fabulous. Maazel's has recorded the whole Mahler cycle with Vienna. The performance of Mahler 4 has become very well known. The Mahler 5 seems to be not as popular. This might be because Bernstein also recorded a great live version with Vienna as well. Maazel's interpretation of the piece is very balanced and clear. Maazel brings to me what is a slightly more clear approach to this music, but still with great climaxes. I really like the opening movement and the third movement scherzo. The balance between all the sections is really amazing. You can hear every entrance and every voice. This is a triumph of the players and to the Sony recording engineers. I would highly recommend this Mahler recording to anyone.
Lorin Maazel usually is a very good Strauss conductor, and he's at his best in these live recordings. He launches Don Juan with considerable gusto, and only the quiet passage before the famous horn theme sounds as if it could move a bit more purposefully forward. The orchestra plays extremely well, as it does in Death and Transfiguration, an interpretation full of excitement and (at the end) exaltation, and without a trace of the affectation that sometimes mars Maazel's work. The truth is, he has such a fine podium technique that it sometimes seems he does things because he can, rather than because he should–but not here. This performance, and the smoldering, sultry, deliciously trashy Salomé's Dance, are the disc's highlights. The Rosenkavalier Suite closes the program in ebullient fashion, though the music itself isn't quite so much fun as the other items on the program. The live sonics are good, a touch raw at the climaxes, but very acceptable. I do wish, though, that the applause had been edited out. Recommended.
"Between 1972 and 1982 Maazel was Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra and between 1973-79 made a series of recordings for Decca – all of which are collected here.
The repertory includes many orchestral spectaculars and Decca’s first recording in Cleveland, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, is one of the very best and a recording which has achieved reference status. “…. The precision of The Cleveland Orchestra is little short of miraculous… the recording is one of Decca’s most spectacular, searingly detailed but atmospheric too.”
This movie version of Bizet's popular opera Carmen was filmed on location, conveying a kind of atmosphere, a sense of space, movement, and presence that's hard to achieve in a staged performance. It takes the action out of doors for many scenes, with the opening titles superimposed on the bloody conclusion of a bullfight. Elsewhere the changing of the guard, the crowd scenes, the dance number that opens Act 2, and the panoramic scenery of the smugglers' mountain hideout all benefit from the freedom granted by movie cameras.
Maazel's performances appear not only on audio recordings but on film - he was the conductor for film versions of Don Giovanni (Joseph Losey's award-winning adaptation, mentioned below), Carmen and Franco Zeffirelli's interpretation of Otello.
Although primarily known as a conductor, Maazel was no stranger to composition himself, arranging material from Wagner's Ring Cycle into a 75-minute suite, The Ring Without Words, and composing an opera based on George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; and as if this were not enough, he was also an accomplished violinist (see below for a recording of his performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons)…