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The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan leyden.freud@btinternet.

com Preface (for 2006 revision) Symphony (revised Feb 2006) Symphony (revised March 2006) Symphony (revised April 2006) Symphony (revised May 2006) Symphony (revised August 2006) Symphony No 6 (revised May 2007) Symphony No 7 Symphony No 8 Symphony No 9 No No No No No 1 2 3 4 5

Symphony No 10 Das Lied von der Erde Mahler Songs Boxed sets

Preface My synoptic survey of Mahler recordings first appeared in 1999 which means that in 2006 it is now high time for revision and updating. Not that my opinions as to what makes great Mahler recordings have changed in any way. Rather that the landscape of what is out there in terms of recordings on the market has. In the intervening years there have been many brand new Mahler releases to consider for inclusion, many of which I have reviewed individually on new release. There have also been reissues of older recordings aplenty. Which has meant that CD numbers and liveries have changed for some of my prime recommendations and also thought needed to be given for inclusion of versions that had to be missed first time round. There have also been the welcome official issuing of many recordings that were hitherto only available on "pirate" labels. It is a real and abiding pleasure to now report that most of the recordings which were at the very core of my original recommendations in this survey that were in hard to find and poor sounding issues are now easily available, sounding better than many people dared hope. You will see that this is marked by details of the new release and my own comments regarding the improved sound. Finally even more issues from radio archives have appeared but this time the trend towards master tape official releases now means that the days of "special pleading" for a concert or broadcast recording in terms of sound and availability is largely over. All of these aspects have gone into the revision of my Mahler survey which you now have before you. However, just because there have been many new recordings and newly reissued recordings since this survey first appeared doesnt mean to say that there are the same number of recordings to be added to it. Most of my original recommendations still stand and are only reinforced by the passage of time. What you will find new here are mostly additions to the core "must haves". This survey was never intended to be exhaustive or definitive and this has not changed. It was always intended to be a personal selection of Mahler recordings that I considered to be the crme de la crme. Mahler has been a very lucky composer on record and so the choice for inclusions has always been very hard to make. I have frequently rejected for inclusion recordings which, on their own, have nothing wrong with them in terms of performance and sound. Rather I have been concerned with selecting, sometimes ruthlessly, what I consider to be recordings of exceptional quality and importance. This

latter point is often at the back of my inclusion of recordings that seem to have something important to tell us in the history of performance, especially when you the collector might be thinking in terms of building a profile of recordings of one work. No conductor has "the last word" on any Mahler symphony and so it has always seemed to me that the ideal is to own a number of recordings of each work. That is not to say that I have neglected to consider those who regard one recording of each work as enough, most especially those new to Mahler or even to classical music. I hope all kinds of collectors, new and seasoned, can be catered for here. Mention of "seasoned" Mahler collectors prompts me to place here what I frequently have written to those kind enough to contact me. Just because your own special favourite recording is not mentioned by me, or is mentioned only in passing, doesnt mean to say that I have never heard it. It could mean that I have heard it, even rated it quite highly, but have decided, in the end, that it did not meet my crme de la crme criteria or fall into any of the special historical category that I have already mentioned. I can only repeat that the opinions expressed in the foregoing are those of this author, foibles and all. I have this time tried to include min "round up" some recordings which nearly "made the cut". I hope this is helpful and goes some way to assuaging my more enthusiastic critics. As always I take the quality of the interpretation and the performance as my first priorities over the quality of the recorded sound. In an ideal world a great performance and interpretation would always be accompanied by great sound, but this is not an ideal world. I will never discard a great performance just because the sound needs some apology. Where it is the case that a great performance needs "special pleading" in terms of the recorded sound you will see that special pleading and also suggestions as to the recording, or recordings, I would point as alternatives for those to whom sound is of greater importance. The same applies to the question of inaccuracies in playing. Those who know my writing on Mahler from this survey and my reviews know that I value "live" recordings greatly. Believing that the extra frisson that "the concert hall as theatre" brings can on occasions more than outweigh any fluffs or mistakes in the playing. However, since I know that this matter is a consideration for many people I hope that also is taken into account in alternatives given. Great playing does not necessarily have to mean playing that is always accurate throughout. Of that I remain convinced. As before, where it is the case that there is more than one recording of a work available from a particular conductor whose interpretation I admire then I make a decision on which of their recordings to include. There are, after all,

many examples of conductors having two or even three "goes" at Mahler symphonies. It is interesting, however, just how often the first thoughts seem to be the best ones. One matter on which I have relaxed a rule in this revision is the question of recordings that are not, at present, in the catalogue. What is or is not "in the catalogue" is something of a movable feast. Recordings come in and go out of the catalogue with alarming frequency. What is available in one country can frequently be available in another, and one of the biggest changes since this survey first appeared is the ease with which collectors can now obtain recordings internationally via the Internet. In train with this is the explosion in the second-hand market on various well-known auction sites. So, even if one of my favourite recordings is no longer available where you live, you might well be able to find one somewhere else or, failing that, track down a good second-hand copy. This will account for incidences of "out of catalogue" recordings now appearing with some confidence that a prospective buyer will be able to get it. It is a sobering thought to realise that I have now been listening to and seriously studying Mahlers music for nearly forty years on record, on the radio and in the concert hall of both the body and the mind . It is this experience and this experience only that I offer as justification for the opinions and choices that follow. I hope you find them helpful and stimulating. If you find them neither, then I hope that disagreeing with them has only deepened your appreciation of Gustav Mahler. Tony Duggan

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Symphony (revised February 2006) No.1

Mahler's first four symphonies are often classed as his "Wunderhorn" group owing to thematic and emotional links with settings of songs from the anthology of German folk poems "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" ("Youth's Magic Horn"). Strictly speaking, the First Symphony doesn't fulfil this criterion for inclusion as a "Wunderhorn" symphony as its thematic and emotional links are with Mahler's first song cycle, "Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen" ("Songs of a Wayfarer"), of which both words and music were written by him under the influence of first love and rejection. But it's a useful classification because the Wayfarer songs and the First Symphony do inhabit the same thought and sound world of symphonies 2,3, and 4. The First sets out a richly representative store of Mahler's characteristic styles especially as seen through the prism of this first period in his creative life and tells us a great deal about the man at that time. It also turns a key that admits us through the door to what is to come making the First the ideal work with which to begin exploration of Mahler's life and work. At the start there is a seven octave A in the strings depicting the mood of early morning in high Summer; in the second movement a clumsy peasant dance establishes a love of dance which will later grow to an obsession; in the third a weird canon on the tune "Frere Jacques" interspersed with cafe band music in Mahler's sleaziest vein illustrates his habit of juxtaposing the gross with the sublime; in the last movement there is music intent on outdoing itself in world-storming excess - noisy triumph exploding with youthful bravado out of self-absorbed emotional reflection. There are two significant quotations from Wayfarer songs as well to remind us that all of his symphonies will "touch base" in the lied at some point. An acid test for Mahler idiom is how the third movement is played. Most recordings and performances these days seem bent on prettifying it, most especially the opening double bass solo. You have to go back to conductors like Mitropoulos (Sony 62342purchase) and Adler (Tahra TAH239240purchase) to hear it played how I think Mahler intended it and these two recordings are essential for the Mahler completist and enthusiast,

though some limited mono sonics have to be allowed for. In his keynote lecture to the 14thColorado Mahlerfest Donald Mitchell referred to how he had tried and failed to stop the principal double bass of one of the worlds great Mahler orchestras "beautifying that opening solo and thus stripping it of its intended character and above all of its power to shock." I agree with Mitchell about this passage needing to deliver as much of its original "power to shock" and I long to hear modern performances where this is realised. There is an earlier version of this work with slightly different orchestration and an extra movement - a short, lyrical piece called "Blumine" - that Mahler discarded when he submitted the whole work to revision. The earlier version also had a title, approximately "Titan, tone poem in symphonic form". The title was also discarded with the extra movement so there is no real justification in record companies or concert promoters using the title "Titan" now when playing the revised version which is the one herd in concert halls and on record. To do so is to swim against Mahler's wishes, as also is the occasional practice of "restoring" the discarded "Blumine" movement in its old place in the final version of the symphony. To do all this creates a bit of a hybrid. You can hear the discarded movement still as it is sometimes included on recordings as a fill-up. Listen to it by all means but as a "standalone" piece of early Mahler. There is, however, a recording of that early version of the symphony where the inclusion of "Blumine" makes textural sense. It is conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud with the Norrkoping Symphony orchestra. (Simax PSC 1150purchase). The precise history of the score need not detain us since its a complex and by no means completely solved puzzle, but suffice it to say that what we have on this release presents broadly the penultimate stage in the works development heard in Hamburg in 1893 where it carried the title "Titan, Symphonic poem in the form of a symphony. There are even more questions raised by this recording, though. Not least the accuracy of the published orchestral parts that would have been used and their relationship to the manuscript at Yale University to which provenance is claimed. The latter is itself by no means a clean set of documents either, a fact the notes fail to mention. But discussion of all these fine points are beyond the scope of this survey. Having made these caveats clear I think we can rely on this recording taking us close to what Mahler presented in Hamburg in 1893, though it cannot be said with confidence to be exactly what he conducted. The differences between the First Symphony we are familiar with and this 1893 Hamburg version may not seem all that great on first hearing, but they are significant. The performance itself is not one filled with special insights, however. Were it not for the fact that this is the only recording available of the

1893 version it would not deserve to make much of a splash at all. No composer quite exposes the second rate in orchestral playing like Mahler and the Norwegian orchestra never rises above that level as they give us a workmanlike, but ultimately uninspired, performance with strings rather undernourished, brass on the thin side and woodwind failing to really make any impression above playing the notes in the right order. This is a release that ought to be on the shelf of anyone interested in this composers work. While we continue to await a recording of the score by one of the great orchestra/conductor partnerships it will serve us well enough and we can now move on to recordings of Mahlers revised score, the one always performed and recorded where we are spoilt for choice. For many Mahlerites over a certain age Rafael Kubelik has always been there like a dependable uncle, part of the Mahler family landscape. He made one of the earliest studio recordings of this work with the Vienna Philharmonic for Decca in the mid-1950s and that recording had a real sense of discovery about it. He was also one of the first to record a complete cycle after many years of performing the music in the concert hall, and that DG cycle made in Munich has hardly been out of the catalogue since the 1970s. Yet it has never quite made the "splash" that those by some of his colleagues have. Kubeliks view of Mahler is not one that attaches itself to the mind at a first, or even a second, listening. He was never the man for quick fixes or cheap thrills in any music he conducted. Not for him the heart-on-sleeve of a Bernstein, the machine-like precision of a Solti, or the dark 19th century psychology of a Tennstedt. Kubeliks Mahler goes back to folk roots, pursues more refined textures, accentuates song, winkles out a lyrical aspect and so has the reputation of playing down theangst,the passion, the grandeur. But note that I was careful to use the word "reputation". I often wonder whether those who tend to pass over Kubeliks Mahler have actually listened hard over a period of time to his recordings. I think if they had they would, in the end, come to agree that whilst Kubelik is certainly excellent at those qualities for which his Mahler is always recognised he is also just as capable of delivering the full "Mahler Monty" as everyone else is. Its just that he anchors it harder in those very aspects he is praised for, giving the rest a unique canvas on which he can let whole of the music breathe and expand. Its all a question of perspective. Kubeliks Mahler takes time, always remember that. Many others who tend not to rate Kubelik highly in certain later Mahler Symphonies if they were of a mind to rate his First Symphony might feel constrained to point out that the

First is, after all, a "Wunderhorn" symphony and that it is in the "Wunderhorn" mood where Kubelik was at his strongest. I dont disagree with that as an explanation but, as I have said, I think that in Mahler Kubelik was so much more than a two or three trick pony. In fact in the First Symphony Kubeliks ability to bring out the grotesques, the heaven storming and the romance was just as strong as Bernstein or Solti. Its a case of perspectives again. In his studio cycle for DG the First Symphony was always one of the most enduring. It has appeared over and over again among the top recommendations of many critics, including this one, but I believe it has now been superseded by another version conducted by him with the same orchestra but this time playing "live" and released on Audite. The studio version had one particular drawback noted by even its most fervent admirers. A drawback it shared with most of the other recordings in the cycle. It lay in the recorded sound given to the Bavarian Radio Orchestra by the DG engineers. Balances were close, almost brittle. The brass, trumpets especially, were shrill and raucous. There was an overall "boxy" feeling to the sound picture. I have never been one to dismiss a recording on the basis of recorded sound alone unless literally un-listenable. However, even I regretted the sound that thissuperb performance had been given. This is not the only reason I am now going to recommend this 1979 "live" recording on Audite (95.467) over the older DG, but it is an important one. At last we can now hear Kubeliks magnificent interpretation of this symphony, and the response of his excellent orchestra, in beautifully balanced and realistic sound about which I can have no criticism and nothing but praise. Twelve years after the studio recording Kubelik seems to have taken his interpretation of the work a stage further too. Whether its a case of "live" performance before an audience leading him to take a few more risks, play a little more to the gallery, or whether its simply the fact that he has thought more and more about the work in subsequent performances, I dont know. What I do know is that every aspect of his interpretation I admired first time around in the DG version is presented with a degree more certainty, as though the 1967 version was "work in progress" and this is the final statement. Straight away the opening benefits from the spacious recording with the mellow horns and distant trumpets really giving that sense of otherworldliness that Mahler was surely aiming for. Notice also the woodwinds better balancing in the exposition main theme which Kubelik unfolds with a telling degree more lyricism. One interesting point to emerge is that after twelve years Kubelik has decided to dispense with the exposition repeat and it doesnt appear to be needed. In the development

the string slides are done to perfection, as good as Horensteins in his old Vox recording. Kubelik also manages an admirable sense of mounting malevolence when the bass drum starts to tap softly. Nature is frightening, Mahler is telling us, and Kubelik agrees. The recapitulation builds inexorably and the coda arrives with great sweep and power. At the end the feeling is that Kubelik has imagined the whole movement in one breath. The second movement has a well-nigh perfect balance of forward momentum and weight. There is trenchancy here, but there is also a dance element that is so essential to make the music work. Some conductors seem to regard the Trio as a perfunctory interlude. Not Kubelik. He lavishes the same care on this that he lavishes on everything else and the pressing forward he was careful to observe in the main scherzo means he doesnt need to relax too much in order to give the right sense of respite. There is also an air of the ironic, a feeling we are being given the other side of one coin. The third movement remains one of the most extraordinary pieces of music Mahler ever wrote. The fact that it was amongst his earliest compositions makes it even more astounding. I have always believed that in this movement Mahler announces himself a truly unique voice for the first time and Kubelik certainly seems to think this in the way he rises to the occasion. He has always appreciated the wonderful colours and sounds that must have so shocked the first audience but in this recording we are a stage further on in the interpretation than in his previous version. Right at the start he has a double bass soloist prepared to sound truly sinister and one who you can really hear properly also. As the funeral march develops, a real sense of middle European horror is laid out before us. All the more sinister for being understated by Mahler but delivered perfectly by a conductor who is prepared to ask his players to sound cheap, to colour the darker tones. This aspect is especially evident in the band interruptions where the bass drum and cymbals have a slightly off-colour, Teutonic edge which, when they return after the limpid central section, are even more insinuating and menacing. Kubelik seems to have such confidence in the music that he is able to bring off an effect like this where some others dont. In the chaos unleashed at the start of the last movement you can hear everything in proper perspective, brass especially. The ensuing big tune is delivered with all the experience Kubelik has accumulated by this time, but even I caught my breath at how he holds back a little at the restatement. Even though the lovely passage of nostalgic recall just prior to the towering coda expresses a depth and profundity only hinted at in 1967 it is the coda itself which will stay in your mind. As with the DG studio recording Kubelik is anxious for you to still hear what the strings are doing whilst the main power is carried by brass and percussion. Kubelik is also too experienced a Mahlerian to rush the ending. Too many conductors

press down on the accelerator here as if this will make the music more exciting, and how wrong they are to try. Listen to how Kubelik holds on to the tempo just enough to allow every note to tell. He knows this is so much more than just a virtuoso display, that it is a statement of Mahlers own arrival, and his care and regard for this work from start to finish stays with him to the final note. So Kubelik on Audite is a top recommendation for this symphony and, I think, even surpasses in achievement those by Horenstein and Barbirolli to name two other favourite versions from a previous generation I regard as essential to any collection and which I will come to below. Like Kubelik, Jascha Horenstein first made a recording of this work in Vienna in the mid-1950s and this is still available on Vox coupled with a Bruckner Ninth of the same vintage (CDX2 5508purchase) and on Preiser (90669purchase). Horenstein didn't have the benefit of the Vienna Philharmonic and though the Vienna Symphony play well and idiomatically it's their contribution which lets him down, especially in the last movement where Horenstein's demands stretch them too far. The recording is also boxy and close-miked. Fortunately, Horenstein recorded the work again, this time with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1970 for Unicorn-Kanchana (UKCD2012) and this version supersedes his earlier one in almost every respect. The introduction is as clear and expectant, as with Kubelik, but there is a greater sense of space both in the pacing of the music, the playing of the orchestra and the more atmospheric recording. Horenstein shares also Kubelik's simplicity in the main theme but I like the way he builds in more mystery to the arrival of the soft horn announcement of, what will become, the clinching motive at the climax of the exposition. This is real concert hall "theatre" worthy of a Furtwangler. At the rip-roaring climax note too Horenstein's acute ear for the particular sound of the Mahler orchestra, for contrasts and for the special instrumentation. A slight slowing for dramatic effect is a surprise but such is Horenstein's long-term planning it doesn't obtrude. The Scherzo has more bucolic a swing to the dance and a nice trenchancy which contrasts beautifully with some perky clarinet contributions in the Trio. In the third movement funeral march Horenstein keeps up a slightly faster tempo than usual but, as so often with this conductor, his tempo choice is unerringly the right one for what he wants to say. He recognises, as does Kubelik, that this is a parody and should have the mood of fantasy too. His band interjections really seem to touch a nerve and in the quotation from the Gesellen song that forms the emotional core note the bassoon contribution,

the kind of detail highlighting Horenstein was renowned for as it undermines the texture like a worm in the flower bed - very Mahlerian ! When the march returns Horenstein doesn't force the "oom-pah" rhythms of the band but they make their effect which, it is surprising to report, is not as usual as you might think. The benefits of the virtuoso LSO of that period are apparent in the opening onslaught of the fourth movement: "The cry of a deeply wounded heart". Nothing seems beyond this orchestra and their contribution lifts the passage to an almost cosmic level, accentuating the bravado of the young Mahler. Horenstein refuses to wear his heart on his sleeve in the lovely transition into the lyrical second subject, so the great theme emerges from out of exhaustion as a consolation, heart-easing rather than heartwrenching. In the central section where the battle is resumed and the end signalled Horenstein, ever master of structure, holds something back for the coda and then with what potent nostalgia he paints the final look-back to the start of the symphony: horns calling from immense distances and also note the picking out of a violin harmonic. The end does not disappoint. In fact Horenstein even has a surprise in store. At the point in the score marked "Pesante-triumphal", where the horns should be standing up, Horenstein slows the tempo down in the kind of rhetorical gesture he was not usually known for. The effect is to lift the music again to another level and make no apologies for what always teeters on the edge of banality. In so doing he wins us over with his sheer audacity. This is a very special recording of the First Symphony that ought to be in every collection. There are a number of recordings of this symphony conducted by Bruno Walter available, but only two are studio recordings as opposed to some live "airchecks". The first was made in 1954 in New York and in its latestremastering on Sonyis certainly one for the serious Mahlerite's shelf. The playing of the New York Philharmonic, one of the great Mahler orchestras with a proud tradition stretching back to the composer himself, is superb and one of the jewels of this recording, along with the interpretation of a man who was the composer's friend and protg. But if I choose instead the 1961 stereo remake with the Columbia Symphony in Los Angeles on Sony (SM2K 64447purchase- a two disc set with Walter's classic recording of Mahler's Second) it's because I feel he penetrates even deeper into this work, even though the orchestra is not quite the match in weight of tone or commitment compared with the New Yorkers. Another gain in the remake is the richer recording in stereo. Walter's introduction to the first movement is a degree

more literal than Kubelik's or Horenstein's, but it's marginal and the stillness is sustained just as well. Though note how this is broken by the pizzicato interjections, startling us across each string section. The way Walter unfolds the Wayfarer theme is just as unforced and eloquent as his two colleagues but he favours a little more brooding portent in the lead-up to the soft horn announcement of the clinching motive and the recording allows us to hear a splendid soft bass drum with it also. There is plenty of raw energy and power in the great outburst at the climax of the development and the closing pages are perhaps more exhilarating under the octogenarian Walter than with men a third his age. In the Scherzo the feeling of being in the hands of someone in whom this music is bred in the bone starts to become even more apparent first in the way the lower strings dig trenchantly into the dance then in the way the woodwinds cluck at the inner voices and finally in the waltz element of the Trio. There is such a wealth of experience that you miss when you hear many later recordings that I wonder whether a sustained period of listening to a Walter recording really ought to be compulsory for all the young whippersnappers who think all they have to do with this music is stand up in front of the orchestra. But it's in the third movement the real profundity of Walter's interpretation becomes apparent. Of course he recognises the parody element, but he also manages to take it one step further, mixing with it just a hint of tragedy to make it matter to us even more. The band music interjections are beautifully "placed" with hairsbreadth judgement of rhythmic alteration, the Wayfarer song interlude is much closer to the original song which is an important and illuminating touch. The return of the march at a slightly quicker speed, another fine judgement of tempo, takes us deeper again because, if there was slightly less of an element of parody in the first presentation of the march, here if anything there is even more. This for me is the key to why this interpretation of the third movement is the greatest of them all. This is the kind of dramatic touch only a conductor of Walter's experience could have made. It's in the fourth movement you notice the greatest difference between this recording and Walter's earlier one. In New York his overall tempo is more conventional, even though filled with the special insights he carries forward to his stereo remake. In 1961, however, he is broader, grander and it's hard to choose between the two approaches as both are valid. My own view is that in the second recording he builds on his first and the gain, especially in the opening section, is that the music is less frenzied, more sky-reaching, rather in the manner of Horenstein even though I think the new York Philharmonic prove themselves the greater orchestra. Walter plays the lyrical second subject to the manner born and note the double bass pizzicato. Yes, Horenstein and Kubelik might be purer, but Walter's

special brand of old world nobility brings its rewards. Despite the broader approach, the central "false" climax is paced superbly and never flags. All the listener needs to do is be aware that Walter is taking the wider view, seeing a bigger picture, which then means that when the nostalgic recall of the symphony's opening arrives the more it stays in the mind. The coda towers as much as Horenstein's. You might argue Walter is too steady but you would need to have a heart of stone not to respond to the sense of completion and hard-won confidence. Another great recording from the recent past re-surfaced in remastered sound a few years ago. In 1957 Sir John Barbirolli made what must have seemed a landmark recording with his Hale Orchestra for the Pie label. This has at last re-appeared on Dutton (CDSJB 1015purchase) and deserves as serious consideration as the others we have looked at so far. Firstly it's possible to be aware, as with Kubelik's first recording for Decca, of a genuine sense of discovery being enacted. Nothing sounds routine, every bar is invested with a special, questing quality. The introduction to the first movement is achingly nostalgic but notice also the phrasing of the horns, quite unlike anything you are likely to hear today. It's as if Sir John rehearsed them specially for this moment. I also love the woodwind contributions which chirrup and twitter like in few other versions and lay the groundwork for a "folksy" reading of the Wayfarer theme which seems to light up this section with a rare gayety. In the transition into the development notice how Sir John refuses to yield to the temptation to slow down. He is aware, as he seemed to be in all his Mahler, of the importance of balancing inner detail with outer structure and this can be felt right through the whole performance. For "performance" it is, as this is one of those recordings which really sounds like it is being given live. Again the detailing of the woodwind is superb as the horns announce for the first time what will be the "clinching" theme of the movement. Under Barbirolli this also conveys a remarkable sense of a page having been turned in the "story" of this work. The burst of the climax at the start of the recapitulation has grandeur but it's still part of the overall structure and in keeping with Sir John's lyrical, folksy approach. He really manages to convey the many-faceted nature of this movement to a degree that is rare. The Scherzo is tremendous as the main material trundles along with weight and a welcome ungainliness, aided by some cheeky "up-slides" from the strings, which is surely what the young Mahler meant us to hear. Overall it's so refreshing to hear this movement given the respect it deserves as too often it's almost thrown away. In the Trio Sir John manages to stay a few steps short of mannerism and the effect is of an ironic comment on what immediately precedes and succeeds it.

In the third movement the double bass solo at the start is lugubrious, full of character and heralds a reading that rivals Walter's. Barbirolli recognises the parody, the many-layered depths, the grotesques and the ironic humour. Why can't more recent conductors simply listen to a recording like this one too and learn from it ? When the episode with the first band music interjections arrives Barbirolli just seems to move into a different gear, chivvying the music along deliciously, sleazily too, and with so much native character it's hard to imagine anyone could possibly play this in any other way. I also liked the way that in the Wayfarer quote at the heart of the movement Sir John manages to maintain the march beneath: a small touch but one that sums up so many like touches in this great recording. In the return of the march Barbirolli, like Walter again, gives it a slightly different bent. With Sir John it's a case of accentuating the kaleidoscopic textures, more chivvying of the band and a new tinge of the unhinged. The fourth movement brings one of the finest interpretations on record. There is dash and energy in the opening, the strings especially darting and diving as if on fire. The transition into the lyrical second theme is exemplary in its focus too and the string ornament in the theme itself take us back to another age, to Mahler's own time, perhaps, giving a hint of how this might have sounded under the composer. Maybe Barbirolli just intervenes too much in the big tune, but it's marginal. There is abandon and energy in the central section where every aspect is taken care of, including the famous "luftpause", usually conspicuous by its absence. The recall of the opening material that climaxes on a further presentation of the lyrical second theme glows and the coda brings a sense of joyous release that needs no slowing down of tempo or bawling of brass. This is another Mahler First that should be in every collection. There are drawbacks, it must be admitted. The playing of the Hall Orchestra of 1957 cannot match its more famous international rivals in corporate elan or weight of tone. Their playing has the air of the homespun and there are a handful of rough patches. Strings are thinner too, lacking saturation quality. However, the Hall's sheer commitment and the way they respond completely to what their conductor asks of them should win over all but the most hypercritical. Another conductor with more than one recording to his credit is Leonard Bernstein. His final one with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam on DG (4273032purchase) is the most easily available and I believe his best. His first movement is one of the finest on the market. It opens with a dreamy haze, beautifully wafted along by woodwinds and fanfares from great distances. The

Wayfarer theme in the exposition is sweet and unadorned and there's just the right amount of brooding presence at the start of the development, with a special nod to the cuckoo calls which come over as quite malevolent. He builds to the great outburst at the climax of the development to give a real sense of arrival and charges to the end with plenty of momentum. The main Scherzo material is splendidly trenchant and with a heavier gait than usual, but when the Trio arrives Bernstein starts to take the extra hand in proceedings that will, for me, ultimately spoil this recording. He can't resist swooning and hamming in music that really can't stand it: trying to make it too worldly and the result is mannered. In the third movement Bernstein takes a surprising decision over tempo to deliver a quicker performance than everyone else. I think he's trying to accentuate parody but at this speed I don't see how he can. Even the band music interjections fail to make a real effect and no amount of expression by Bernstein can really help at this tempo. At the start of the fourth movement there are a couple of agogic distortions which I find more irritating each time I hear them. Apart from this, however, the playing of the orchestra is second to none, as it is elsewhere, conveying well the angst of worldstorming youth. Inevitably Bernstein slows down to the transition to the lyrical second theme but delivers the theme itself in a relatively straightforward way. There are a few more underlinings to be heard in the central section but, on the whole, I enjoyed Bernstein's sense of urgency. It's interesting to hear that, unlike other colleagues, he didn't seem to lose his energy as time went on, but I wonder if he gives too much away prior to the real climax of the movement which comes at the end. The last "look-back" to the start of the work before the onslaught of the coda is as effective as the opening of the symphony with a climax big and eloquent. The coda itself is marvellous with fabulous playing from the Concertgebouw conveying a tremendous feeling of joy. I just wish Bernstein could have resisted hitting the accelerator in the closing pages. The insertion of the extra thwack from the bass drum on the final note might be as the result of a later insertion by Mahler himself on the score in the possession of the New York Philharmonic. With a little reservation, a fine recording with a great Mahler orchestra, sumptuously recorded. The current Chief Conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra is Ricardo Chailly and he has recorded this symphony for Decca (448 813-2purchase). These players and their predecessors have been playing Mahler for a longer continuous period than any other orchestra, but compare the Concertgebouw under Chailly to that under Bernstein and the difference is considerable. The engineering by Decca is first class and in the introduction the birdcalls and horns against sustained strings are magical. The Wayfarer song in the

exposition is sweet and refined and you can hear the acoustic of the Concertgebouw when the music fills out. I do just wonder whether the sound is too ample, too grand, for the distinctive sound of this symphony, though. The transition into the development seems intent on beauty again but I did think the first soft horn announcement of what will be the clinching theme should have been retaken as it's almost inaudible - unless this is what Chailly meant. However, there's a nice line in cello slides and a very idiomatic trumpet to compensate as the development builds. Chailly's is a romantic view then, but not one that leads him into mannerism and self-indulgence. I do miss the tang of Kubelik, Horenstein and Walter even though I find Chailly persuasive in parts. In the second movement the Scherzo is chunky and confident, but the Trio has a touch of Bernstein in that it's slow enough to lose momentum. Chailly delivers a fine third movement with a very insidious bassoon highlighted, but since we have identified beauty as the keynote of this recording it isn't surprising Chailly appears to "prettify" the band interjections. On the whole he does show more awareness of changes in mood in this movement than Haitink whose recording I have now decided to discard from this survey, even though he is still some way from the quirkiness and black humour of Kubelik, Horenstein and Walter. The "oom-pahs" in the reappearance of the funeral march have some sense of the idiom we should be aiming for but in the whole of this recording the effect is cumulatively like a scene from Breughel as viewed from behind the windscreen of a Ferrari Mahler in an Armani suit ! In the last movement there's great playing and recording to enjoy, especially the superb weight in the opening and the transition into lyricism is well-managed with a seamless continuity many of Chailly's contemporaries could learn from. He also maintains tension in the central section, leading us on with his sheer commitment. Here, at last, his performance does take fire and there is no question this is the best movement in the recording even though Chailly's priorities seem to prevent him exposing uglier manifestations. Not for him the raucous abandon of Horenstein or Kubelik, for example. He will maintain his impeccable manners at all times. Those looking for a modern sound recording above musical consideration need look no further. Next I would want to mention the version by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez on DG (459 610-2purchase). The idea of Boulez in Mahler is anathema to some people. How can "The Ice Man" possibly bend to Mahler's emotions, many ask ? My reply is that Boulez is just as capable of bending to emotions as any conductor and it seems to me it's frequently only prejudice that pre-disposes people against him. His First

Symphony recording is more than worthy of comparison with the greatest of the past and is also distinguished by marvellous playing from the Chicagoans and a recorded sound encompassing every facet of this magical score. Indeed, it's the way the recorded sound assists Boulez's ear for detail that is the greatest impression one takes away from it. As the first movement progresses there is a real sense of each sound being sifted and refined anew, but not at any expense of lyricism and natural expression. It's a fine balance Boulez brings off between inner detail and outer structure, I think. Lovely transition from a more focused introduction than that of Chailly also, and all the spontaneity you could ask for in the climaxes. In the second movement Boulez adopts quite a quick tempo so some character is lost in comparison with other versions, but there is certainly a gain in energy. The Trio is notable for its delicacy and turns this movement into a more classical structure in the process. Boulez brings out the latent tragedy in the third movement funeral march very well. There is quite a heavy tread which, coming after the lighter second movement, makes a fine contrast. His band interjections have less of the grotesque than I would expect (or believe appropriate), however, and this is a pity. As you would expect, the power and virtuosity of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is apparent at the start of the fourth movement and the transition into the lyrical second subject is as seamless as the best with a main theme that is itself a model of poise and restraint. It's at moments like this that those who dislike the idea of Boulez in Mahler would nod and say "Ah, 'The Ice Man' Cometh". My reply would be that there are great Mahler conductors of the old school who play it just the same and Boulez shows himself in the best tradition. The rest of the movement doesn't disappoint with the heavens stormed magnificently, the start recalled in as clear-sighted a way as before and a coda that genuinely energises. It's comforting to know that, even at this stage in the performing tradition, it's possible for a conductor to almost re-think a score and deliver something that truly refreshes and fascinates. I still prefer "the old guys", but Boulez should not be overlooked. Now to one of the two recordings conducted by Sir Georg Solti. The one I have chosen is his first with the London Symphony Orchestra available on a two disc set from Decca (448 921-2purchase) coupled with his first recording of the Second Symphony. I choose this because I think it's to be preferred to

his second recording in Chicago. Not that I rate Solti's readings that highly, as you will see. It's just that those aspects of his general approach to this work, and to Mahler in general, that I take issue with seem accentuated in the remake. There is a real sense of foreboding in the introduction to the first movement. It seems to carry too heavy a weight and, as the cellos climb up the scale to meet the exposition proper, there's a more robust character to the music that I think is misplaced. The development section carries on this feeling of one-dimensional clarity and when the brass bursts out at the great climax into the recapitulation there is a sharp edge to the sound which will be the keynote of this recording. The second movement Scherzo is very fast indeed and with absolutely no relaxation in the trio, so I don't feel the movement makes any real impression. The solo double bass is superb at the start of the third movement (Stuart Knussen ?) and Solti is certainly aware that this is very particular music needing special treatment. Even so, I felt the first interjections of the cafe band are too ordered and drilled to make the kind of effect Mahler may have wanted and which is to be found in other versions. The Wayfarer song quotation here certainly doesn't have the sweet repose of Kubelik or Walter. Like so much else in this recording we are given just what lies on the surface and no more. There are good "oom-pahs" in the closing section but, on balance, I sensed more of a Wagnerian approach coming through. The virtuoso brass playing of the LSO in the fourth movement opening is sharp and edgy, reminding us, if we needed it, just how brassdominated Solti's view is. He also indulges the transition from the opening material and the lyrical second theme which he then moulds and shapes in a very calculated manner indeed. It's all very heavy-handed. The sharp brass playing is in evidence again in the central "false" climax and the overall impression is of something "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" which is also how the climax to the nostalgic recall before the coda strikes me too. There was a time when this recording was praised to the heights but that was when Mahler recordings were far fewer than now. Solti's view will be loved by many still and his second recording with the Chicago Symphony will delight those who like his first even more. To me it seems to take all of what I count as negative elements and accentuates them. The First Symphony was the second release in Michael Tilson Thomass Mahler Symphony cycle from San Francisco (SFS Media 8211936-00022review). This is most recommendable and all the more surprising for a very recent recording when the competition is so great. I think it worth saying, though, that there is much less that can "go wrong" for the conductor in this work. The intellectual and emotional challenges are less. Provided he has a

first rate orchestra at his disposal and doesnt try to weigh down work with too much of lifes later baggage what is very much a youthful work then he should produce a satisfying version at least, and Tilson Thomas does far more than that. I admire especially the way he understands when to be serious and when not and in so doing he covers the multi-faceted nature of the piece and therefore takes in that youthful quality which I think so important. He never tries to paper over the cracks in what is quite an episodic piece either. Almost revelling in the inexperience of the way its put together. He keeps tempi up in the faster sections, stressing energy, but in the more contemplative passages brings out the imagination of the young Mahler very well also. Just occasionally he cannot see a gallery without playing to it, as we shall see, but this symphony is robust enough to stand it. The introduction to the first movement has just the right mixture of dream and clarity, the latter from some precise woodwind to disturb the old-world texture. This leads into a really jaunty and well-sprung delivery of the first subject "Wayfarer" song: a good example of Tilson Thomass propensity to spring the rhythms so well. I also liked the string slides at the start of the development section and the very precise stabs from the bass drum a little later well recorded. Touches like this involve the listener. At the climax of the movement Tilson Thomass colouring of the music continues to be imaginative and overall there is just the right amount of rhetorical moulding leading to a joyous dash for the end. This latter is a mood continued into the second movement which is breezy and confident, stopping only for a very witty delivery of the Trio with the catch in the waltz rhythm beautifully pointed out. In the third movement the double bass solo at the start for the"Bruder Martin"theme is far too well mannered and there is unfortunately nothing unusual in that, as I said earlier. Knowing what a perceptive and keenly attentive Mahlerian Tilson Thomas is I am still surprised he appears to fail to get the point of the solo like so many - or rather his principal player does. Tilson Thomas judges well the"Klezmer"passages a little later in the movement making the arrival of the other "Wayfarer" quote in the centre, warmly and affectionately phrased, contrast so well with it. So why not the double bass? I am sorry to press this point but it continues to perplex me why conductors cannot deliver what is needed. The return of the "Bruder Martin"march in the closing passage of the movement is distinguished by malevolent squawks from the clarinet and the distinction with which the deep brass play the counter theme. This latter contribution provides, for me, a moment of adolescent world-weariness that made me smile: a lovely touch matched only by the march music that seems to re-cross our path like something not too distant from the neighbourhood of Charles Ives. With this conductor on the rostrum, this is not such a fanciful notion. The opening of the

fourth movement is distinguished by some powerful brass playing well caught by the wide range of the sound recording. Tilson Thomas does hold back and coax out the big theme of the second subject more than he perhaps should but, as I wrote earlier, this symphony can stand quite a bit of such coaxing. Just as well really because this is the movement where he allows himself more of the kind of rubato and ritardars he would have learned by example from his mentor Leonard Bernstein - most notably in the coda where he "grandstands" unashamedly. Dont misunderstand me. It is thrilling to hear it played like this once in a while. But it does make me wish the decision had been taken by the producers to leave in the applause that must have greeted the close of any of the "live" performances from which this recording has been made. I think the end of the work, as played like, this would have sounded more appropriate with the sound of hands clapping after it. The playing of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra is sharp, alert, colourful and committed. The brass is especially distinguished with attack and depth. The sound recording does have a wide dynamic range so a few volume adjustments will be necessary, but nothing too troublesome. Among modern recordings this one certainly deserves consideration. Set against classic versions of the past and present it is hard to justify recommending it as a "must have", though it makes it in here for superb playing and engineering. When Ricardo Mutis recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra (EMI 5 749632purchase) was first released in 1984 a lot of publicity was generated by the choice of venue for the sessions. EMI had just begun working with Muti and the Philadelphia in their, then new, long-term partnership. But with time running out before the sessions for their first release they had despaired of finding a studio to use instead of The Old Met or The Academy, both of which were unsuitable. Then a chance conversation with a gardener at Fairmount Park just outside the city by engineer Peter Dix led them to an indoor baseball court in one of the wings of the parks Memorial Hall that, after some imported acoustic panels had been pressed into service, proved ideal for recording. The sound of this great orchestra here comes across with a bloom and depth that never gets in the way of important details that themselves emerge in an almost ideal perspective. In fact it is the playing of the orchestra that most impresses on first hearing. There is no part of this wonderful score that they are not on top of. The pleasure of hearing what was then and still is one of the greatest orchestras in the world playing this music is as good a reason for buying this recording as any over and above what qualities Muti might bring. Of course Ricardo Muti is not known as a Mahler interpreter. You could say that with this recording of the First Symphony he

was just a visitor to the Mahler canon. Indeed Im not aware he has ever performed any other Mahler symphonies since this recording. But there is no need for that to put us off giving it a fair hearing. Of all the works in the Mahler canon this is the one that is most likely to yield up fine results from such a visitor. Taken in isolation from the works to come, the First can still be viewed a great big nineteenth century romantic symphony with lots of big tunes and big moments and this is generally how Muti treats it. No special insights, therefore, no impressions of this as first chapter in a musical biography, just superb playing and faultless execution in near-ideal sound. The distant atmospherics of the first movements introduction are floated beautifully before us, for example. It is a rather still landscape, however. Not one that shimmers as evocatively as it can. A landscape without figures, you might say. I also feel that once the main material of the exposition gets underway the introduction appears much more detached from it than usual. A sign of Mutis Mahlerian inexperience, perhaps. Later on the development has superb poise but note the carefulportamention the cellos. These are correct rather than idiomatic: the score being obeyed rather than read and understood. Listen to Horenstein recorded in Vienna in the 1950s for the real Mahler experience here, though the contrast in sound could not be greater. The great orchestral outburst prior to the recapitulation with horns whooping like bridling stallions is built to and delivered with great sense of power in reserve at first then a real feeling of release. This is the first time in the recording that you have the chance to hear the fine acoustic of Memorial Hall playing its part and Im sure it will impress you as it did me. In the second movement the superb lower string articulation is a good example of the stunning orchestral playing to be heard throughout the performance. Perhaps Muti does just see this movement as only a jolly set of dances, though. In many ways this is what it is, but others can find far deeper resonance, especially in the sickly trio. In the hands of a Kubelik or a Horenstein or a Bernstein it really pricks at the imagination more where Muti is a little too cultured and refined here to get beneath the skin. Is he perhaps still in the first flush of excitement at standing before such players and wants to show them to their best advantage? The third movement begins very subdued and veiled. The lack of any real character andgrotesquein the solo double bass opening again suggests to me that Muti is really skating the surface of this music, again just obeying the score rather than understanding and probing it. As the movement progresses that dapper refinement I noticed in the second movement is still to the fore. In a movement that is one of Mahlers most early distinctive creations this is certainly a loss. However, again I cannot but praise the beautiful playing of the orchestra and the excellent balance of the sound and likewise all through

the last movement. Though here its now a case of a great virtuoso orchestra simply being given its head to revel in that new acoustic and the obvious confidence they have in their new Music Director. Here is all the power and depth of sound that you could wish for in a performance of this movement. But I was also impressed that never in the big romantic tune this movement contains does Muti ever become self-indulgent. He certainly has enough grasp of what is going on not to divorce such a wonderful melody from what surrounds it and pull it about like some ham actor reciting romantic poetry. At the very end the coda towers and storms but is likewise never coarse, never shouts at us and loses its temper. There is real eloquence at the end with the horns especially well recorded to round off a performance I was glad to get to know again, even though it can never be a front recommendation. In the final analysis Mahlers First Symphony is much more than the eloquent showpiece for great orchestras that Muti and the Philadelphia deliver. However, full marks to EMIs engineering team for capturing them on the wing and for reissuing this superb recording. A performance to stress this symphony as a stunning orchestral showpiece, with sound recording and playing of the highest order. Next, two recordings that might get overlooked, which would be a pity. Herbert Kegel (Berlin Classics 0090382BC ) has a very persuasive way with the main "Wayfarer" theme especially and puts a real spring into the steps of the rhythms. I also liked the unashamed way he gets the strings to swoop in theportamentiasked for or expected. It is surprising how many conductors shy away from this. In fact the string playing throughout this recording is of a very high quality and note that this is the Dresden Philharmonic not the more famous Staatskapelle, but they need not fear any comparison. I also admired the way Kegel gradually increases speed as the end of the movement approaches, winding up a good momentum to carry us to the end. The second movement has a surprise at the very start in that Kegel introduces an empathic and unmarked accent into the dance rhythm I have never heard done before. It could even become annoying on repeated hearings but theres no doubt its distinctive and the orchestra appears behind Kegel all the way with those string slides again apparent later on. The overall tempo for the scherzo is steady and ungainly and I find this more persuasive than some of the more impatient interpreters we sometimes hear. The vibrato on the horn opening the trio tells us we are east of the Iron Curtain but its not too troublesome. The trio itself is very suave and knowing and I found myself smiling all the way through as it seems as if Kegel might even be sending the music up. What an engaging guide to this work Kegel is. When the main scherzo returns that

added accent I noted the first time round has gone, which is interesting to say the least. Reedy and oily is the best description for the double bass solo in the third movement and Kegel certainly does little to smooth out the contours of the opening as some can. You can hear the harp tolling too, which is not always the case. I was also surprised and delighted to hear one of the best evocations of the Klezmer band passages from an East German orchestra, but that is what we have here - the sharp cymbals and the way Kegel suddenly accelerates the tempo every time the band intervenes helps immeasurably. When the funeral march resumes after the soft "Wayfarer" quotation at the heart Kegel surpasses himself with the band interjections and a feeling of winding down to the end. The final solo from that bassoon is very effective before the storms that follow in the last movement. After these have subsided, Im always impressed to hear a conductor keep the bridge passage that leads into the big tune in tempo, as Mahler requests. The big tune itself finds a deeply passionate treatment that stays within the bounds of good taste with again the distinguished string playing already noticed. In terms of execution and virtuosity this orchestra does lack the whip-crack style of some of their more famous rivals. This movement also exposes a lack of real tone in the brass section that bray a little when playing full out and it is here the recording balance, though natural and open in a quite large church acoustic, shows its analogue origin. But the playing from all departments is committed, idiomatic and full to the brim of Mahlerian colour. Not least in the emotional core of the whole work where Mahler brings back the birdcalls and the morning mood of the opening prior to the great peroration at the close. No one could fail to be moved by Kegels response here. The coda itself is quite fast and some will find that a minus. I suppose I do too, but in the context of such a lively and interesting recording I can forgive Kegel for driving to the end with such gusto. In concert this would have raised the roof, which is what Mahler was trying to do after all. A fascinating performance - for me it was a real find with much to enjoy and reflect on. Not quite top flight but very well worth investigating and a real find.. Another recording which might get overlooked is by Gunther Neuhold and the Badische Staatskapelle (Bella Musica BM-CD31.9042). On the cover we are told that this is "Mahlers First Symphony in its original version". But this is not the case. What we have is another recording of Mahlers First that includes "Blumine" as explained above. Having got that off my chest let me now deal with the music because I wouldnt want it to deter you from considering this recording. Its easy to overlook labels, orchestras and conductors with whom we may be unfamiliar and in this case that would be a pity as this recording is

capable of holding its own among stiff competition. In the first movement Neuhold and his orchestra manage the opening harmonies well with a fresh rather than a dreamy opening, and I always prefer it like that. Neuhold is one of those conductors (Kubelik was another) who appreciate that this is a young mans composition with lots of lift and vigour to it. Within that he can make his cellos play some lovely slides and the climax of the movement bursts out with a great feeling of release following excellent preparation. As I wrote above, "Blumine" is then placed second on the disc so I would advise you to programme the CD player to skip over it and play it later as a separate item. That said, I like the way that Neuhold treats this as a fleet intermezzo but with a sweet trumpet at the centre and, once again, idiomatic string playing. By the arrival of the Scherzo we can hear how much Neuhold grasps the particular sound of this symphony. The high woodwinds impress and the "ground-bass" of the lower strings too. Notice also the slight slowing down for the trio section that Neuhold here presents as a delicate little dance. In what is usually the third movement the solo bass player goes some way further than many colleagues in making his instrument sound distinctive, but not as far as he might. The pace of this movement is just right to allow the "caf band" passages to tell, though. Then the "Wayfarer" emotional core comes over as beautifully withdrawn and chaste. The effect of the movement is like a series of layers Neuhold pulls back one by one. The last movement bursts in impetuous and raucous. The great theme after the storm is excellently phrased without a hint of mannerism and I like the way the Neuhold keeps the whole movement bowling along with panache. In the coda there is weight but also joy and a sense of release bringing to an end a "live" performance that fully deserves the warm applause of the audience who have been so well-behaved I had no idea they had been there until then. A really good recording of the First Symphony, lively and sensitive in all the right places. More desirable versions are available showing even greater insight, as outlined above, but there are some full-priced versions that suffer by comparison. Represented here are some superbly engineered recordings, some great playing and some great conducting. There are many other recordings of this work on the market, of course, but none of those that I have heard add any more to the ones above and certainly none, in my opinion, surpass the best. There is a fine recording by Mariss Jansons (Simax PSC 1270) made in Oslo, for example, but as it is coupled with a disappointing Ninth it cannot really be considered. Kurt Masur is dull, Colin Davis is too. Yoel Levi is very wellrecorded but is only a "surface-scratcher", as is Seji Ozawa. Klaus Tennstedt in Chicago is wonderfully caught "on the wing" by EMI (CDC 7 54217 2), a

real "ride of your life" as always with him but, for me, he overcooks the dish with excessive excitement in the wrong places. The recordings by Rattle, Maazel, Zander and Gielen are good as First Symphony recordings to go with those conductors complete cycles but not, I think, quite the equal to those outlined above as individual recommendations. Inbal conducts a fine First too but as his is only available as part of his complete cycle I will deal with it in my survey of boxed sets, likewise Gary Bertinis. To sum up, Kubelik on Audite, Barbirolli on Dutton, Horenstein on Unicorn, Walter on Sony, and Bernstein on DG, with Kegel as a "wild-card" are the current Mahler First recordings for a lifetime. Tony Duggan

Symphony revised March 06




Each of the three "Wunderhorn" symphonies (2, 3 and 4) uses one of Mahlers song settings from that collection of German folk poetry as a kind of "beating heart" to the whole work. Each of the three symphonies also has strong programmatic elements. In the case of the Second and Third, there were detailed programmes that Mahler later tried to discard rather as a builder might dispose of scaffolding. But the programmes remain to study and light the way through these huge works. The Second was composed between 1888 and 1894 and this span of years indicates its difficult birth. The long first movement began as a standalone symphonic poem based on a novel sonataform structure with, to put it simply, two development sections. It was called "Todtenfeier" ("Funeral Rites") and provided the rock on which Mahler would subsequently build the rest as his imagination fed his creativity. By the time he had finished the whole five movement symphony, helped towards the end out of a creative block by hearing a setting of Klopstock's Resurrection Ode at the funeral of the conductor Von Blow, Mahler had created an audacious piece of concert hall theatre, part choral symphony, part oratorio, that delved in the most spectacular fashion into nothing less than the whole question of immortality. Using immense forces he ended up trying to dramatise in music the struggle of mankind towards eternal salvation. As he himself said: What was the purpose of struggling through life whilst alive? After death would any meaning for life be revealed? Was there salvation or damnation awaiting? For the conductor the challenge is to unite this diverse structure both musically and emotionally and it is one which prompts a diverse set of responses. The Second has the distinction of being the first ever Mahler symphony to be recorded "complete". Though I do use that word with some care and you will soon see why. The recording was made around 1924 by Berlin State Opera forces conducted by Oscar Fried. Fried knew Mahler quite well, admired him, and it seems Mahler thought quite highly of Fried. Mahler was even present at a performance Fried gave of the Second in Berlin where the offstage band was conducted by a young whippersnapper called Otto Klemperer and was complimentary to both men. Surely this should make the recording Fried made in the 1920s of the highest value? Well, no. I have to say I have never shared the reverence many Mahlerites feel for this fabled recording. I even wonder whether some of its cult status springs from the fact that it was unavailable for so many years, only re-appearing since its original release in

the 1980s on an LP transfer by Pearl Opal. It does have some interest and it does have a little to tell us, but I really believe we should be careful in drawing too many conclusions from it. It was made just before electrical recording became the norm and so the considerable drawbacks of the acoustic process are all too obvious and all too limiting. Remember, in order to bring off what remains a remarkable achievement for the time the orchestra had to be thinned down drastically, the music re-scored to cope with that (including a bass tuba to fill out the basses) and what musicians and singers were left had then to be sardine-crammed together in front of an immense recording horn whose cutting stylus would scratch out whatever came through on to the wax disc on the turntable. Not so much Mahler by Fried as "Fried Mahler". All of that before you have to take into account the need for breaking off every four minutes to change the discs. This means that what we do hear can only be a pale impression of what Frieds performance of Mahlers Second might have sounded like in the concert hall. Not enough to draw any firm conclusions in anything other than some aspects of phrasing and tempo and general enthusiasm. Ward Marston has done his usual sterling best with commercial pressings for Naxos (8.110152-53), but this cannot alter the fact that what you will hear is constricted, in limited sound, with pitch that is indeterminate and playing with lots of mistakes. Mahlers wonderful scoring merely hovers like a phantom in your mind. I am prepared to admit that, using imagination and good knowledge of the work, I can use this recording to bring myself to believe that Frieds performance in the concert hall might have indeed been impressive. Other than that this is really the audio equivalent of watching that grainy, jumpy, flawed and fuzzy monochrome short film footage of the funeral of Edward VII in 1910 passing by a single hand-cranked camera and then trying to imagine what it might have looked like if high definition colour TV cameras had been present on the entire journey from palace to cathedral. A big leap of imagination, not to mention faith, is needed. Have it in your collection by all means. There are in the set some other remarkable and better sounding electrical recordings of pioneering Mahler performances. But curb your enthusiasm for the symphony recording, please. Bruno Walter was Mahler's protg and disciple and a man much closer to him than Oscar Fried. So Walters view of this work does carry immense importance. Fortunately we can hear it in fine stereo albeit some four decades after Mahlers death. His 1958 New York Philharmonic recording on Sony (SM2K 64447 coupled with his classic stereo recording of the first praised in

my survey of that work) is always required listening. The opening challenge of the first movement has the right amount of weight and breadth to fix itself in our minds but also bring to us up with a start suggesting great events about to unfold. The lovely ascending transitional theme that follows flows naturally and is given lyrical grace and lift by the sensitivity of the conducting and the playing of an orchestra steeped in Mahler's music. Under Walter this is already essentially the funeral march/lament Mahler meant it to be. What we can call the first development is the passage that starts with another soft ascending theme in the strings, just as the music appears to have settled down to sleep. Under Walter this has a directness that maintains funereal momentum and yet has the power to move us. Note the pastoral element with the cor anglais. Handled by Walter it's a masterly example of how to allow music to speak for itself. As the movement gathers for the next climax, in the lower strings you will hear a heavy tread re-entering the picture indicating the kind of long-term planning a lifetime's experience brings. Then with a restatement of the opening challenge we are into the second development, full of portent and a fine sense of the long crescendo culminating at last in the recapitulation crisis, an unforgettable passage with crashing brass chords ripping the fabric. This is arrived at under Walter with a controlled intensity that marks a fine sense of inner tension. The reprise of the movement's introduction under Walter reminds us that life is a wheel and the recapitulation is a bitter pill to swallow that not even the lyricism of the rising motive can lift. All in all, a formidable performance of the first movement. The second movement should contrast with the first. In fact, Mahler was so concerned about this that he asks for a five minute pause. Here Mahler is trying to show an interlude in the life of the person deceased in the first movement. Under Walter it doesn't quite contrast as much as it can. A fine reading, however, with the air of a veiled dance and dance is what does lie behind this with Mahler's favourite lndler lurking magically subdued. There is a lifetime's experience in Walter's reading again. No sense of having to force a personality on the music's dark lyricism and with lower strings continuing the purpled-hued qualities of the first movement. When the music becomes more passionate and striving Walter sees even more relationship between this and the first movement. Even the closing section, with pizzicato strings, brings a whispered, phantom-like quality. A triumph of form balanced with content. The third movement is where all the irony and bitterness inherent in asking the great questions of life whose conundrum Mahler is trying to crack come to the fore, or they should. Based on Mahler's earlier setting of the Wunderhorn song about Saint Francis preaching a sermon to

birds and fishes who remain uncomprehending and unchanged by the experience, there should be an air of futility and illogic about it: a mocking treadmill punctuated by the clacking of the rute with the world seen through a concave mirror, as Mahler described it. This is where despair and desperation should enter the soul. Fine though Walter is, he doesn't lift us all that much from the grim, elegiac quality we have noticed in his reading. There are details highlighted, but the rhythms and interjections can be made so much more of than here. The brass outbursts that spin the music along are a mite restrained too. There is a lovely trumpet solo at the heart of this movement, however, and under Walter this emerges sweet and golden but, again, more might be made of its crucial role as a vision of nostalgic hope in the middle of what ought to be a horrible, grinding experience. Towards the end we come to the emotional core of the movement, one of the crucial "way points" of the work, what Mahler refers to as a "cry of disgust". Under Walter this seems robbed of a greater power. More a cry of distaste than disgust. In the fourth movement we hear Maureen Forrester, one of the greatest Mahler singers, and her presence is one of this recording's virtues, as also is the restrained way Walter accompanies her, prayerful and tender, as hope in the form of the Wunderhorn poem "Urlicht" ("Primal Light") about entreating an Angel to light the way to God prepares us for the cataclysm to come in the fifth movement where the drama of resurrection of the whole of mankind is played out, moved from the personal to the universal. This immense series of tableaux takes us on a journey from death to resurrection and it is here Mahler's astounding imagination finally shakes itself free and goes for broke. The huge movement, where any idea of symphonic form finally is abandoned, must carry a dramatic charge, the strength to maintain itself in moments of vast repose, and encompass a real sense of huge events developing around us in an ordered and yet unorderly fashion. No apologies must be made by the conductor. It must move, inspire, terrify, entertain, go to our very deepest centres and bring resolution and consolation. Under Walter there is a drastic opening with fine lower strings underpinning. The first outburst dies away to leave us with the distant horn calling as "the voice crying in the wilderness" and here Walter's sense of charged nostalgia is never more in evidence than in the way he builds gradually with a superb sense of architecture towards the first announcement of the crucial "Oh Glaube" ("Oh believe") theme that will keep coming back at strategic points to haunt us as an entreaty. Its first appearance is rather smoothly taken, more stress on symphonic growth. The vast climax on fanfares that marks the close of the first section arrives with weight and power but doesn't overwhelm as it should. It's as if Walter is holding back. This moment can really thrill under the right conductor but with Walter it merely

impresses. There then follow two huge crescendi on percussion and brass that portray the bursting open of all the graves of mankind's dead. Under Walter they are not really long enough, or loud enough, to carry the seismic shock built into them and so are slightly disappointing when you know what can be done with them. The great march that follows is meant to portray the trooping to glory of the souls of mankind and this is paced about right here but doesn't carry quite as much terrifying power as it should and can be made to. It builds to a good climax, though. In the reprise of the "O Glaube" theme that follows Mahler's aural imagination tests the performance even further as we now hear an off-stage brass band crashing out a manic march. They can make a terrific effect but here not as much and the effect is rather earthbound, as though a limit to terror has been imposed. The next climax, a stunning collapse where the fabric of Mahler's vision seems set to tear itself asunder, gives Walter a chance to take the terror to what is his own limit which is, I have to say, some way short of others. We have then arrived at what Mahler calls the "Grosse appell" ("The Great Call") where the off-stage brass sound fanfares from heaven against the sound of flutes playing the part of a nightingale, the bird of death, as the last sound from earthly life left behind. Under Walter the trumpets sound more like barracks buglers (which in other symphonies would sound ideal) than heavenly hosts and the whole passage would have been better if it had been given more space. Now the chorus enter, intoning Klopstock's Resurrection Ode, the hearing of which, in another musical setting, unlocked the block that had descended on Mahler. There is a wonderfully nostalgic solo trumpet after the entry of the soprano, stressing again lyricism and nostalgia over drama and terror, and Walter makes much of this. It must, however, be obvious that, to me, it's his interpretation of this movement that symbolises best his general approach: spiritual over human, lyrical over dramatic, vigour over terror, symphony over quasi-operatic. One valid way of seeing this work but not, I believe, the whole story. This impression is carried forward to the final chorus, "Aufersteh'n" ("Rise again"), which under Walter stresses a hymn-like quality and therefore a certainty that is palpable and touching, yet with no real sense that what we are being given has been hard won and I think that, for this work to succeed completely, that is more inappropriate. It's as if for Bruno Walter the end was there to start with and all we had to do was arrive to be admitted. Was Walter too certain of himself? I think he was. Just as I'm equally sure that Mahler wasn't and the implications of this are deep and profound for this work and will come back again and again as we discuss other versions. Walter himself once said that Mahler spent his life searching

for God but never found him. He doesn't seem to have brought that idea into his reading of this work, to these ears at least. The playing of the NYPO is exemplary with a depth of experience that can be heard in every bar. The sound is early stereo from the late 1950s and perfectly acceptable in itself. For those who mind, however, they might find it a little limited in range and detail, though the balance is always spot on. My view of this Walter recording may seem harsher than it is as I do regard it as one of the truly essential recordings. My disagreement with it is more intellectual as I believe there is more to be gleaned from this work and the fact that Walter does not do so is not a reflection of any inadequacies on his part, merely a reflection of the kind of man and artist he was, especially at that time of his life. Time now to turn to Otto Klemperer and I'll make my reasons clearer when we have discussed his 1962 EMI studiorecording with the Philharmonia, now available as a "Great Recording of the Century" (5 67235 2). With the opening of the first movement quicker than Walter, though still carrying great weight, the undertow is straight away more thrusting and urgent. This is also a sharper, sparer, more febrile sound palette and that surely reflects the man conducting it. There is no lingering over the lovely ascending theme at the start of the first development either, and even the pastoral ornamentation from the cor anglais are not caressed so much. The second development opens with great clarity, the emphasis still on darker aspects, and the momentum Klemperer sets in train never lets up. You remain aware, even as the music mounts to the great climax at the recapitulation, of the need to press on. That it doesn't sound rushed is a tribute to the rightness of Klemperer's tempo: Allegro maestoso indeed and there is evidence to suggest that Mahler expected it to be played at a brisk tempo like this. There is a sense of anger and truculence too, heard at its best in the coda which keeps going with grim expression adding to the feeling of gritted teeth. Not for Klemperer any lingering over the written portamenti towards the end of the recapitulation. This is serious business as the coda creeps up with cat-like tread, menacing and nervous. One direct consequence is that Klemperer's second movement is a much truer contrast to the first than Walter's. Klemperer is also a tad slower and the effect is something with more character. You can understand this as a recollection of times gone in the life of our hero. You can also hear something that benefits this recording right through: the antiphonal placing of the violins left and right. No conductor understood the way to bring out the bitterness and irony in the third movement better than Klemperer. It isn't just a question of

his slower-than-usual tempo, though that helps. Note the rute clacking away, the bass drum off-beats, and the weird squeaks of the woodwinds. The outbursts from the brass have the same striving quality as Walter's but a degree more desperation - the feeling of flaying about with no hope of consolation. This is an earthly touch just missing in Walter, and I believe it is indicative of the general approach. The solo trumpet under Klemperer is a model of character and idiom, a whole world of experience to the fore with Klemperer's reading of this lovely and revealing passage unique. The "cry of disgust" is certainly that: world-breaking and undermining, a summation of this work so far and to hear the music wind down to uneasy rest afterwards is to hear an object lesson in Mahler conducting. In the fourth movement "Urlicht" Hilde Rssl-Majdan is not as dark-toned as Maureen Forrester but just as "inner". Klemperer also refuses to linger here and the fifth movement bursts in with a dark drama and Brucknerian sense of colour in the brass. A mood which continues through the voice in the wilderness passage. Klemperer seems to have a greater sense of the diverse structure of this movement because each succeeding section leading to the great percussion crescendi are paced separately with a sense of developing drama and a feeling of trepidation. The wonderful passage of the brass climaxes before the two crescendi is grand and imposing, more so than under Walter for all the latter's spiritual approach. Klemperer's trenchancy, his sharper focus, suits this music better since it makes it more immediate. The percussion crescendi are made more of by Klemperer and the same is true of the central march where Klemperer was always slower than anyone else and, for many, this can be a problem. To me his sense of grim grandeur is absolutely right. After all, the march of the dead from their graves to glory should hardly sound like a one hundred metre dash. This added trenchancy also becomes hypnotic and the cumulative effect works to the extent that, by the climax where the world collapses in on us, the tension has become unbearable. It also allows Klemperer to bring out inner detailing on woodwinds others miss and he always was one to balance and terrace different sections, woodwind especially, closer in. Again, all this has the effect of making the music more immediate, accentuating the sense of struggle and conflict, humanity tested prior to deliverance, that you miss with Walter and those who emulate him. The passage during which the "O glaube" motive is heard on trombone with the off-strange band crashing away is brought off magnificently by Klemperer with a real sense of neurotic disjunction and Mahler's exploration of acoustic space exploited to the full. The "Grosse Appell" follows a superb preparation with fanfares well distanced and note the

soft drum roll, audible where with other recordings it is not. The final "Aufersteh'n" is more muscular than under Walter and gives a final sense of perspective to the spirituality. Taken with the rest of Klemperer's interpretation, this confirms the hard-won goal by a man of action and experience rather than an easily achieved one by a devout believer. It moves us but, crucially, it inspires us by its sense of humanity. The sound recording is almost the same vintage as the Walter and shares many of its shortcomings in being rather limited now. It is, however, strong on detail and in conveying the precise kind of sound Klemperer preferred. The playing of the orchestra is not without a problem or two but the rough-hewed quality of what Klemperer is trying to project may be helped in this. In an interview Klemperer maintained that the difference between himself and Walter was that Walter was a "moralist" whereas he was an "immoralist". A half-joke, perhaps, but there is more than a grain of truth there and I believe comparison of their respective Mahler Seconds gives clues as to what he might have meant. Walter's simpler, more lyrical approach, stresses spirituality and faith, certainties that always run beneath and which, in the end, win out. Klemperer's more austere sound palette, his leaning towards the more ironic, workaday elements, his regard to the slightly "off-beat" and his willingness to press on when others relax (the march in the fifth movement the exception that proves the rule) suggests he wishes to stress more the uncertainties that run beneath the work and, in spite of which, we win through in the end. To put it another way Walter takes Mahler's apparent certainty of deliverance at face value where Klemperer at least asks questions and, in so doing, makes this work more accessible, more involving and ultimately more moving because it is as concerned as much with what we leave behind as with what we might inherit in the world to come. Klemperer and Walter, as ever, provide in their different approach to Mahler a fascinating dichotomy, one which absorbs and stimulates. For that reason both recordings should be in every Mahlerite's collection. Both suffer somewhat from being studio made, however, as it has always struck me that this symphony, along with the Eighth, cries out for "live" concert recording. Maybe this is music that ought only to be heard in the concert hall since its special brand of human involvement can only be conveyed at personal proximity. But recordings are what we are discussing and so is it possible to reproduce something of the "live" experience in your own home? And is it possible to unite the two approaches Walter and Klemperer exemplify? In fact, I think this is what most conductors do, probably without realising it, but with most leaning towards Walter and his "at face value" sense of the deliverance that is achieved.

One conductor who has a noble shot at uniting both approaches is Rafael Kubelik on Deutsche Grammophon with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. (457905-2, on a single CD and also contained in his boxed set of the complete symphonies). In the first movement the exposition has the right amount of weight within a very challenging tempo, similar to Klemperer's. Spirituality is there but kept at arms length - he really is "tough and tender" at the same time. The same applies to first development's ascending theme which is strong on pastoral character because Kubelik brings out more of the folksy side of the "Wunderhorn" character in this work than anyone else, reminding us this is an early work of Mahler's, a young man who has barely left First Symphony behind. As the second development approaches Kubelik is almost as fine as Klemperer in bringing out the strange colours of the music. Also note the urgency and weight as the great climax of the movement approaches: a headlong rush that really counts and is probably closer than most to the tempo Mahler wanted. In the recapitulation Kubelik opens out just a little more than Klemperer (more Walter-like) reinforcing the impression that this is a kind of middle way between their approaches. In the second movement Kubelik is well aware of the need for contrast and delivers one of the most distinctively characterful versions available. A real interlude as well as a contrast. He takes care of this movement, especially in the central section when the music is more animated. Following this, precise timpani shatter the mood and the pulse quickens for the third movement. This is a totally different view to Klemperer or Walter. By speeding up and not making much of the off-beat qualities Kubelik seems to play down the earthy ironies in favour of something more fleet of foot. In the animated sections, when the brass propels the music on, there is a feeling of perpetual motion about it, the endless roundabout of life, that is refreshing. The solo trumpeter is rather anonymous but fits with the general conception, though I found this a minor disappointment. But not the outburst at the cry of disgust which arrives like a helter skelter into chaos, helped by the quick tempo and again marks out Kubelik's reading as one that is out on its own. Norma Proctor is suitably prayer-like in "Urlicht" and Kubelik suitably held back so this is a fine preparation for what is to come with the spiritual side stressed. The start of the fifth movement has all the drama and majesty you could want with some wonderful shudders on the lower strings. The "voice in wilderness" in suitably imposing and the delicacy of horns over harps and woodwinds, and

the flutterings of violins and deep growls from basses and contrabassoons with bass drum, shows Kubelik is anxious to bring out every unique sound. There is a pull on the music that makes its own drama, a genuine striving upwards which the conductor is not forcing on the music but bringing out what is there. When we do arrive at the great climax of fanfares before the percussion crescendi there has been as much inevitability in it as with Klemperer but with that touch more spiritual rapture we found with Walter. Though the "O Glaube" material has real desperation. The grave-busting percussion crescendi are rather short-changed and the subsequent march is quick, but in the overall context of Kubelik's tempo it still tells. I miss Klemperer's trenchancy but I admire Kubelik's sense of architecture and his piercing Bavarian brass are thrilling. There is also a great sense of release here. You sense the liberation of the souls rather than their sense of being the previously dead. The off-stage bands may lack Klemperer's unhinged quality but note the weird vibrato on the trombone as it intones the "O Glaube" motive and the Grosse Appell" is a real call to attention. There is a sense of rapture following the choral entry and you can hear all departments of the orchestra well too. Kubelik relaxes his tempo here and there is a definite feeling of contrast between not just this part of the movement and the preceding, but this part of the whole symphony and the rest. It's as if a Rubicon has been passed and is another example of the conductor generating the symphony's own drama from within so that the sharpness of focus in "Aufersteh'n" maintains the momentum. It doesn't linger for effect but delivers a real visceral charge, liberating again. The recorded sound is rich though it favours top frequencies within a generous, but not over generous, acoustic. Is it studio bound nevertheless? Of course, up to a point, and it indicates again that maybe this work always needs that extra charge of "live" performance. The irony is that since my first version of this survey a "live" recording of the Second Symphony conducted by Kubelik has actually appeared on the Audite label (23.402) but I still wouldnt prefer it over his DG studio version. Uniquely on this occasion I dont think Kubelik reproduces as memorable a performance for the audience as he did for the studio microphones. My preference for "live" recordings in this symphony especially still does not blind me to versions made in the studio when their virtues are more apparent, as in this case. My advice concerning Kubelik in this symphony is to stick to the DG version. There is more spontaneity and there is more of that sense of the Wunderhorn world than there is in the "live" version and that is what makes the DG version one for the shelf. This also applies to the recordings of the Second conducted by Claudio Abbado. His first commercial recording was made in 1976 with the Chicago

Symphony on DG (453 037-2 coupled with his Vienna Fourth) in the studio and is, in my view, preferable to both of his "live" remakes with the Vienna Philharmonic (DG 4399532) and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (DG 4775082 for the CD and TDK DVCOMS2 for the DVD). I cannot be persuaded that Abbado's interpretation has gained anything in subsequent years - in fact quite the opposite - to make the "live" element of real value. The Vienna performance is simply boring and the Lucerne, whilst a distinct improvement, is too self-conscious to deliver the spontaneity that all the drama demands. This is an orchestra specially formed for the festival out of "all-star" players. But "all star" individuals do not necessarily an "all-star" band make or breathe with the kind of corporate breath that the Chicagoans have in abundance. In Chicago Abbado is broader in the first movement than Klemperer so there is greater weight but still a significant sense of forward momentum: two necessities in the first movement. There is also a spacious acoustic to the recording which adds to the sense of an epic journey. At the start of the first development the ascending theme brings a real sense of vast distances, veiled and restrained, limpid even, and alerts us to Abbado's exploitation of dynamic contrasts that mark this recording out. This first movement is also a more episodic reading than the ones dealt with so far and the test will be whether it all hangs together. As the first development closes Abbado shows himself aware of the seamier side of the sound and is aided by superb playing from the CSO, completely different to the way they sounded at that time under Solti. This is one of the best played recordings on the market. As the recapitulation approaches Abbado's sense of architecture and drama proves matchless. The climax itself arrives with thunderous inevitability, brassy and powerful, and when the music picks itself up Abbado's sense of architecture is there again. The coda creeps up and gathers with some great playing again which gives Abbado a free rein and bodes well for the rest. Klemperer's particular sense of the grotesque and absolute imperative of pressing ahead may be missing but there is a fine sense of mystic tension to compensate. After the kind of first movement we have heard, making a contrast with the second movement is easier and Abbado delivers a real Andante, distinguished again by some wonderful string playing with every slide and phrase carefully realised. Abbado also sings the beautiful cello line before the more animated central section. This care for detail and for a singing line distinguishes this performance greatly. Bruno Walter once described the third movement as "spectral" and at the start this is the impression with Abbado. Don't expect Klemperer's bitter sarcasm, but Abbado clearly has something different to say and the range of colour the CSO is capable of more than compensates. The

impression of spectral quality in earlier passages is accentuated when the trumpets and brass burst out in the central section like a shaft of light and the music also picks up in energy to the cry of disgust which is delivered with plenty of spirit. Though notice how the spectral quality returns at the close. The "Urlicht" is slow and intense with a feeling of a "song of the night" which fits well with spectral quality that precedes it and will provide great contrast for what is to come. Abbado doesn't overwhelm us at the start of the fifth movement and could have been a little more earth-shaking, but maybe he is saving something up. There is delicacy from the orchestra in the passage that follows the first off-stage call with every detail of the celestial mood painting caught by the fine recording and sustained over a slower tempi than the others so far dealt with. The sheer beauty of this passage is deeply moving, every sound savoured, weighed and sifted. It's almost hypnotic when the distant horn comes back to accompany. The first appearance of "O glaube" maintains the mood of expectation also and I especially admire a significant pause before the solemn brass enter to build for the first great climax which, when it arrives and the fanfares break out, is stunning. Fabulous brass and the contrast with what has gone could not be greater. The percussion crescendi are effective (why do so few conductors really sustain them longer?) and the great march is perfectly paced up to the moment when the music collapses in chaos and we hear a degree of desperation transfused along with an appropriate ugliness. After a beautifully distanced Grosse Appell with sweet -toned flutes, the chorus's soft singing stresses Abbado's hymn-like view of the chorale, sweetly comforting and confirms this as a performance more in the Walter tradition. I was pleasantly surprised at the way Abbado refuses to give in to the moment during "Aufersteh'n". This final hymn might underwhelm people who expect a great charge of emotion here but Abbado doesn't see it like that. Whilst I feel he has stressed the certainties in the work his noble restraint at the end adds a serenity that is refreshing. So I think Abbado's recording favours the Walter approach in being anxious to stress spirituality couched through sweet nostalgia, but at the end he maintains a healthy circumspection. Where he also differs from Walter and, I think, scores over him is his and his orchestra's ability to really bring out the immense contrasts that are possible in this work, further marked by his tempi which are overall slower than Klemperers but which sustain by Abbado's ear for detail and that of his orchestra and engineers. Like all studio recordings there is a sense of earth-boundness, but it's not as marked as with some and that is a great tribute. Unquestionably this is one of the finest studio recordings available, though it has to be said that there may be some who need more

drama, more hands-on qualities, than Abbado is prepared to give. For "edge-of-seat" drama Sir Georg Solti can always be relied on so his recordings of the Second Symphony ought to be where we could look for it. As with his recording of the First Symphony, of his two studio recordings for Decca it's his earlier one with the London Symphony Orchestra of 1964 (448 921-2, coupled with his LSO First Symphony) that I prefer for the reasons I outlined in my survey of First Symphony. From the very start of the first movement we are in a different world to what we have heard so far. The start is razor -sharp, explosive and angry and puts me in mind of the opening of Wagner's Die Walkure. Not far from the truth since Solti was recording The Ring around this time. It's a feeling and mood that will stay right through the first movement and also the rest of the symphony. There is real drive in this music under Solti. Everything restless and shifting, always on the edge. Music taken by the scruff of the neck and shaken. Even the lyrical passages seem like prayers in the midst of terror. There is great playing in every department and this is delivered by a recording that is fierce, clear but compartmentalised and with little air around the instruments but that suits Solti's approach. The headlong dash to the recapitulation crisis is terrifying indeed, with the blaze of the brass hitting right between the eyes, the chords crashing down like explosions, brassy and sharp. In many ways I do admire the way Solti maintains his angry sharpness of focus, especially in the lyrical passages. The problem is that it seems very far from any idea of funeral rites. This abrasive approach allows little or no subtlety and means we are forever on our toes. No mean achievement if that were appropriate, but it isn't. There are passages when the music needs to relax and reflect. Under Solti there is little opportunity for this. The opening string passage of the second movement is consciously moulded, with every dynamic brought out as though in a pin-sharp colour photograph. There is no denying a certain amount of conscious moulding adds to the music, but when the double basses suddenly leap out from the texture you begin to realise the hand is too strong. Then in the animated central section we are almost back to the shifting and thrusting maelstrom of the first movement. This is drama in the extreme again and too muscular in what should be a rest from struggles past and struggles to come. Solti's approach works better in the third movement. There are some lovely woodwind interjections, great col legno snaps of wood on strings and the dynamic contrasts bring out well the

sourness. The middle section is superbly cutting also and profoundly dramatic with piercing trumpets and a feeling of the world spinning out of control. In the fourth movement "Urlicht" Helen Watts may be the best mezzo soloist of all and she preludes the fifth movement unforgettably. Here the opening has a terrific sense of release and heralds the best of Solti's recording. He's very aware of the theatrical nature of the movement. Never more so than in the passage near the start of the voice in the wilderness passage a few minutes in where appropriate tension is palpable. With the first appearance of "Oh glaube" there is a firm architectural control also with each step firmly marked and the tension ratcheted up as we approach the solemn announcement on brass that will explode into fanfares. This is held back just enough to sound really portentous with a wonderful "luftpause" before the low brass intone the chorale and only when the fanfares and brass bursts out with cymbals is the picture complete. The great percussion crescendi to herald the march are like aural flame-throwers and the march itself, though on the quicker side, because of Solti's concern for clarity, especially in the strings, maintains considerable weight. I also liked his handling of woodwind and brass. Shrieking high woodwind and blazing horns are especially fine but the collapse at the end is a disappointment. I've heard more sense of disintegration but much is redeemed by the Grosse Appell which the Decca engineers in the old Kingsway Hall managed with breathtaking ease. Solti despatches "Aufersteh'n" with too much efficiency to my liking. There's a calculated feel to the singing and to the orchestral coda. At the end, Solti, as so often, seems too interested in delivering a well-engineered piece of machinery, impressive in its itself but failing to reach deep. What he does do in the whole work is transcend to a certain extent any studio-bound feeling. He does this by creating his own brand of tension but one which I think fails to take into account every aspect of the work. This is a fine recording of a particular interpretation and there are times when I could think that it would do very well, but there is much more to be gained from this music. I include it here because as a visceral experience it still thrills and moves. If drama and excess are what are needed to lift a studio recording and give it a "live" quality then the approach ofHermann Scherchen might be one to consider too. He was one of the most unpredictable of conductors and one of the most fascinating as well. He was also a Mahler pioneer with experience stretching back almost to the composer himself. He made recordings of Mahler when few others did and for that we owe him a lot. His recording of

the Second, made in stereo with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra in 1959, always has had legendary status. It is available in excellently restored sound on Millennium Classics (MCD 80353) and ought to be in every consideration of recordings of this work where we can judge it for ourselves. There is a rugged opening to the first movement with the pace deliberate and with a lot more expression to the ascending figure that answers the opening challenge. Note too the grim tread of the basses. These are funeral rites indeed. Most of the time Scherchen flies in the face of the allegro marking but there is a lot in Scherchen's conducting that flies in the face of most things - it was one of his hallmarks. Not least his propensity to shoot forward in the fast sections and then slow down radically in the slower ones. This is, therefore, a performance of great extremes which you will either accept or reject. With what rapt inner soliloquy does he play the great ascending lyrical theme in the first development - a cortege of purple drapes and concentrated grieving. In the second development the huge scale is maintained, worlds away from Klemperer and Kubelik. It's a long, painful drag to the recapitulation which might be too much for some but, again, Scherchen makes it work even though it tries the patience. The second movement shows up the fact that Scherchen doesn't have a large body of strings and so inadequacies in the playing are exposed. The underlying tempo is slow but it's well sustained and the music never flags or wears, and Scherchen is determined to maintain his dark-grained tread here also. Then in the third movement it's remarkable how close Scherchen's reading is to Klemperer's. What he doesn't have is Klemperer's mordant wit. What he does have is an impression of pinning down the music like laboratory specimen and he is sufficiently unnerving to make this music so memorable and such a contrast to what has gone that it's hard to imagine it interpreted better. You really do need a different set of listening criteria with this man, the rule book, if there is one, must be discarded. He speeds up for the climax and so gives the kaleidoscopic feel an extra twist and his cry of disgust really impacts. In the fourth movement Lucretia West sustains "Urlicht" heroically at this slow tempo but in the central section a speeding-up occurs which makes this a unique and refreshing rendition of this movement - a movement of two halves. There is a superb start to the fifth movement where the broadness of Scherchen's approach pays rich dividends. Note the pauses he observes, especially before the first off-stage call. This shows a great sense of theatre, not least in the grand vistas of the great climax prior to the percussion crescendi. The march that follows gives Scherchen the chance to make the movement take wing. I don't usually like too quick a march but after what has

gone this gives a splendid sense of liberation. In the "Grosse Appell" note the bass drum beneath and the close brass making this passage very exciting. It's a pity the chorus are too loud at their first entry, but there's a lyrical feel to the music and that continues into "Aufersteh'n" which is taken at a very slow pace indeed to the extent that you wonder how the chorus didn't die from suffocation. It's impressive, excessive, obsessive, but maybe this is what is needed to inject drama into a studio recording. I do treasure Scherchen's interpretation. It's one of those unique pieces of Mahler conducting whose mould, if it ever had one, was broken as soon as it was made. Scherchen was his own man who could infuriate and inspire, sometimes all in the same performance. But whatever he did he was never dull and that counts for a lot in these days of designer maestri turning out Mahler recordings as though from some assembly line staffed by robots. Is this sufficient reason to recommend a recording of Scherchen's for the library? No, I don't think it is. What he does is deliver a performance that has insights that no one else's does and therefore it demands its place in this survey. The main drawback is the sheer scale with tempi and dynamics and expression, of such extremes they would try the patience of the greatest Mahlerite. However, Scherchen does manage in the confines of a studio recording to suggest the idea of a "live" performance and that's something which I believe is a recommendation in itself. Mahlerite Deryck Barker has called this the most "dangerous" interpretation of the Second Symphony and I can see what he means. As an exercise in excess it is unsurpassed, but what is remarkable is that within that excess there burns a sharp and cool intellect. What ever Hermann Scherchen does he does in the service of the music, never himself. Simon Rattle is still currently represented by his studio recording with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on EMI (CDS7 47962-8).[March06 Just released on EMI Great Recordings of the Century 345 7942] Rumours of a "live" recording have so far not materialised. This would be welcome as I have been impressed by recent performances which seem to confirm his present recording, superb though it is, was somewhat "work in progress" in comparison. There is no doubt too that the "live" element would make it an even more unforgettable experience. In the first movement Rattle has a very individual way with the opening figure, making every note tell. It's certainly a dark and determined start and accentuates an even grimmer side to the music than we are used to. The following ascending figure flows beautifully and

note, as with Scherchen, the basses tracking every moment in the depths. This is one of the most impressive of starts and shows it's possible to be spacious without compromising drama. In the first development I have always been struck with Rattle by the keening woodwinds and the superb pianissimo on the rising lyrical theme with some really soft playing from the horns. In spite of the massive quality no momentum is lost when the music picks up. The same basic, underlying and tragic pulse is present showing Rattle master of structure. The restatement of the opening figure at the second development, played as Rattle plays it, takes us into a kind of lower circle and as the music tries to climb out of the pit into which it's been hurled there begins a tremendous piece of strategic planning that will, in the end, pitch us into the great descent into the recapitulation crisis with such fearsome inevitability that when it arrives there is power, terror and grandeur of an entirely different dimension. This passage is magnificent. Without question the best I have ever heard. The sound of the CBSO brass blazing in perfect unison is stunning as Rattle conveys the sense of the world falling to bits like no-one else. When the recapitulation itself emerges from under the torrent the mood is chastened, but still the underlying sense of structure remains as Rattle has recognised where the true climax lies. Again in the coda Rattle's sense of the music's shape within the broader time span, his awareness of the peculiar colour and the great sense of the finest grades of dynamics, makes this a true summation of his view of the first movement. One point of detail is the final descending scale. Mahler apparently asks this to be played at a much slower tempo than is usually observed. Rattle takes Mahler at his word making a unique end to a unique interpretation. There is a nice moderate tempo for the start of the second movement and a warm tone for the strings. Rattle marks well the contrast between this and the first movement so this emerges as a real intermezzo with some lovely "old world" slides in the strings. The central section is quicker and more challenging. No conductor in this survey, save Klemperer or Walter, make quite so much of this movement, its sense of yearning and its busily worried quality. No other injects quite as much control over it either. Rattle is a controlling musician. Indeed I feel that since this recording he has become a "control freak" micro-managing to a surprising degree. In the third movement he doesn't have Klemperer's sense of irony, or Scherchen's analytic quality, but he does make the movement work. The rute is too soft, though, which is surprising, but the brass outbursts are magnificent, propelling the music forward, shafts of light breaking through the dark clouds. This is a performance of great contrasts so the slowing down for the trumpet solo

makes for a nostalgic interlude, illustrating Rattle's grip on the many-sided nature of this work and of being able to switch moods in the twinkling of an eye. The descent to the cry of disgust is as superbly handled as the corresponding section in the first movement and again the same sense of the need to find the real climax as the cry itself caps the movement as the real core. It is as if this cry of disgust was necessary for purgation before we enter into transcendence. No conductor delivers that feeling but Rattle - a truly unique insight. In "Urlicht" we are in the presence of Janet Baker and her superb musicianship with Rattle's support carries all before it. Note the exotica of the central section, straight out of turn-of-the-century Vienna. There then follows a stunning opening to one of the finest recordings of the fifth movement ever: expectant, epic, grand and aware of every strand as the music dies down for the call in the wilderness. There is a feeling of huge distances and as the music goes through its various episodes. The impression is of a series of steps being mounted, huge plateaux where we and Mahler are dwarfed yet never obscured. Notice how Rattle seems to change mood at the first appearance of the "Oh glaube" motive. The climax prior to the percussion crescendi heralding the march starts from solemn lower brass, played slowly like a Bruckner chorale, then mounts to a climax that is shattering. Again the sense of knowing where each real climax lies and paying it all the attention it needs must be noted. Not surprisingly Rattle gives the percussion crescendi the longest span possible but the march is perfectly paced, powerful yet, like Klemperer, sapping of energy. Though only Klemperer really gives it the trenchant sense of great weight being dragged along - our sins, no doubt. The approach to the climax of the march, where the music collapses in on itself, almost equals Klemperer's sense of exhaustion here and the collapse itself almost floors you. In the section that follows I was impressed by the ripe trombone solo with the second "Oh Glaube" as well as the tension carried over from collapse. The off-stage band sound like a gang of demons snapping at our feet. Then there is some lovely soft singing from the choir with every word clear and again the sense of another page having turned. But there are still questions as Janet Baker intones "O Glaube". There is a feeling of arrival as the last section begins and the final resurrection hymn is broadly sung with a grand, solid certainty that we are entering paradise. The splendid sound recording copes superbly with everything Mahler throws at it - percussion, brass, organ and the final pages leave you breathless with awe. The playing of the orchestra is as good as any and better than most, and overall this performance has great reach, grandeur, excitement and involvement. Maybe it

lacks Klemperer's sense of a hard struggle, as well as his sense of the grotesque, the earthly qualities. But it has an epic reach beyond Klemperer that goes a long way to compensate. Of all the studio recordings I have dealt with this one by Simon Rattle comes closest to the sounding as if it is being given "live" and I believe is as worthy as Walter's to stand along Klemperer as one of the greatest interpretations ever recorded: the other side of the coin, another "moralist" to Klemperer's "immoralist". Gilbert Kaplan, the eye-wateringly wealthy New York publishing entrepreneur who learned how to conduct to make it his mission to perform and record his beloved Mahler Second (and only Mahler Second) until the cows come home, has now recorded the work twice. His latest version is on DG (474 380-2 for conventional CD and 474-594-2 for SACD) and boasts the Vienna Philharmonic as the orchestra of choice. He gives us a well-played, well-recorded but ultimately studio-bound performance with every note in place and every emotion accounted for like boxes ticked on a customer relations survey. There is just too much poise, too much containment here to raise it to the truly elect, but do view these comments in the light of my general points regarding studio versus "live" recordings in this work. Had one of Kaplans "live" performances been taped the result may well have been different. In this case every note includes Mahlers final revisions of the score, the new publication of which the Kaplan Foundation has now financed and the man himself has now used for this recording. No shocks for the seasoned Mahlerite, though. You really would have to be something of a Mahler nerd to notice a difference from any of the other versions on the market. Indeed there are more variables to be had between conductors interpretative peccadilloes using the old score. Down the years the Vienna Philharmonic have not played or recorded as much Mahler as you might think and this recording really shows no special affinity for the music other than that of a highly qualified set of musicians in another day at the office. In fact I think it is the case that the London Symphony Orchestra on Kaplans first recording shows more sense of the Mahler idiom (Conifer 75605513372). If I say that Kaplans Vienna recording of the Second is how I suspect the work would have sounded under Karajan you can draw what ever conclusions from that you want. But if you own this and no other version then you have a good advocate for a work which means everything to Gilbert Kaplan and I would certainly prefer him and his personal resources inside the Mahler tent than outside it.

There are conductors who can put lead in the Mahler pencil of the Vienna Philharmonic. Leonard Bernstein was certainly one of them and in this work Zubin Mehta another. Even though MehtasDecca Legends recording (466 992-2) was made in 1975 it was only the third time the Vienna Philharmonic had recorded a Mahler symphony in a studio. For many years Mehta only conducted the first five Mahler Symphonies as he was on record as admitting he didnt understand the ones that followed. Dont see this as a reason for being uneasy about his commitment to Mahler, though. I think it shows a realisation that each Mahler symphony is different and that some conductors are not suited to some of them. His Second is still a contender in a very crowded market not least for this re-issue being at medium price and on a single disc and newly remastered. He takes an admirably fleet view of the first movement, rightly stressing the Allegro marking in a challenging and sometimes fierce conception. The dynamics of the strings are brought out to the full at the start and right the way through. Even the lovely ascending secondary theme has a spring in its step. At the opening of the first development the rapt lyricism of the Vienna Philharmonics playing is a joy with air around the music that seems to lift it on its way. In the approach to the catastrophic climax that will being in the Recapitulation Mehta allows his tempo to drop down for effect and then speed up prior to the crashing chords themselves which emerge clean and lean. However, this is a point at which the character of the sound recording makes its presence felt. Its a very compartmentalised sound picture, not as rich in the bass as it could be. An excellent account of the second movement follows and Mehta really understands how this music must take the "sting" out of the first movement. The Vienna Philharmonic strings again play "to the manner born" so note the cellos playing of the counter melody at 86-132 for a real "Mahler moment". At fig. 29 Mahler writes: "Do not hurry" and Mehta observes this warning to great effect so the marking "Energetically moving" that comes in at 133 makes an even greater impression when delivered as sharply as this. Vivid timpani strokes herald the third movement in which Mehta shows a feel for Mahlers quirkiness with lyrical themes pitted against bitter interjections from brass, snaps of the rute, and the unforgettable trumpet solo at the core delivered beautifully. No one quite approaches Klemperer as an interpreter of this movement for me, though. Only he seems to get the full measure of this piece, not least in the "Cry of disgust" that marks a crucial "way point" towards the end. Mehta just fails to overwhelm here, as Im sure he should. This leads me to wonder yet again whether what is missing in this recording, as in so many studio recordings of this work, is the extra element "live" performance brings

in this above all of Mahlers works. As the final note of the movement drifts away we are left with Christa Ludwig to intone "Urlicht" which she does with a dark grandeur aided by a sumptuous accompaniment from Mehta and the orchestra which I found deeply impressive. The last movement bursts on us well, though a little more richness from the recording again would have helped. However, one positive aspect of the sound recording now becomes apparent in the distant horn calls - Mahlers "voice in the wilderness" - that follows. The placing of Mahlers directional effects offstage horn calls and band music is brilliantly done in this movement with great care taken to create an aural stage between our speakers that adds lustre to Mehtas performance. His account of the march (220-88) sees him pressing forward but there is never any sense of rush. The weight in the music is there, but I dont think he achieves the sense of explosive tension that can build up as the movement reaches its two great climaxes, the second preceded by that remarkable passage with the offstage band crashing away, capping the first. Again Klemperer pulls it off, so does Bernstein and Rattle. But I do like the way Mehta clears the scene with some magical string playing prior to the "Grosse Appell" where offstage fanfares sound against on-stage flutes signifying the last sound hear on earth prior to judgement day. This is balanced superbly by the Decca engineers working in their old haunt of the Sofiensaal in Vienna. One minor gripe here and its something that has always annoyed me in this recording. A double bar line separates the last chord of the flute and piccolo on stage and the brass off stage from the entry of the chorus a capella. Mehta ignores this and has his chorus enter at the moment the instruments stop playing. Apart from ignoring Mahlers marking this spoils the effect Mahler was clearly aiming for and I cannot understand why Mehta did this. The chorus sings magnificently with some wonderful basses especially impressive. Mehtas sense of theatre returns as he proceeds to the "Resurrection" coda that maintains the symphonic argument but is grand and reflective in equal measure. This is a fine studio version in the Walter tradition in that he takes everything at face value and is none the worse for that. The sound is not without problems. Everything is contained with ease but theres a slight "manufactured" quality, which isnt too obtrusive and certainly benefits from the superb placing of effects. Unlike with Kaplan, the presence of the Vienna Philharmonic is a real plus. There is another recording of this work with the Vienna Philharmonic, this time conducted by Lorin Maazel (Sony SB2K89784). Its sprawling grandiloquence gives rise to some lumbering tempi at times and when allied to

some odd recording balances it is ruled out completely. Whilst I am wielding my axe I must also chop out the recording by Oleg Caetani (Arts 47600-2). He is certainly a fine conductor and I think I can even discern a fine conception behind this performance. The problem is the orchestra, which are clearly second rate and manage to deliver a third rate performance for him. No composer exposes poor playing like Mahler does and this recording proves that in spades. Klaus Tennstedts Mahler cycle with the London Philharmonic has always had its admirers. This was a great conductor about whom it seemed to impossible to be neutral and his recordings of Mahler were at the cornerstone of a lifes work cut short by illness. He was also blessed with a London Philharmonic that knew the Mahler symphonies from their work with two previous Chief Conductors (Haitink and Solti) so are well worth hearing even if you emerge from them, as I do, shaking your head a little. His Second is now available coupled with his LPO First (EMI 5 74182 2). The first movement begins challenging, dramatic and biting. Note the brass snarls and the wailing woodwind. Tennstedt then caresses the yearning second theme in a change of mood that marks his whole performance down as more moulded and episodic than many. As ever, he is the master of emotional control from bar one onwards. This is especially borne out in the lovely opening of the first development which sees the musics elegiac quality, its mourning colours, brought out to the full with keening woodwind, swooning strings and a mood of regret. Then, as the music builds to the end of this passage, Tennstedt increases the tempo and the stormy atmosphere so that the Second Developments repeat of the movements opening is effectively challenging and the rush down the Recapitulation suitably frantic. However, one shortcoming now exposed is that the recording quality is surprisingly a little "bass light" and close-balanced too so the wilder passages have a marginally raucous, brittle quality with very little air around the instruments. This is a drawback right through the movement with Mahers richness of texture undermined a touch. The rest of the Recapitulation mirrors the rest of Tennstedts conception to elongate the lyrical and reflective passages and speed up and attack the challenging and vigorous ones. He brings this off but I do feel on re-hearing it after some time that the effect is still to fragment what should be a more "through-thought" movement.

Recording quality improves from the second movement on. That hard, "toppy" edge in the first movement has lessened and there is more space with the orchestra heard to better effect. Tennstedts conception of the second movement is dark and intense, autumnal in its colouring. Then in the third movement I was reminded of how many conductors miss the special quality of this music with its peculiar atmosphere because with Tennstedt we can hear the strange sound of the rute and the woodwind shrieking and chirruping just as they should. He can also suggest the elegiac quality beneath the weirdness. He presses quite a fast overall tempo, though, especially in the brass-led interjections. After this the Urlicht fourth movement is intensely slow with Doris Soffel tested to the limit and beyond. I suppose the line is sustained but only just. Such an interpretation is in keeping with Tennstedts typically intense performance and you hear this best exemplified in the last movement where he sustains the line through the disparate sections in spite of the fact that he continues with his zeal for exploring opposites. He opens the last movement with a vigorous and apocalyptic rending of the sky and then delivers a tense reading of the passage 43-191 that is portentous with very little sense of self-indulgence. There is a real sense of architecture here as well as a fine grasp of the musics special colours with the London Philharmonic playing with distinction for a conductor they deeply admired. The brass is almost Brucknerian at times, deep and resonant, as they intone the Dies Irae prior to the wonderful outburst prior to the percussion crescendi at 191. It is a pity Tennstedt cannot resist taking the big march too fast, though. It is certainly exciting, invigorating even, which I suppose being liberated from your grave would be. But I really think something more trenchant than this is needed, well though the orchestra plays for the almost manic quality they bring to Tennstedts vision. That latter aspect is attended to well at the passage for the offstage band but again, at the "collapse climax" prior to the Grosse Appell, the recording betrays that glassy top noticed in the first movement. Fanfares are placed closer than usual, accentuating this as a studio production, but so is Rattles recording on EMI and that manages remarkable atmosphere here. Tennstedt has no doubts about the music from here on. He takes it at face value as a noble deliverance from sin and pain and there is much to be admired in that. The end is surprising for being unsentimental, even muscular, and I found it exhilarating and optimistic. The recordings "close in" quality does the chorus no favours, though. As has been the case right through, at the end there is a slightly calculated quality that would perhaps have been alleviated by recording one of the concert performances Tennstedt gave at the time. This was still the era of "studio is best" which is a

pity because Tennstedt, whatever ones attitude towards his work, (and I was never one of his greatest admirers), always was able convey his own mix of romantic flair and dramatic energy better in the concert hall. I well remember how eagerly people awaited this recording. Having heard a broadcast of the concert prior to it I remember being disappointed I didnt have a souvenir of that. Taking the reservations of recording quality into account, and not hiding the fact that this kind of performance is not one I personally agree with, I do still rate this. I admire and enjoy conductors of Mahler who are committed even if its to a view I do not have entire sympathy with. Tennstedts admirers will already own it, of course, but there are always new converts to the cause waiting. Others should give it active consideration. Under Andrew Litton with the Dallas Symphony on Delos (SACD 3237, a hybrid CD/SACD) the first movement has a steady, very focused opening with each note precise and then a tough, truculent feel as the exposition strides out. However, it seems to just arrive rather than leap out, grab and shake you, as it should. There may be a number of reasons for this. The brass could be a bit wilder right through the movement, for example. They give a very schooled and cultured response that in the spacious acoustic seems rather inhibited. Maybe in the flesh they have more impact. In the Exposition itself Litton is prepared to spread himself but not too much and that is a gain. The lyrical rising theme at the first development (117-128) has purity and poise that marks it out from the previous material but I wish the strings were balanced closer because the sound picture is generalised with a feeling of the listener being seated further back throwing space around the orchestra. This will prove an asset in some later passages but not in others. Then note at the end of first development (253) how Litton is almost skittish and then how he almost fails to allow the opening of the second development to really tell. This particular "way point", when we are plunged back into depths of grim questioning after glimpsing sunlit uplands, should be like an earthquake and isnt quite here. This nagging propensity to slightly underplay the big, dramatic, nodal points emerges as a shortcoming in this recording. At 270-294 the slow climb to the crisis recapitulation is well analysed by Litton, however. This is not a conductor who has embarked on this symphony unprepared, I do assure you. He has a real feeling for light and dark and he can make you aware of instrumental colour. The plunging climax (318-320) is delivered true and clean with weight for the great chords at 320-328 and here the recording distinguishes the parts well though other interpreters, notably Rattle, make the

awesome brass chords even more overwhelming than this. Litton then negotiates the rest of the movement with a nice line in awed creeping from strings and woodwinds. Though the movement might lack the last few pounds of passion and drama this is still a fine, intelligent approach, especially strong on the lyrical passages though, as I say, shorter on drama and abandonment. There is elegance and poise in the second movement with a nice minuet feel. Then at 133-209, marked Energisch bewegt by Mahler, Litton gets moving admirably. He uses a touch more rubato in the final part than some, but not excessively, and the orchestra is clearly with him producing some lovely sounds. The feeling I have been getting of a softer-grained feel to this performance is confirmed with the third movement. There is some bounce to the rhythms but I so miss the "off-the-wall" weirdness of a Klemperer of Scherchen here, but then I do that quite often. Litton misses the "dirty" end of the music too much here. There is spite and bile woven into this but Litton reminds me of a Rugby player determined to get to the end of a match without a speck of mud on his shorts. The brass explosions dont impact as they can and should, well though they are played, but I must say the solo trumpet at the centre plays with fine vibrato and I had not really noticed the harp quite so well here either so well done to the production. The cry of disgust that climaxes the movement again doesnt quite strike home, though as the music winds down I was impressed again by Littons feel for colour. There is a wide and deep opening to the last movement. In moments like this that the recording really delivers. The passage 43-97 where Mahler carefully assembles his material like a set of building bricks finds Litton superbly aware of the fantasy inherent. In fact this passage confirms for me Littons strength in that department. The feeling I have is that the performance does improve from here on with a greater sense of abandonment, less the feeling of not wishing to offend. When the "Oh glaube" material comes at 97-41, though there is sufficient pleading quality, I could have done with more drama, still more caution thrown to the wind. Some excellent deep brass then prepare for the great outburst 162-190 which really storms the heights with the recording catching the whole spectrum superbly. This is followed by the two great percussion crescendi that fill out the large acoustic space and in the great march we can at last hear the virtues of the spacious soundstage at its best. Im convinced this has hidden some of the intimate music before but now it really comes into its own. What a superbly truculent march Litton and the orchestra give us here too, really digging in for the long haul, nearer to Klemperer. Full marks to Litton from me for realising this is a marathon and not a sprint. The collapse at 324 is huge and the tension sustained well through the passage that

follows with the off-stage band excellently placed to make the novel effect Mahler surely intended. Litton keeps this passage pressing forward so when the second clinching "collapse climax" arrives we are ready and grateful for the respite that arrives. Again the brass are well-placed off-stage for the fanfares in the Grosse Appell and again Littons sense of fantasy is well to the fore with his filigree painting of the bird flutes around them as good as any you will hear. The chorus is then not indulged and they nobly sing their first entry placed perfectly in the sound stage. The two excellent soloists are well positioned too and, like the chorus, sing superbly. The great coda begins with a real flourish and builds to a grand and noble climax with the organ beautifully in the texture, sustaining and crowning at the same time for a fitting peroration. In fact I havent heard the organ contribution in Mahlers Second better than this. I enjoyed and admired Littons recording of Mahlers Second. I could have done with less a sense of "containment" for Mahlers most audacious conception, especially in the first and third movements, more feeling of a "live" performance. The liner notes tell us that this is "live" but four different dates are given so I presume four different performances were edited together to make up one to issue. I would suggest to Delos this is stretching the definition of "live" beyond breaking point even to the extent that what we have actually a studio recording in all but name. At no time was I aware of an audience present, or of an orchestra showing signs of stress, or of a conductor taking chances. Certainly not that ineffable "something" that "live" performing brings. Perhaps the idea of recording like this was to take away all the vices of "live" recording. The problem, for me, is that virtues are missing too. In which case why not just record it under studio conditions and leave it at that? Maybe one "live" performance "warts and all" would have given us that sense of "all or nothing" the work benefits from: the kind of numbing experience it can certainly give, even on record, and which Im sure Litton and his excellent orchestra is capable of. As I have indicated it has always seemed to me that performances of Mahlers Second Symphony fall broadly into two types, best illustrated by the recordings of Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer. Walters lyric tone stressing spirituality and faith, the certainties that run beneath this work and which win out in the end. Klemperer's more austere sound palette, his leaning towards more ironic elements, his willingness to press on when others pull back (apart from his perverse, though quite unforgettable, delivery of the march in the last movement) suggests the uncertainties that run beneath the music, in spite of

which we win through to the same conclusion. Most conductors approaching this work fall broadly into the former category but I feel Klemperers way with the music is ultimately more satisfying. Where the Walter approach takes Mahler's apparent certainty of deliverance at face value Klemperer asks questions of it and so makes the work even more involving and ultimately more moving in being concerned as much with what we leave behind as with what we might inherit in a world to come, and that way can the magnitude of our hard-won salvation be best gauged. Riccardo Chaillys recording on Decca (470 283-2) with the Concertgebouw falls pretty much into the Walter category as a fine realisation of a long and varied journey to a paradise that is never in doubt. I am not saying for one moment that this is a boring performance, far from it. Its just that never do I really have the feeling that we are living "on the edge", threatened by having our ultimate deliverance snatched away from us by the forces going in the other direction. You know from the start that everything is going to be alright in the end and that all we have to do is sit back and admire the vistas on the way. And what vistas they most certainly are under Chailly. Listen to the luxuriant way he and his great orchestra deliver those magical passages in the last movement where distant brass accompanies onstage flutes, the aching nostalgia in parts of the second movement, or the way the Cor anglais embroiders the purple-toned strings in the rising theme of the first movement. Truly unforgettable passages from Chailly. As too is his careful presentation of the offstage brass band in the last movement. This really does appear to start at a distance and then get closer, just as Mahler asks, and Chailly and his recording team are to be congratulated for getting this right. Petra Lang is superb in"Urlicht!" with every word clear and a very deep sense of urgency in her delivery and Chailly is excellent in support too. Its a hard task for the singer in this movement. She has to make a considerable effect in a very short space of time and many great singers dont pull it off to anywhere near this extent. However, for me, on the downside there is the way the brass seem to be reined back at crucial moments, either by Chailly, by the recorded sound, or both. For example what should be the truly terrifying moment of recapitulation in the first movement emerges as little more than a few shakes of the fist when compared to Rattle or Bernstein who shake the living daylights out of us. The march of the dead in the last movement, while certainly not rushed as it

sometimes is, even at this steadier tempo misses the truculence and the consequent inexorable cranking up of tension that you get with Klemperer and Rattle. I also think Chailly crucially takes just too long ushering in the start of the last movement after the glorious "Urlicht". There are crucial seconds of pause between the movements that really spoil the inner dynamic of what Mahler is doing. The great final tableau should burst in on us immediately, sweep away what has just calmed and consoled us. Here it is as if Chailly wants to make sure we are all prepared and ready for the outburst which, when it comes, therefore doesnt have the sense of a crack in doom opening up before us. Was this his decision or that of his producer? Later the two great percussion crescendi at 191-193 are somewhat truncated, although Chailly is certainly not alone in that. The final pages are handled superbly by Riccardo Chailly, however, with the fine chorus singing their hearts out. I liked the deep bells Chailly employs too, though I wish they could have been closer balanced along with the organ which fails to make the heart-stopping effect that it can. The Decca recording is rich and spacious. Maybe too spacious at times. There are some crucial timpani solos that really are rather distant and detached and fail to shock. On balance I do think that the way the brass is balanced backward has a lot to do with the fact that when they are supposed to knock us over they dont. The Concertgebouw hall is famed for its acoustic and I have heard "live" recordings made in it that exploits this to the full and leaves an unforgettable impression. But that is with an audience present who soak up some of the reverberation that here does occasionally show signs of blurring our, and possibly Chaillys, focus. The orchestra plays superbly throughout with all their experience in this composer coming out effortlessly. Perhaps they play too effortlessly for those of us who prefer to hear some evidence of struggle going on in a Mahler work where striving against forces pitched against us are an important part of the mix. The inclusion in this Chailly release of "Todtenfeier", the original version of what became the first movement of this symphony, is apt but surprising. If you are interested in Mahlers first thoughts at a time when he only had in mind writing this single, standalone piece then Chailly is as good as any version you can find. However, I doubt anyone will be buying these discs just to get this piece. It is clear from the expanded orchestration and the excision of certain passages that the later version is superior and that Mahler knew exactly what he was doing in revising it and absorbing it into the work that was subconsciously bubbling in his head all the time.

Inclusion of the Litton and Chailly recordings are, I think, enough in this survey to appeal most to those looking for top notch playing and modern sound allied to fine interpretation whilst not quite challenging those recordings that I consider to be the crme de la crme even in spite of less opulent sound and playing - part of the philosophy behind this survey. This means that I have decided not to include among main recommendations the recordings by Yoel Levi and the Atlanta Symphony on Telarc (2CD80548) and Leonard Slatkin and the St Louis Symphony also on Telarc (B000A0GOLO). To do so would be to include recordings just for the sake of having them in and this series of surveys is not, as I explained in my Preface, intended to be exhaustive and all-inclusive. This also accounts for the fact that I have now decided to leave out the Berlin Philharmonic recording by Bernard Haitink on Philips (4389352) that I included in the first version of this survey. Haitinks recording is now edged out by others. There are no other studio recordings that I feel the need to include at this time, which means that this is now the time to deal with "live" concert recordings. Can any of these be as great as Rattle's and Klemperer's and Walters in their different ways and also benefit further from the "live" element? A "live" recording by Bruno Walter with the Vienna Philharmonic from 1948 has been available on and off for many years and certainly should be considered by those who value "live" recordings of historic stature of which this certainly is. It resurfaced most recently in an issue from Andante coupled with a "live" Mahler Fourth and Das Lied Von Der Erde, all recorded in Vienna. But beware of this set. In the first movement of the Second Symphony the final note is missing, the recording seems to cut off just before them. In such an expensive issue this is both surprising and unacceptable. If you want to find this recording look out for the Japanese CBS/Sony issue (42DC5197-8) where all the notes are present. I wouldnt place this ahead of the New York stereo recording by Walter - the mono sound and the "live" playing are inferior - but in terms of atmosphere and Mahlerian feeling it still packs a punch. Another not to be missed "live" performance is by Leopold Stokowski at the 1963 Proms in Londons Royal Albert Hall. This too has been around some time on a pirate release but now BBC Legends (BBCL 4136-2) has it out officially at last in "bassy", though largely undistorted, mono sound that doesnt deliver much in the way of dynamic range, though I found more than enough atmosphere to convey the magic of what must have been a real night to remember. This was both Stokowskis and the Mahler Seconds first appearance at a Proms concert and both rise to the occasion. Stokowski provides a superb sense of "line" from first note to last. His first

movement is big and dramatic and incident packed. He does play fast and loose with a lot of Mahlers markings - the climax of the development especially - but such is the conviction with which he does it all that the sense of portent and occasion that is conveyed sweeps all before it. The fifth movement is as apocalyptic as you could wish for, though it must be said that the off-stage effects are too close and the choral entry seems to get caught up with the birdsong and fanfares where Mahler specifically asks for a pause. The final hymn is both grand and intense though I could have done without the tam-tam crescendo at the very end - a Stokowski "changement" that had to be expected somewhere. The young Janet Baker gives notice of what is still to come from her in this work for Barbirolli, Bernstein and Rattle, but Rae Woodland is only adequate as the soprano. A big chorus sings lustily and fills the acoustically untreated 1963 Albert Hall to round off a night that really needed to have been experienced in person, especially the legendary encore which consisted of the close of the work all over again! Seek it out for that proof that this work, above all of Mahlers, needs the concert hall and you will not be disappointed if you can "tolerate" mono sound. Had this been recorded a few years later in good stereo then I would certainly have included it as one of my main recommendations. There is another Mahler Second on the BBC Legends label by the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Rudolf Kempe (BBCL 41292 ) and you may see it advertised. In case anyone might think that anything "live" from this label will find favour with me, let me disavow them. It was recorded at the one and only short Winter Proms season that the BBC mounted in 1972 and was given on a late Sunday afternoon. As I recall, the orchestras flight was delayed and so their preparation for the Royal Albert Hall was limited. Kempe did not seem in sympathy with the work either and so my advice is to pass it by. We certainly could do with a good stereo performance of the Second from the Proms in London. Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic gave one a few years ago and that was superb. How about it, BBC Legends? Six years later in 1969 the Proms in London heard its second Mahler Second. This time the conductor was Bernard Haitink and one listener at home that night listening on the radio was the present author hearing a Mahler symphony for the very first time. Then five years after that came the third performance at the Proms of the Second. This time the conductor was Pierre Boulez in a concert to mark the retirement of the BBCs then Controller of Music Sir William Glock. (In the first half Glock played piano is a chamber recital.) The recording of the Mahler is on the hard-to-find Originals label (SH 855/6) but it is worth seeking out for another one-off, "live" experience of this work by a

conductor then not usually associated with it. A drawback on this issue is the recorded sound. This is an unofficial "air check" and betrays this in fuzziness in frequencies around the carrier. Beyond that, the stereo sound is typical of the kind the BBC were getting pre-digital at the Royal Albert Hall: a bit bass heavy and a bit treble clipped like the Stokowski. In addition the engineers have to mount some damage control in the big moments. No distortion, just a reigning back in volume so everything is contained. There is a nice impression of the hall which Boulez uses to the full in the directional moments: the offstage band, the fanfares and the soloists. I have heard a better recording of this from a private collection so I dont give up hope that the BBC might even still possess the master tape and consider a release. (Though with DG poised to issue a new studio version under Boulez with the Vienna Philharmonic during 2006 I will not hold my breath.) The opening is very grim, but also grand with a tremendous first challenge where every note is carefully articulated. Not for Boulez the mad rush of notes we too often hear. Then, in the wondrous second subject, he moulds and caresses the theme with real old-world charm and the pastoral interlude too is given all the time it needs. I like the way Boulez makes woodwind solos leap out and shriek from the texture and each time he does so I'm reminded of the Seventh Symphony's scherzo. The drive towards the crisis before the Recapitulation, those great dead chords crashed out by brass and percussion, is taken steadily with the effect of a great threshing machine heading for us. The second movement receives a conventional reading, though I like the way Boulez encourages the cellos to really sing and also for the prominence given to the harp - though that might have been a trick of the recording balance. Boulez's tempo for the third movement is quicker overall, accentuating bitterness and irony. Again he makes the woodwind really leap out, but there's no relaxation at all for the marvellous trumpet solo. In the fourth movement Tatiana Troyanos's "Urlicht" puts me in mind of Erda in Wagner's Ring. In fact this was the era of Boulez's Bayreuth Ring, so that may not be too far from the truth. She really leans on the notes from above, making quite a mesmerising sound. Not a comfortable sound, though. Then Boulez crowns the performance with a stunning realisation of the last movement. He goes for drama and spectacle, even seeming to glory in the huge contrasts and the directional moments. In the first off-stage horn calls Boulez's use of the acoustic properties of the Royal Albert Hall is evident. In fact if you listen very carefully here you can just hear the London traffic outside. In those early pages of woodwind and brass fanfares Boulez seems to luxuriate in the different sounds all the combinations produce, with the omnipresent off stage horn acting like a kind of sentinel at the gates of doom.

The first "Oh glaube" is full of mystery and foreboding but that changes to desperation as the woodwind join in, screeching in protest. Then there's a huge pause before the great brass chorale brings that wonderful outburst of exultant fanfares before the percussion crescendi. I like Boulez's tempo for the march. He seems to agree too quick a speed is fundamentally wrong here. He isn't as slow as Klemperer, but he's not far off and the gain in weight is considerable. This tempo seems to put new fire in the BBC Symphony's collective belly and the performance by now has taken on a new life. At the collapse of the march Boulez takes care to ensure every detail is heard and even in the rather diffuse recording details tell. Then there's a very deliberate return of the "Oh glaube" material with the off-stage band really distant, way up in the gallery, I would imagine, accentuating again the use by Boulez of the acoustic space the Royal Albert Hall offers. The crisis before the Grosse Appell caps the previous one as it should and we are ready for glory. In another telling use of space Boulez positions his brass for the Grosse Appell closer so, at the moment the whole lot pile in over the flutes, the effect is thrilling. After the choir alone, the entry of orchestra brings a great feeling of ecstasy but there were moments when I was reminded of the opening of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, which was not many years away when Mahler wrote this symphony. The ending of the work never fails. Just to say the chorus is wonderfully together and the organ really tells. I get the impression this is one of those "sense of occasion" performances and the roar of the audience at the end, unfortunately clipped after a few seconds. Hi-fi enthusiasts will turn up their noses at this but Mahler enthusiasts should give it serious consideration if they can get it as an alternative to any main version. When DG do release their new recording it will be fascinating to hear Boulezs present thoughts on this work and whether the improved sound we will undoubtedly hear adds up to an issue to supplant the "live" one. Appropriately in the last months of his life Sir John Barbirolli was much concerned with Mahler's Second. He performed it in both Manchester and Stuttgart and the latter performance was taped for broadcast. "It was as if the great old man was trying to shake the gates of eternity from their hinges," wrote a member of the audience in Stuttgart on 5 April 1970 to the Intendant of the Berlin Philharmonic. Fortunately an unofficial "aircheck" has been available for some years and I featured it in the first version of this survey. Sound-wise it had considerable limitations and was hard to find. However it was always known that Stuttgart Radio retained the master tape and many of us who admired the performance hoped one day it would get an official release. That day came with the recording forming the centrepiece of a set in

EMI's "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" series (5 75100 2) and can now be included here. Barbirolli knew Mahler's Second intimately. He had performed it thirty-two times in concert in twelve years by the time he came to step on to the podium in Stuttgart. In the first movement the feeling - the tone of voice is on the world-weary which when you consider Sir John was by then quite ill is not surprising. Note the lamenting, singing line that appears to run through every page. It is broadly sung and yet expectant too with some expressive string playing and excellent woodwinds full of character. Hear also how the tension builds through the first development, assisted greatly by Barbirolli's feel for the particular sound of this movement. He is almost Klemperer-like as he exposes the bones beneath the skin, the muscularity within the lyricism. The crisis at the recapitulation is dramatic, though a crucial moment of uncertainty in the ensemble should be noted here which, I think, adds to the sense of drama in this "live" experience even though it will be irritating on repeated listening for some. I'm afraid this is something you either have to be prepared to accept in archive recordings like this or steer clear of them altogether, but I think you would be the poorer if you did. The Klemperer-like urgency continues through the recapitulation so the slowing down at the return of the ascending theme doesn't need to be too broad to make an effect. Sir John is ever the master of tempo relationships, carried forward to the coda that has a great sense of menace as the music makes its approach and then a slight quickening to the climax. I also admire the way Barbirolli seems to leave the movement hanging on a question. More so than any other conductor and a unique touch. All in all this is a reading in the grand tradition that still seems to unite both the urgency of Klemperer and the lyricism of a Walter. The second movement then gets a largely straightforward performance compared with the first but is still full of rhythmic point that makes it special. I also feel Barbirolli notices kinship between this music and theAltvaterisch passages in the Scherzo of the Sixth Symphony and that is a nice touch. Note also the singing cellos in the latter part of the first episode: a real Barbirolli fingerprint there. Then in the central section there is the superb balancing of parts woodwind and brass against strings are particularly good. In spite of what some people may think, Barbirolli was a man whose Mahler could move along but I do wonder if this is how it would have been had he recorded it in the studio. Evidence of comparing off-air recordings of "live" performances with studio versions shows a tighter approach in the concert hall to tempo.

It really takes a master conductor of Mahler to recognise and bring out the ironies and sarcasm in the third movement and Barbirolli is certainly in that category on this evidence alone. He does it by seeming to have grasped that this is firstly very weird and unhinged music indeed. Mahler after all wrote of seeing the world in a concave mirror. Those prominent wind lines I mentioned earlier are used again to full effect to convey this. The constant hinting of an uneasy lyricism at the heart of this movement shows Barbirolli recognises that this is very uncomfortable music too. I also like the col legno snaps from the strings as well. They suggest the sharp edges of the movement so fittingly. The central section strives and exhilarates but the trumpet solo at the heart is delivered like no other performance I know, not even Klemperer's, so full is it of aching nostalgia among the kaleidoscope. Exactly as it should be. Why can't other conductors get their solo trumpeters to play it like this? Are the players too afraid of sounding cheap? Note again the lovely pointing of the woodwind, perky and cheeky, and then the rush to the cry of disgust where a sharp and grand quality then enters the music delivering weight and true power. In the fourth movement Birgit Finnil is suitably dark in "Urlicht" but notice the deliberate pointing of the brass against her opening line and then the final flourish on the strings as the movement closes. This is a unique touch of JB in the night, I think. A bit naughty, but I would be happy to enter his plea in mitigation after a visit from the score police. All in all this is a very Mahlerian reading of the movement. By that I mean that it's full of delicious "Wunderhorn" characteristics - note the plangent brass and the melodic line stressed. Not the rather pious, prissy hymn we too often hear. The fifth movement then bursts in with fine abandon and notice the prominence given to the fine woodwind players again as the music settles down. After the offstage "voice in wilderness" the approach by Barbirolli as the ascent begins is remarkably direct, no hamming, no mannerism. The Music is allowed to speak for itself but with some fine highlighting of solo instruments to vary the texture and keep the ear always interested. Barbirolli recognises the drama within the music superbly and that it must be varied. There is even a lilt in the way the music gathers strength and still he doesn't linger as some conductors do seeming to have a much tougher conception, and so it will prove as time goes on. The first appearance of the "O Glaube" motive becomes superbly restless, a small cauldron bubbling away and then the solemn brass with very fruity vibrato leads to a fine climax which caps the episode with drama and colour. The great march is again Klemperer-like, this time in its sheer guts and trenchancy. It is also very colourful and not a little manic. There are some

fluffs from the brass in the cut and thrust of this "live" performance, but what do you expect? Anyway these only add to the experience of struggle and travail. You can hear everything clearly also because, like all the great Mahler conductors, Barbirolli knew to make every note count, especially in the crises that engulf at the march's end. These are remarkable for their clarity, as also is the interlude with the off-stage brass band that contains a truly snarling trombone solo and great swagger from the band. One of the best realisations of this crucial moment I have heard. When the chorus enters there is real serenity. Not the serenity of a plaster saint but of a man who has seen life, sinned and repented before a hard-won deliverance that rises at the end to triumphant, dramatic paean. If you know Barbirolli's studio recordings of Mahler this may not be the kind of performance you would expect. It's a fascinating reading full of insight, drama and a sense of danger. Both from the fact that it's "live" and also from Sir John's own philosophy of Mahler in performance with the score as almost a living entity that should come off the page. Rather like his performance of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony from six weeks later in London he also seems to expose the nerve ends of the music and rage against the creeping shadow of his own mortality to a degree that is, in hindsight, deeply moving. Shaking the gates of eternity, as that member of audience in Stuttgart so perceptively noted. Such a distinctive reading demands consideration both in itself and as evidence of one of the great Mahlerians caught "on the wing" and in the final weeks of his life. It is flawed in execution, though. As I have said, there are a few fluffs in the ensemble, most times in places that you wouldn't expect any problems to occur. Apart from the passage in the first movement recapitulation already mentioned the worst moment is probably when the whole trumpet section misses its climactic entry in the coda of the last movement and comes in a bar or two late. Nothing can be done about this but to throw out this recording on the back of explainable and excusable lapses such as this would be perverse in the extreme. Like dismissing an Olivier or a Wolfit in "King Lear" just because of a missed line or cue. I also believe that, in spite that, this is a performance touched with genius. Not a recording for the everyday, certainly. One to take down every so often with the virtues surely outweighing the vices. The sound on this official issue is now a profound improvement on the old "aircheck" featured in this survey first time around. Not "top flight" sound when compared with new recordings, but a good stereo picture with no distortion, clear lines and a sense of space.

At the time of writing the first version of this survey there was also an unofficial release available of Barbirolli conducting the Second Symphony in Berlin with the Philharmonic in June 1965. Since then this too has been officially released on Testament (SBT2 1320). The Berlin Philharmonic show signs of being a better orchestra than the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra, as you would expect. But their grasp of the music seems less sure. They didnt play much Mahler at that time and it is as if Barbirolli had had to teach them what Mahler should sound like, so bringing an element of the "run through" about it when compared with the Stuttgart concert. The sound from Berlin is also in mono and a touch limited in the treble. But for Barbirolli admirers it is certainly one to consider, especially with Janet Baker as contralto soloist. Michael Gielens Baden-Baden recordings of Mahler are notable for their clarity of execution and eschewing of romantic baggage. In this hes an interpreter who sees Mahler very much precursor of radical pioneers of twentieth century music who so admired him rather than inheritor of the nineteenth century symphonic tradition which these men ultimately rebelled against. A valid and valuable view which, in the case of works like the Seventh and Ninth symphonies where Mahlers forward looking aspect is more clearly apparent, presents us with results that provide a necessary strand of interpretation if we are to come to terms with these particular works. However we are on more controversial ground when this approach is applied to earlier works like the Second Symphony on Hnssler (HAN93001). Here the long shadow of late Nineteenth century Romanticism, both in the writing and philosophical well-spring, surely demands greater personal involvement on the part of the conductor, a more expressive style and even a dash of the virtuoso showman. The religious text affirming faith in the Christian resurrection that forms the centrepiece of the work especially calls for a theatrical style of some kind otherwise the alienation of the listener from Mahlers central message cannot be ruled out. As we have seen only Klemperer really delivers something radically different and I believe is even more rewarding. But any lack of orthodox expressive style in Klemperers interpretation is made up for by a keen sense of drama and an almost truculent insistence on wearing the "hair shirt" of the man who asks questions of a work others are prepared to take at face value. Klemperer was a deeply religious man for all his apparent scepticism. The fact he asked questions of what is a fundamentally religious statement only seems to add depth and power to his view of it because you somehow know that his doubts hurt him deeply. Michael Gielen plays the sceptic too but he doesnt interrogate the music in the way Klemperer does and so theres a small loss in drama, involvement,

and that rare aspect of music making to really pin down, empathy, to be encountered and dealt with by anyone coming to this recording. Gielen is rather like an investigator who has been asked to deliver a detailed report on a tragedy after it has taken place, rather than be the conduit through which we see the chain of events enacted before us. A little like the Chorus in Greek Tragedy who comes onstage to describe the slaughter that has taken place behind the scenes for us to then use our own imaginations to fill out. So there is a crucial element of alienation at work in Gielens recording of Mahlers Second, a feeling of taking a step or two back from the fray. Whether, as with the Chorus in Greek Tragedy, this becomes a creative aspect that throws light on the fundamentals of this symphony can only be decided on by the listener. In the first movement listen to the ascending strings at the start of the first development (bars 117-128). Others invest this passage with aching nostalgia whereas Gielen wants to stress cool detachment. Then in the second movement, at bars 39-85, marked "Dont hurry", hear how Gielen stresses head over heart once again in the cellos counter melody which is precise and unbending in opposition to most conductors view including, so we gather from contemporary accounts, Mahlers own. In the last movement I dont think I have ever heard the early choral passages taken quite so flowingly, or so forwardly projected, as they are here. Almost as if Gielen is ashamed of any sense of poetry and mysticism Mahler may have intended. Its certainly different from what we are used to, though I found it most arresting, which surprised me. In the closing pages theres a sharpness of focus also, as is the case right through. At every turn Gielen is low on spirituality, high on clarity. I would certainly rather possess this reading of the Mahler Second than not, but its one I dont think I will listen to all that often. The playing is distinguished and suits the "hands-off" approach of its conductor and the recording has a good sense of concert hall for what is a "live" performance. For consistency of vision and for delivering his very modernist and individual view of Mahers Second Gielen has to be congratulated, even though this may not be most peoples idea of how this work should be played. Ultimately its just too cool and detached to endear itself but if you are looking for an alternative to the more conventional conductor-involved ones, Gielen is your man. With Leonard Bernstein's third recording (DG 423 395-2), we have a

performance recorded "live" in New York in the 1980s though some passages were probably "patched" into the "live" recording to cover mistakes. The first movement starts with a very long and imposing introduction, very portentous with a heavy-laden, grim and tragic feel. Every pore of the music seems to bleed and because of the slow tempo the ascending figure doesn't contrast as much as it should. This is shorn of any real energy too and so some momentum is lost. Then in the first development the great lyrical ascent is given so much nursing it might have been in the Mahlerian equivalent of the Intensive Care Ward. This is, of course, a Bernstein footprint and one we will have to get used to. At least he manages to keep his eye on the big picture and maintains a developing story so that, when the music demands to become more agitated, even though the tempo remains slower than most, it doesn't lumber as it sometimes can under less experienced hands trying out "a touch of the Lennies". The ride to the recapitulation crisis still lacks some dynamism, though, and we lumber along rather ungainly. Bernstein can't resist a few starts and stops where a kind of dead inevitability is really needed to force home the power either. The crisis itself is a bit manufactured, as also is the drama in the recapitulation itself. The final appearance of the ascending figure from the first development is milked for everything it has. You can almost see a neon sign flashing: "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now". This is just the kind of instruction of how to perceive a piece by this conductor that often spoils his work for me. The music has all the emotion it needs and adding more only tips it over the edge to banality. Bernstein was ever the free spirit in Mahler and his view of the first movement over the broadest of spans bears this out. He seems to have decided a long time ago that this movement owes more to its origins as a symphonic poem, so there is only the glimmer of acknowledgement of its symphonic nature. It's a perfectly valid view and delivered brilliantly. The danger is that much is lost dynamism and ugliness to think of two aspects, the very aspects one gets with Klemperer. But if you like your Mahler played like this you will like this very much. Rattle is broad and expressive in this movement too but he manages to keep his expressive touches within much greater bounds than Bernstein, even though his is a studio recording. Bernstein is rather "arch" in the second movement. Self-consciously expressive in what is delicate music where understatement pays dividends. Even the central section has the tendency to sprawl, superb though the playing is. But then the third movement finds a superb performance with every shade of meaning brought out. Bernstein is acutely aware of each twist and turn of the irony and the central section with trumpets really benefits from a sudden

lift in tempo which jolts but works very well, complete with delicious solo trumpet slowing down for a nostalgic look back. I think Bernstein is also supremely aware of the Wunderhorn song this music springs from and that is a great plus. However, as so often he can't leave well alone and spoils the cry of disgust by injecting melodrama into the system. Christa Ludwig is one of the finest singers of the fourth movement "Urlicht" and the partnership between her, Bernstein and the NYPO is one of the gems of this recording. Unforced and perfectly natural, the music emerges with a rare simplicity and is very moving. If my problem with Bernstein has been his indulgence and overexpressivity then this is less of a problem in the last movement as this can stand a great deal of excess and Bernstein's flair and sense of theatre certainly make for a vivid experience. The depiction of huge distances and the building of tension in the early stages is slower and more mystical than with most and contains some lovely playing from the NYPO. At the first "O Glaube", Bernstein's yearning and worrying of the music ushers in a solemn brass annunciation capped by a stunning outburst of fanfares and percussion prior to the two crescendi. This is Bernstein's performance at its very best - dramatic, eloquent, huge and reaching for the stars. Perhaps he is the grandest of all at this fabulous passage, as he is too at the percussion crescendi prior to a march that has just the right amount of weight and forward propulsion. Not for Bernstein the trap of going too fast. Like Klemperer, Rattle and Barbirolli he shows a great sense of the inner parts and the collapse at the end is brilliantly "staged" with, again, attention to detail that is remarkable. The trombone is especially vivid in the second "Oh Glaube" and also truly unhinged are the off-stage bands - a nod to Charles Ives, surely. The tension at second climax before the "Grosse Appell" is almost unbearable and the way the trombones hurl themselves into the maelstrom takes the breath away. There is some splendid quiet singing from the chorus and when the orchestra break in just listen to the superb first trumpet. Bernstein gives the music a really noble lilt here, shorn of any mannerism and calculation, so he can do it when he wants and the result is unforgettable. As you would expect, Bernstein gives the closing pages everything they can take, asking for the broadest of tempi, almost Scherchen-like. It's a typically world -storming, all consuming, no doubts end to the work and in the context of what has just gone it caps the performance and leaves us with a very rich, if varied, experience. There's no doubt Bernstein's last movement is the best part of this performance. Maybe here, where the symphonic rule book can be finally thrown out the window, his brand of Mahler conducting - expressive, caressing, all-enveloping - works the best.

Bernstein recorded this work commercially three times and you can buy both his other versions. The first one from 1963 is in his complete cycle, is available singly (Sony 5174942) and is very fine though still "work in progress". His second recording was made in sound and vision with the London Symphony Orchestra in Ely Cathedral and is available on DVD (DG 0734089 for Symphonies 1, 2 and 3 and DG 0734088GH9 for the whole cycle). As a thrilling, one-off experience it is to be valued. On balance for the CD player, however, I will stay with the third version on DG already described. Carrying a Bernstein performance at all does confirm me in my decision to leave out the much more recent recording by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS Media 821936-0006-2). In this work most of all I think Tilson Thomas, a conductor whose Mahler I do admire very much, shows a debt to his hero Bernstein just too much by delivering a performance that seems to have the older man leaning over his shoulder right the way through. If you really want a "Bernsteinian" view of the Second then accept no substitutes no matter how good they are. Also Leonard Bernstein has the New York Philharmonic under him with all their Mahlerian credentials. The other recording of the Second from San Francisco was conducted by Herbert Blomstedt on Decca (443 350-2DX2) and whilst superbly recorded was largely an empty vessel musically when compared with the best. Another conductor with more than one recording to his name his Seji Ozawa. His Boston Symphony studio recording on Philips always left me cold, as did most of his Boston cycle. It seems to care more for surface polish than for the guts of the pieces but he has re-recorded the Second in Japan with the Saito Kinen Orchestra on Sony (89374) and whilst this is an improvement on his first effort, maybe the "live" quality helps, he still has had to come from a long way behind the other versions and I cannot find it in my heart to include it here when there are so many other better and truly great recordings to represent this work. Above are conductors who, in my opinion, represent all the facets of this extraordinary work. They are all different, though some do share characteristics. Any one of them would, I believe, last you a lifetime of listening, but there are some that I value more than others for the reasons I have tried to set out. There are yet other recordings available but none of those I have heard challenge the ones I have dealt with here. Yet there is just one more recording and it remains, after some years, for me the best of them all.

I have already reviewed Klemperer's EMI studio version and explained why I find it a remarkable and complete recording ahead of Kubelik, Walter and Rattle. But I've made much of the fact that I think this work needs to be heard in a "live" recording to get the extra edge, drama and sense of occasion to make it extra-special. This was a signature work forKlemperer and there are at least five "live" recordings of him conducting it extant, four of them available commercially. By far the best of these is from Munich in 1965, available for years on Arkadia in an unofficial "aircheck", but which was then acquired by EMI (CDM 566867-2) who remastered the original tape. Essentially it's the same interpretation as the studio version and all my remarks regarding that can be addressed to this showing how consistent Klemperer was. But there is also, crucially, the frisson of a "live" performance that I think so important and which lifts this recording to another level entirely. If you have the studio version already you can rest assured you still have the best Klemperer interpretation in a work of which he was perhaps the greatest of all exponents. The studio version is perhaps better recorded too (the Grosse Appell fanfares in the least movement, for example, are better placed) and it's better played with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra a little short of the Philharmonia in glory days. But there's a significant depth and sense of occasion to the "live" version that should not be missed and if you were going to buy your first ever Mahler Second, or your first ever Klemperer Mahler Second, I would say go for the one from Munich. It also boasts Heather Harper and Janet Baker as soloists, both in great voice albeit rather too forward in the balance. I should also point out a "live" recording from 1951 with Klemperer conducing the Concertgebouw Orchestra in their own hall. The major incentive for this is the presence of Kathleen Ferrier and the sound of her in the fourth movement once heard is never forgotten. The performance is, again, broadly the same as the other two mentioned. However, confirming the impression that Klemperer's tempi became slower the older he became, this one is swifter than the 1960s recordings. The playing is idiomatic but tends to thinness, accentuated by the primitive sound produced from Dutch Radio transcription discs making it a version for the serious collector of multi versions, I think. Fortunately, we have Klemperer "live" in Munich on EMI and that remains the version of the symphony I like best of all. Tony Duggan

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Symphony No.3

The Third Symphony is Mahlers hymn to the natural world and his longest work. It was largely composed in the summer of 1895 after an exhausting and troubling period that pitched him into feverish creative activity. Bruno Walter visited him at that time and as Mahler met him off the ferry Walter looked up at the spectacular alpine vistas around him only to be told: "No use looking up there, thats all been composed by me." Mahler was inspired by the grandeur around him at the very deepest level of feeling and also by visions of Pan and Dionysus. In fact by a sense of every natural creative force in the universe infusing him into "one great hymn to the glory of every aspect of creation", or, as Deryck Cooke put it: "a concept of existence in its totality." To deliver a convincing performance of the Third I believe the conductor must do two things before anything else. Firstly, in spite of the fact that the work falls into Mahler's "anthologising" strand, along with Das Klagende Lied, the Second and Eighth Symphonies, the overriding structural imperative linking the six movements must be a pattern of ascending steps based loosely on the evolutionary ladder within broadly-based Pantheistic cosmology. In these terms the six movements are: 1] Inorganic nature summoned into life by Pan, characterised as summer after winter 2] Plant and vegetable life 3] Animal life 4] Human life represented as spiritual darkness 5] Heavenly life represented as childish innocence which, when combined with 5, brings 6] God expressed as, and through, Love. Mahlers original titles for 1] "Summer 2] "What the Meadow 3] "What the Creatures of these movements Marches Flowers tell the Forest Tell were: in" me Me"

4] "What 5] "What the 6] "What God Tells Me"

Night Morning

Tells Bells Tell

Me" Me"

The conductor who fails to see this "ladder of ascent" and make it manifest is one who makes the mistake of concentrating too hard on getting the first and last movements right and neglects the movements in between, treating them as interludes rather than steps on the journey to perfection fashioned out of the world around and beyond. The first movement must also retain a degree of independence since Mahler designates it Part I with the remaining movements Part II. This leads to the second thing I believe the conductor must do and that is render the seemingly disparate elements of the first movement into a rigorously-wrought whole when the nature of its thirty-five minutes sets it on course for structural failure. There must be no doubt on the part of the conductor as to the movement's greatness and this includes an awareness of, and an ability to bring out, the rougher edges woven into it. Any attempt to "prettify" or "smooth out" the first movement leads ultimately to a blunting of its special power and so to failure. Its a hard thing to quantify but its something you know is there at a deep level at certain "way points" and in the way you can give in to its atmosphere, hallucinatory qualities and lack of doubt in itself. I think its also true that a conductor's confidence in the rightness of Mahler's vision in the first movement stands him in good stead for the rest. Those conductors who get the first aspect right tend to get the second right, and are therefore, for me, the greatest interpreters of this symphony. It is very hard many decades after a first performance to try to gauge the effect a piece of music first had on its early audiences. When something has become so familiar, loved, venerated even, to try to imagine "the shock of the new" that must have seized people at the time is a tall order. But it is an idea we should try to bear in mind if we can and so should the performer. When Mahler wrote his Third Symphony he was a young man wanting to make a very big noise in the world, to try to shake people out of complacency. In the first movement it has always seemed to me that Mahler was saying to his audience, to use modern slang, "Eat my score!" and any performance of the piece that falls short of giving an impression of that attitude is just not trying hard enough. Or at least is trying too hard to be accepted in now more polite circles. So I think it takes a particular kind of conductor to turn in a great Mahler Third. No place for the tentative or the sophisticated, particularly in the first movement which will dominate how the rest of the symphony comes to sound no matter how good the rest is. No place for apologies in that first

movement especially. The lighter and lyrical passages will largely take care of themselves. Its the "dirty end" of the music - low brass and percussion, shrieking woodwinds, growling basses, flatulent trombone solos - that the conductor must really immerse himself in. A regrettable trait of musical "political correctness" seems to have crept into more recent performances and recordings and that is to be deplored. The edges need to be sharp, the drama challenging, Mahlers gestalt shrieking, marching, surging, seething and, at key moments, hitting the proverbial fan. Sir John Barbirolli passes this test impressively. In March 1969 he recorded the work under studio conditions for the BBC and this is now available on BBC Legends (BBCL 4004-7). No matter what observations one might care to make about his treatment of individual sections, matters of phrasing, dynamics and expression, his vision of this work was emphatically of this journey upwards in carefully graded steps. He also grasped completely the first movement's totality with no doubt as to its validity and he wasnt ashamed of it or its rough edges and elemental texture. The opening on eight horns is vigorous, rude and raucous. The recording then allows us to hear grumbles and groans on percussion as primeval nature bestirs, even though the crucial uprushes on lower strings are a little disappointing when compared with some where they are made to really "kick". The section that introduces Pan himself contains a ripe delivery of the trombone solo and when other members of the section join in, forward and close-miked, the effect of their lament comes over black as doom. The role of what passes as Exposition is the delivery of the brassy "in your face" march meant to signify summer's arrival. Though with this being Mahler he insists on hurling the workaday world into the maelstrom. Mahler loved his marches as much as Elgar did and this one is his most joyous and so it comes over under Barbirolli. The moment of its arrival in this recording has a particular quality which I can't imagine any other orchestra bringing. If workers in Vienna inspired Mahler, Barbirolli seems to have had in mind the holiday resorts in the north of England at the height of summer some time in the past, the forties or fifties, perhaps. There's a hint of the Promenade at Blackpool: the whiff of fish and chips, the sun catching the silver paper on the "Kiss Me Quick" hats, the tang of petrol from charabancs depositing mill girls from the looms of Manchester on Bank Holiday Monday. Then at 347 we are dragged back to

the natural world with all its splendour as the horns roar out the theme from the start and the Development is underway. I like the way Barbirolli balances his brass sections here. It shows the value of the orchestra having played in "live" performances before. The important passage at 530-642 is where Mahler develops on the idea of marching and he marks each section differently, something a conductor must take note of. "The Rabble", "The Battle Begins", "The South Storm" are all acknowledged by Barbirolli and this has the effect of making the music seem to comment on itself. I was also put in mind of some of the wilder sections of Ives in the way the marches, broken down into constituent moods, seem to criss-cross each other in mesmerising half-nightmare. There is some lovely playing from the cellos prior to the return of the march proper. The portamenti the players indulge are quintessential Barbirolli. But this is swept away because the march has one more appearance to make. This time I was more aware of the long crescendo that will bring about a conclusion to the movement. The frenzy of the coda, starting at Figure 74, where the orchestra explodes into wild and crazy vistas, is well brought off. Though not even Barbirolli can match Horenstein here whose LSO brass are absolutely shattering. There is enough of a sense of contrast between the first and second movements to mark the change from Part I to Part II but not too much to deny this is the next "step" in our ascent. There's certainly no question of treating the movement as a lightweight interlude and the second movement is a lot subtler than is sometimes realised, so the conductor must lavish the same care on it he would everything else. Barbirollis walk through the flowers in the meadows doesn't take the pretty route. There are stinging nettles beyond the blooms and we stumble into them in the way the woodwind allows spiky sounds to come through. The rhythm is also nicely pointed when the tempo picks up, which means when it relaxes into lyricism the effect is that much more nostalgic. Barbirolli next adopts a slightly slower tempo in the third movement but this allows a little more room to make rhythmic points and bring out character. I don't think I've heard the rollicking brass descents two bars before 9 and likewise before 23 delivered quite so loudly and with such precision at such volume. Barbirolli must have drilled his players meticulously. The crucial posthorn episode, our first glimpse of humanity, is beautifully prepared but the first posthorn is closer than we are used to. However, the section between the two appearances of the posthorn makes up for any misgivings by being gloriously raucous. If the posthorn represents the first appearance of humanity then nature has the final word with the unforgettable passage at bars 529-556: a crescendo from ppp to fff followed

by a diminuendo back down to pppp replete with harp glissandi. This passage has at its centre, a development of one of the bird call motifs to become "The heavy shadow of lifeless nature", rearing up on horns and trombones. It links back to the first movement and forward to the end and is a key moment of crisis that should be marked with special emphasis so we feel threatened. Barbirolli prided himself on being able to recognise highlights and climaxes in each Mahler symphony and there's no doubt he gives this passage everything it can stand. I would have liked a little more Stygian gloom for the fourth movement which is a setting of Nietzsche's "Oh Mensch" and the first appearance of the voice. Kerstin Meyer is a fine singer but you can hear too much of her for her contribution to be as mysterious as it ought to be. I did like the way Barbirolli appears to want us to make the connection between her accompaniment and the start of the first movement, though. A nice contrast arrives with the boys and women in the fifth movement and a return to the Wunderhorn world heralding dawn with bells tolling. The boys of Manchester Grammar School are nowhere near the angelic voices we are used to. These are urchins from the mean streets of Manchester and give an earthier quality to match the purer sounds of the women and the darker, warmer tone of Meyer. Compared with some, Barbirolli is more expressive and "heart-on-sleeve" in the last movement and the big-heartedness of it all is overwhelming. This is a true journey's end that couldn't have been won by this conductor in any other way. Notice Sir Johns expressive rubato and the singing line of cello portamenti. His inability to resist speeding up at moments of release later on spoils this movement's serenity just a little, though. But take that away and it would not have been a Barbirolli performance at all. The end is built to masterly fashion within Barbirolli's warm-hearted view. He presses forward in the closing pages and can't resist almost a luftpause before the last chord of all. But he keeps his timpani under control, just as he should, and justifies his view of the end as a safe harbour nobly won. A couple of months after Sir Johns death the Mahler expert Deryck Cooke declared this "one of the finest Mahler performances I have ever heard" and I certainly concur with that. A sentiment confirmed by an international jury of critics at the Mahlerwoche in Toblach in 2000 when they gave the recording the award for best stereo Mahler recording of 1999. It's quite a close-in sound especially made for broadcast, almost a conductor's balance with every detail clear. Some may find the reproduction of the brass troublesome but with good remastering it comes over bold, brassy and exuberant like the symphony itself and Sir John's interpretation which more than makes up for any shortcomings in the Halls playing. They are some way from the finest but you would have

to have a heart of stone and a pair of ears to match to let occasional lapses in ensemble and fluffed notes bother you very much. There is poetry here, there is drama, and there is a performance that reflects a world of feeling now gone. Testament have given an official release to a "live" Berlin Philharmonic recording of the Third conducted by Barbirolli from 1966. Even though this is the Berlin Philharmonic the standard of the playing falls below what you would expect from that orchestra and, as with their Mahler Second with Barbirolli, there is just not enough familiarity with the music for this to challenge the Hall version on BBC Legends. Another of the works greatest interpreters was Jascha Horenstein whose Unicorn recording of 1970 is, for the moment, still available (UKCD2006/7 and also in a boxed set of symphonies by various conductors on Brilliant 99549). The playing of the London Symphony Orchestra is remarkable for character, unfailing alertness and ability to reflect every aspect of Horensteins view of the work. The result of a number of "live" performances. The introductory section of the first movement is gutsy and elemental, not at all a comfortable start. Just the kind of impression Mahler must have had in mind when he pointed Walters attention to the mountainous landscapes. Notice how the first trombone solo, heavy with funeral dread, conveys a sense of expectancy. Notice too how Horenstein can vary his approach straight after to take in delicacy. Its Horensteins total grasp of every aspect of the first movement and his matchless sense of structure that welds the movement into an expressive whole and rivets the attention throughout. It also allows him to mark a real spiritual aspect in the episode of the march in the way it approaches from a distance before bursting on us and coming to a climax that is, like the opening, raw and rugged. Ive always believed Horenstein was aware there is a lot more than mere programme music here. Notice how order and chaos seem genuinely pitched against each other in the central section where the marches meet. In this we can witness an aspect Arnold Schoenberg drew attention to. That this movement (and the symphony as a whole) is a struggle between good and evil. Horenstein certainly conveys struggle here to a greater extent than many conductors do. The close of the movement sees the performance emerge on the side of the angels but not before Horenstein delivers the most

breathtaking account of the closing pages themselves. At Fig. 74, where harp glissandi introduce an explosion of brass, Horenstein grades the brass dynamics from fortissimo, through piano and then up to triple forte, with the latter absolutely shattering. No other conductor on record quite matches this moment. The crashing and pounding percussion that follows are really abandoned also. Magnificent. The second movement is, as with Barbirolli and as we will find with Leonard Bernstein, the perfect Prelude to Part II and distinguished again by the playing of the LSOs woodwinds. Horenstein also notes the darker sides of the movement, realising these are not just pretty blooms in the meadow being depicted, but weeds too. In the third movement theres a hazy, nostalgic feel in evidence, but when muscularity is called for, as with the first movement, Horenstein is not found wanting. The posthorn solo is played on a flgelhorn making this one of the most distinctive accounts before us. Notice also how Horenstein pays attention to the phrasing of the woodwind around the solo. The great "way point" of this movement, the rearing up of raw nature prior to the gallop for home, finds Horenstein and his players really on their toes. The "Oh Mensch" fourth movement is dark and atmospheric but detailed also. This is a perfect tempo for this movement and so Norma Proctor is given all the space she needs to make every word clear. Clarity is also the keynote in the fifth movement where the boys are a joy sharp and cheeky in the way they burst in on the silence. Though intensely beautiful in parts, Horenstein doesnt neglect the drama and tension implicit in the sixth movement and doesnt stand in the way of the great beauty and sense of contemplation. This great Brucknerian also brings out the qualities the movement seems to inherit from that composer in the musics sense of slumberous growth. The end emerges naturally with the final timpani notes very prominent, a feature of this recording, which leads me to say the sound balance is not ideal. It favours the winds with the lower strings especially further back in the picture than they should be. But this is the only cloud on the horizon of this classic recording. In lesser hands this symphony can sag in parts. Never once under Horenstein is there any sense of that. His concentration is stunning and every bar seems to have something to say. This remains one of the greatest recordings of any Mahler symphony ever set down and I think it always will. Over the years my high regard in this survey for these two recordings by Barbirolli and Horenstein have generated more critical comment than any of my choices across the whole synoptic survey both in private e-mails and in public internet forums. True, there are more who will go along with my

estimation of the Horenstein recording, but even I have to admit I plough quite a lonely furrow where the Barbirolli recording is concerned. So it goes. I will carry on singing the praises of both these recordings in the general profile. I can do no other but write what I feel and hope those interested will listen with open ears. As I say in my Preface, this survey is a personal selection. Less disagreement greets my high regard for Leonard Bernstein in this work, of course. Of his two studio recordings with the New York Philharmonic I prefer his first one on Sony (SM2K 47 576). Its much the same interpretation as on the later DG release but the playing of the NYPO in 1961 has more sense of discovery. I also think the earlier recording, though showing its age, is still a better sound picture overall. Bernstein is alive to every nuance of the score but, as in his recording of the Seventh from the same period, he lets the music speak for itself right the way through. That isnt to say his reading doesnt have distinctive qualities, not least in the first movement. At the start theres a definite feeling of a journey beginning as the horns roar and theres also a sense of latent energy. This is a feeling that will persist and is what infuses the great uprushes from the lower strings in the opening pages which are projected with superb attack from the New York players. As too are the woodwind choirs squawks, like birds on a wire startled into life by some noise at dusk. Following the great trombone solo Bernstein segues seamlessly into the main exposition material where the march of summer finds him in characteristically exuberant mood. If Barbirollis march was Blackpool Promenade on August Bank Holiday, Bernsteins is New Yorks Fifth Avenue on St. Patricks Day, and none the worse for that. His explicit sense of the march material means his treatment of the crucial central episode (530-640) comes off splendidly with the tensions of "live" performance and more than a nod towards Charles Ives, a composer who must have been in this of all conductors mind. There is tremendous frenzy whipped up here with every subtle change of tempi taken care of and a definite sense of danger that seems most appropriate. The conclusion crowns the movement with power, grandeur and excitement combined. I could imagine some finding Bernsteins exuberance in this movement just over the top, but this music is "over the top" to start with so Bernstein and Mahler just about balance this time. There is lovely attention to detail in the second movement and a real sense of flight in the quicker passages. Most important of all Bernstein realises this is a prelude to what follows and there is no sense of relaxation, even though the

felicities of the score make their nostalgic effect. The latter also applies to the third movement that finds a slightly more relaxed tempo than some recordings. This allows the woodwind especially to convey the charm of the music by articulating every note and for everyone else to get across a realswing to the animated passages. The rollicking brass should bring a smile to your face if you have ever heard more sober views. The posthorn solo is sweet and mellow proving, as elsewhere, that Bernstein can relax when he needs to. Around the second appearance of the posthorn he also gets his strings to throw a shimmering haze around the player which is magical. Then when raw nature rears up at 529 the effect is even more big-boned, sexy and dramatic than it might have been. The fourth movements "Oh Mensch" brings some rapt playing and Martha Lipton is a veiled witness. The fifth movement with the boys and women comes over remarkably restrained for Bernstein. A bigger choir might have helped and maybe this is the only movement where I feel any great sense of disappointment. Bernstein takes the last movement slowly and with great dedication. However, unlike some, he brings that kind of tempi off because he never overloads it with too much emotional weight. He seems to have realised the music has plenty of its own already in it. All flows from within, just as it should, and the attention is held from first bar to last and an ultimate triumph that is natural and solid. Rafael Kubeliks excellent DG studio version is currently available only as part of his complete cycle (463 738-2) but has always been for me on a par with Barbirolli and Horenstein. It has one main drawback in that the recorded balance is, like the rest of his Munich studio cycle, close-miked and somewhat lacking in atmosphere. It never bothered me that much but just occasionally I felt the need for a little more space. As luck would have it, since the first version of this survey appeared, an Audite release (23.403) in their series of "live" Mahler performances from Kubeliks Munich years in the archives of Bavarian Radio has now appeared. It even comes from the same week as the DG studio version and must have been the concert performance mounted to give the players the chance to perform the work prior to recording in the empty hall. It goes some way to addressing the problem of recorded balance in that there is a degree more space and atmosphere and also more separation across the stereo arc. It thus offers an even more satisfying experience whilst still delivering Kubeliks gripping and involving interpretation with the added tensions of "live" performance. There is a little background tape hiss but

nothing that the true music lover need fear. So, like with the Barbirolli, (and the Scherchen and Martinon recordings) dealt with below), here is yet another "not originally made for release" broadcast recording of Mahlers Third for the list of top recommendations. Like all great Mahler Thirds it has a fierce unity and a striking sense of purpose across the whole six movements, lifting it above so many versions that miss this crucial aspect. Tempi are faster than you may be used to, let me stress. It also pays as much attention to the inner movements as it does the outer with playing of poetry, charm and that hard-to-pin-down aspect, wonderment. In the first movement Kubelik echoes Schoenbergs belief that this is a struggle between good and evil, generating the real tension needed to mark this. Listen to the gathering together of all the threads for the central storms section, for an example. Kubelik also comes close to Barbirollis raucous, unforgettable "grand day out up North" march spectacle and shares his British colleagues and Leonard Bernsteins sense of the sheer wackiness of it all. (Why are modern day conductors so afraid to see this aspect?) Listen to the wonderful Bavarian basses and cellos rocking the world with their uprushing basses and those raw, rude trombone solos as black as an undertakers hat and about as delicate as a Bronx cheer or an East End Raspberry. Kubelik also manages to give the impression of the movement as a living organism, growling and purring in passages of repose particularly, fur bristling like a cat in a thunderstorm. Too often you have the feeling in this movement that conductors cannot get over how long it is and so they want to make it sound big by making it last for ever. In fact it is a superbly organised piece that benefits from the firm hand of a conductor prepared to "put a bit of stick about" like Kubelik does. In the second movement there is a superb mixture of nostalgia and repose with the spiky, tart aspects of nature juxtaposing the scents and the pastels. Only Horenstein surpasses in the rhythmic pointing of the following Scherzo but Kubelik comes close as his sense of purpose seems to extend the chain of events that was begun at the very start, still pulling us on in one great procession. The pressing tempi help in this but above all there is the innate feel for the whole picture that only a master Mahlerian can pull off and frequently only in "live" performance. Marjorie Thomas is an excellent soloist and the two choirs are everything you would wish for. Though Barbirollis Manchester boys are just wonderful. Like Barbirolli, though warm of heart, Kubelik refuses to indulge the music of the last movement and wins out as the crowning climax is as satisfying as could be wished. This is a firm

recommendation for Mahlers Third and another gem in Audites Kubelik releases. Whilst dealing with earlier interpreters on record, the name Charles Adler might be unfamiliar to many people today but he was a Mahler pioneer too who made the first recordings of the Third and Sixth Symphonies, as well as the Adagio of the Tenth, for a label he financed from his own resources. He also might have known Gustav Mahler as hes thought to have been one of the assistants who helped train the choruses for the first performance of the Eighth in Munich in 1910. Adlers recording of the Third was made in Vienna in 1951 with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and, on first release, boasted sleeve notes by Alma Mahler herself. Remember that until 1960 this was the only recording of the Third available so it helped form the impression of this work for a generation of Mahlerites giving it a firm place in the history of Mahler recordings. Its now available on French Harmonia Mundi (HMA 190501.02) or Tahra (Tahra 340). It is claimed that the occasional deviations from the score an experienced listener will notice came from Mahler himself. If true it adds interest to the recording over and above the considerable virtues to be found in it. There is spaciousness and weight to the first movement which, when allied to the distinctive Viennese playing style and sound still preserved in 1951, takes us back to another world. This can be heard especially well in the sound of the horns and in the aching lyricism of the contrasting sections in the introduction. The summer march then builds from very gentle beginnings to emerge in grandeur. All through Adler justifies his weightier, muscular approach by a miracle of concentration and by the response of his players who, whilst never the last word in security, have this music in their bone marrow. There is, I believe, a hint of what this work might have sounded like under Mahler himself especially in the mellow horns and in a hundred different ways in which the strings turn a phrase. Maybe the rougher mono recording helps but the contrast of toughness and lyricism is most engaging too. The close of the movement is built up to over a huge span and rises to a massive climax to seal a deeply impressive account. The second movement stresses lyricism again with some perky woodwinds. Again the way the strings phrase their contributions is the kind of playing you

really dont hear today and might sound quite unfamiliar to younger listeners. But I believe it tells us a lot about this work we might otherwise miss. The third movement is rather held back in tempo but, as with Barbirolli and Bernstein, benefits from this in having time to allow the myriad details to make their effect, woodwinds especially. There is real atmosphere conveyed, not least in the posthorn played by its Viennese soloist "to the manner born". There is one bad edit after the second posthorn where two sessions seem to have been spliced together with two different tempi to match, but try not to let that bother you. Hilde Rssl-Majdan gives a surprisingly passionate performance of "Oh Mensch" and, rather like Bernsteins recording, this leads to a much gentler account of the fifth movement. The last movement under Adler is then very pure and ethereal in parts. The body of strings is not as large as it might be and its in the last movement this shows most. However, I still want you to be aware of this recording for all that it can tell us about Mahler performing practice. The mono sound shows its age a little, but a few minutes getting used to it is all thats needed to adjust and enjoy a fine performance with many virtues. Whilst on the subject of Mahler pioneers you should be aware of a "live" recording by Hermann Scherchen and Leipzig radio forces from 1960. This is now available in a Tahra release (TAH 497-498 coupled with the Tenth Adagio) giving you a "live" performance by that most individual of Mahler conductors that should provide you with a fascinating alternative view well off the mainstream. Let me also at this point mention in passing another superb radio broadcast recording of this symphony that I think demands general release. Its by Jean Martinon and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has been commercially available as part of a large and expensive commemorative box. For that reason I will not deal with it in any detail. Suffice it to say that I consider it the equal of the great classic recordings for all the reasons I have tried to set out. Surely a label could be found who would release it singly. So far I have dealt only with recordings from before 1970. So I think I am justified in calling them recordings from a previous era of conductor and sound. They are certainly analogue, all of their conductors are now dead, but they still impress, still seem in touch with a view of this work that seems to have gone. When writing the first version of this survey I was hard pressed to then find recordings from the more recent past and in digital sound that I thought came anywhere near the achievements of the versions dealt with above. But I did have a go and I see no reason to strike any of those that I included out as they are fine achievements and still worth consideration.

Giuseppe Sinopoli with the Philharmonia Orchestra on DG (447 051) is as good a place as any to start. The sound recording is superb - bold and rich, with lots of unobtrusive atmosphere. There is also splendid playing from the start with clear and "up-front" lower string uprushes that have an extra element of impetuosity about them. The trombone solos are splendidly ripe, and note also the cracks from the bass drum here and right through which are wonderfully caught. Sinopoli is aware of every colour in Mahlers special sound palette as he is also of the rhythms in the march whose tension he builds inexorably. When the summer arrives, Sinopoli delivers exuberance but just stops short of Bernstein in this. Note the superb trumpet playing prior to the start of the development and also in the central crisis where the marches join battle. Here Sinopolis structural grasp is as sure as Horensteins, aiding his ability to convey the struggle for good over evil that Schoenberg noticed. The closing pages are a culmination not just of the re-start of the march but of the whole movement. Can Sinopoli maintain such a promising start? Indeed he can. Delicacy is the watchword in the second movement, especially the care shown to the inner string parts and the way the music is moulded, but not excessively so. Sinopoli can frequently be heavy-handed in Mahler but here his touch is a light one. The same applies to the third movement but this doesnt prevent Sinopoli from bringing great swing to the heavier scored parts that emerge with lifeenhancing drama. When the posthorn solo arrives, the delicacy already noticed carries us into a dream landscape, enhanced by one of the best accounts of the solo on record (John Wallace?) leading to a genuinely awesome delivery of the Nature arrival ushering in the fourth movement. Under Sinopoli and sung by Hanna Schwarz, this is suitably crepuscular which makes the bright and breezy fifth movement a real wakening to the day. I feared the last movement would be where Sinopolis judgement would desert him and he would spoil everything by pulling the music around too much. Not so. What he gives is a noble and warm account with climaxes that dont overwhelm, rather that seem perfectly natural parts of the whole, as do the final pages timpani contributions which are never allowed to swamp the texture. Sinopolis Mahler Third is one that should be a leading contender for the library. Superb sound, playing and interpretation.

Jesus Lopez-Cobos and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Telarc (80481) give a lively opening that brings distinctively grainy trombone sounds like nothing else on any other version. There are also some great "kicks" from the lower strings as they burst from the depths. This is not a pretty opening, in fact its quite ugly. Its one of those in the tradition that sees this music cut from the landscape with the bluntest of instruments. LopezCobos then has another surprise or two in store with a dance-like quality to the lyrical passages that accompany the opening and then a somewhat agitated account of the first trombone solo with violence lurking in the background. Summer itself has an airy, open-air quality and some energy to it thats refreshing and the very immediate recording balance helps him in what appears to be a much more radical, Wunderhorn view of this work. No attempt to smooth out the shifting moods and sounds. The March sections are superbly done, prepared for with some tension and delivered with vigour and the close has all the architectural security of Horenstein and the colour and blaze of Barbirolli. Notice too how LopezCobos and his engineers make you hear all the woodwind contributions. The second movement is fleet-footed and very precise. A refreshing account indeed which puts Lopez-Cobos in with those who lavish care and attention on this short movement. I especially like the character of the woodwind and the transparent textures, which are carried over to the third movement. Here there is a lovely rhythmic snap in the more animated passages and a post-horn solo dreamy and distant. In all, an account of this movement that covers all aspects. I also felt Lopez-Cobos had in the back of his mind the sound of the Fourth symphony in these two movements, reinforcing in my mind the impression that he doesnt lose sight of the fact that this is a Wunderhorn period piece. Michelle de Young is a rapt and sonorous soloist in the fourth movement with Lopez-Cobos in excellent support. In the fifth movement, he shows again his ability to illuminate elements others miss. Like the string accompaniments, which seem to receive special attention and some fine playing from the Cincinnati orchestra. This adds to a fine sense of flow that carries over into the last movement making the kind of culmination that it ought to be. LopezCobos is a touch more detached in his textures than others are here but not so much that it detracts from his flow. Its a fine alternative to the more "hearton-sleeve" conductors since Lopez-Cobos has a lighter touch that pays

dividends in that the optimistic side to Mahler wins out in the end. Ive always believed this to be Mahlers least troubled work and its good to hear LopezCobos appears to have reached that conclusion too. The sound recording is less sumptuous than, for example, Sinopoli. But I enjoyed its detail and musical sense and hi-fi fans should note this is encoded in Telarcs "Surround Sound". Simon Rattle's recording on EMI (56657) with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra followed live performances but I wish they had issued one of those. Having heard a broadcast of one I felt the presence of the audience gave the players a greater sense of unfolding drama. The sound here is rich, deep and well upholstered. Very much a concert hall balance with a wide spread left and right and good front-to-back perspective. The CBSO horns open the work with a sense of space, both physical and musical, with each note spaced out more deliberately and the horns themselves sounding less penetrating than I think they should. Overall the brass of the CBSO are more cultured and cushioned than the Hall for Barbirolli or the LSO for Horenstein, so they offer a better blend. But there is some loss of character. The trombone solos are little too well mannered too, I think. The strings are well balanced and there appear to be enough of them for the uprushes from lower strings to really shudder from the depths. Rattle's main march is well done in terms of tempo and weight and is also very grand. But I think it misses the greater swagger of Bernstein and Barbirolli and the sense of the approach from far distance. In the passage at 530-642 where Mahler develops on the marches Rattle could have learned a lot from the example of his older colleagues. Horenstein and Bernstein never lose track of the plot where Rattle seems to have done at the start. He redeems himself in the "Ivesian" frenzy but then lets the music sag again in the long, dreamy section before the march resumes for the Recapitulation. With Rattle my attention wondered whereas with Barbirolli, Horenstein and Kubelik I remained riveted. Rattle also seems to cushion the climaxes at the end. The impression is that he might want to save something in his arsenal for later. The second movement gets a lovely performance. Then in the third the opening woodwinds of the CBSO show great character and a more cultured and refined delivery. It's really a question of taste as to whether you prefer a

more homespun sound like that for Barbirolli and Horenstein. Rattle seems anxious to luxuriate in the details of this movement where others prefer to be more extrovert. This does lead to an unforgettable delivery of the posthorn solos in the Rattle recording. The lead up is given a deliberate slowing down which in "live" performance was a piece of concert hall theatre worthy of Furtwangler and then in the recording the player impinges into our aural imagination from a huge distance. In the interlude between the two passages Rattle then coaxes his muted brass players to cluck like an expectant hen house - "What the animals tell me", indeed. Rattle is more reined-back in the passage at the end of the movement where Nature rears up and, again in comparison with others, disappoints. He seemed more concerned with the beauty of sound that can be drawn from this moment rather than its earthy, elemental ugliness. The backward depth in the sound stage means that the fourth movement starts with a considerable advantage as Birgit Remmert emerges from way back, singing with greater insight into the words and character of her part than most counterparts. The most noticeable difference with Rattle in this movement concerns his renowned zeal for bringing out every detail of the score because this leads to a controversial decision. There is an important solo for principal oboe and cor anglais and Mahler's instruction to the player is "hinaufziehen". A friend who was at one of the live performances described the sound produced by CBSO principal oboe Jonathan Kelly as "an extraordinary upward glissando". Rattle may have interpreted exactly what Mahler asks for but hearing something I'm so familiar with played in a way I'm so unfamiliar with makes me wonder if this is a detail to far. Rattle learned the effect from an off-air recording by Berthold Goldschmidt and the Philharmonia Orchestra from 1960. Rattle also adds girls to his boys choir and so there is a difference between his fifth movement and many others. There is more warmth but I feel less contrast. I prefer Barbirolli's unvarnished honesty though Rattle's orchestral accompaniment is very telling. Rattle is restrained in the last movement. He finds a degree of expression a few notches beneath Barbirollis and Bernsteins and supplies more of the inner spirituality of Horenstein which the movement benefits from. He doesn't slow up too much, though. He agrees the movement should have ebb and flow, but his ebb and flow is within narrower limits than Barbirollis or Bernsteins. The string players in Birmingham have more weight of tone and seem better able to deliver a true pianissimo and more levels of dynamic than their Manchester counterparts who were, perhaps, given a separate agenda. At the close Rattle is very satisfying. If you are looking for a modern version of Mahler's Third, superbly recorded and played, with a care for detail that takes

you deep into the complexities of this remarkable work, Rattle is a contender though not a leading one. Klaus Tennstedts version was mentioned in passing in the first version of this survey and I realise now this was a mistake and one I am pleased to correct. He always seemed to approach Mahlers music from its past rather than its future. Under him the symphonies emerge as works by a composer standing at the culmination of a 19th century tradition of romantic symphonies rather than at the start of its disintegration in the 20th. Sonorities are often richly and grandly presented, romantic and expressive opportunities are likely to be grasped with alacrity, astringency and harshness tends to be underplayed and tempi are frequently, though not always, expansively presented. Tennstedt still has a legion of admirers for whom he can seemingly do no wrong and though Ive never counted myself among them I have always admired his Third in spite of reservations relating to those characteristics I have outlined. (EMI 5 74296 2 coupled with the Fourth Symphony.) One of the aspects of Tennstedts Mahler conducting that always concerns me most is that he seemed surer of himself when the music was dark and tragic. That he often appeared unable, or unwilling, to deliver as convincingly as others did those passages when Mahler lightens his mood and tone. It seemed that Tennstedt was "marking time" in those passages until the next chunk of tragedy or drama came along. Perhaps we could say that when Tennstedt turned to Mahler there was "something of the night" about him. But if a performance of Mahlers music is going to do it justice it must bring out every aspect in equal measure. Only then are the full implications of Mahlers unique qualities, his world-embracing visions, likely to emerge best and most especially in movements where he changes frequently from one extreme to the other. I never really felt Tennstedt really did that. The first movement of the Third is one such movement, perhaps a paradigm, and is therefore a "graveyard" for conductors who cannot bring this aspect off. The opening paragraphs see him as a Sisyphus pushing his rock with the accent on weight and drag. Few versions are as doom-laden as this and it is certainly a memorable account of this part of the score. The problem is that when the lighter music arrives, with woodwinds chirruping and squawking in the dovecotes and strings lifting the music aloft as if those birds have flown, the mood seems to remain dark whereas it should change profoundly to signal the pattern for the rest of the movement. The great trombone solo is also surprisingly tame where it really ought to be rude and raucous. Its as though Tennstedt wants to keep this as a creature of the dark also. Likewise in the

build up to the march crisis in the development there is the sense of Tennstedt waiting for the moment when he can unleash his forces in mass attack which he does do with great effect. So I think he again misses the musical equivalent of montage film editing that gives equal attention to every passage rather than some. There are impressive things in this movement, though. The sound of the LPO horns roaring at the climax of the expositions march of summer, for example, and the close of the whole movement with brass and percussion sweeping all before them. But Horenstein, Barbirolli, Kubelik and Bernstein all have a better grasp of every feature of this movement. The rest of the symphony under Tennstedt works much better, though it cannot be said too often that an account of the Third where the first movement doesnt convince is a Third with one hand tied behind its back. It might well be because each of the following five movements essentially has just one mood which Tennstedt can therefore stick to. Just to prove he is capable of the light touch the second movement is warm and beautifully pointed with a carefree air. The playing and recorded balance is alive to every colour and this carries over to the third movement where a nice feeling of urgency also gets injected into the system. The two posthorn solos are superbly atmospheric and notice the violins in the passage between them and the splendid woodwind squeaks just prior to the second entry. It should go without saying Tennstedt manages the great rearing up of natures power at the close of the movement with awesome effect. The fourth movement finds Ortrun Wenkel a more open and expressive soloist than we are used to though I would have liked, once again, more contrast for the entry of the boys in the fifth movement. However, the real surprise and pleasure comes in the last movement where Tennstedt confounds expectations to deliver one of the best accounts I have heard. Too many conductors take the arrival of this movement as the signal to slow down, even seeming to try to outdo each other as to how slow they can take this music, some stringing it out into glacial progress. But this music is an anthem not a wake and Tennstedt keeps things moving forward so that the underlying tension is never allowed to flag and neither is the attention of the listener. Ive heard accounts of this music where I have frankly become bored by it. By keeping his eye firmly on the closing pages and when these arrive delivering them without overheating the emotion, Tennstedt brings the work home on a really triumphant note. Not at all like Klaus Tennstedt, in fact. These were the most outstanding of the modern versions that I included in the first version of this survey. The intervening years since have been very good to this symphony and whilst I still think Sinopoli and Lopez-Cobos in

particular still deserve their leading places there are now other newer recordings that are as fine and, in three cases, even finer. The question at the top of my mind this time around in this survey is whether any of these could now challenge the old guard, give me the Holy Grail of a modern digital recording by a conductor of our own time worthy to be listed in the same breath, something I failed to find last time. I will tell you now that whilst some new recordings come very close there is one, at last, that I think does meet that formidable criteria, but more of that one later. Let me first deal with two new recordings that I think dont quite make the grade but are included here because they are borderline and they illustrate better the virtues of the ones that do. Above I wrote that I think it takes a particular breed of conductor to turn in a great Mahler Third. No place for the tentative and no place for the sophisticated. The greatest interpreters have all knocked about the world and been knocked about by it. Andrew Litton with the Dallas Symphony (Delos DE3248) gives every impression of not falling into this category as what he gives us is an all too sophisticated, contrived and ultimately complacent reading that makes me wonder if he really believes in Mahlers vision or whether he isnt, in effect, rather embarrassed by it all. Attention never flags in the immense first movement but neither is there what you could call an attitude. Which means the performance is not marked out for distinction from those who have gone before. Rather that Litton appears daunted by the forces Mahlers imagination unleashes and he has decided the best thing to do is get out unscathed, which he does and with much aplomb. But is "aplomb" appropriate in this movement? A crucial passage is between bars 530 and 642 where the March that dominates the animated sections does battle with the primeval forces to see who is dominant. It should be the scene of abandon, danger and struggle. Under Litton its just an example of fine orchestral playing and sound recording where the level of attack seems blunted. So often in other passages there is the feeling Litton cannot bear to let things get too much out of control. The usually awesome climax at 367-368, where the enhanced horn section is left bellowing at the universe, Litton again hangs fire. The second movement has elegance and charm and seems to suit Littons style more. Mahler wrote about the third movement: "This piece really sounds as if all nature were making faces and sticking out its tongue. But there is such horrible, panic-like humour in it that one is overcome with horror rather than with laughter." A tall order for the conductor which only the best come close

to matching. Littons animals all sound too Beatrix Potter to me. The lovely Posthorn solo is well brought off, but even here I thought Litton and his player go for the saccharine bringing us music more suited to a candy advert. Then in the passages between the two solos we are faced again with that problem we faced in the first movement. There is no sense of the dangerous abandon for it to bring us close to Mahlers "horrible, panic-like humour." There is also that crippling habit Litton has of holding back when he should let rip which shows itself especially in the amazing passage from 529-556, a crescendo from ppp to fff followed by a diminuendo down topppp that Mahler describes as "the heavy shadow of lifeless nature". Nathalie Stutzman has a full and verdant tone and fine sense of words in the fourth movement but the problem is Litton pushes her and the orchestra along too much. The reading of the great last movement that Litton then gives is sweet and intense to start with. It is possible for the attention to be allowed to wonder unless the conductor has a clear idea of where is has come from, where he is now, and where hes going. The only aspect Im aware of with Litton is a desire to beguile the ear. The orchestra plays well but doesnt, as yet, have the ability to convey the idea they are reaching back into a real tradition of playing this music. After listening a number of times to the version by Benjamin Zander (Telarc 3SACD-60599) I made the "mistake" of listening again to the recording by Hermann Scherchen and also the unreleased one by Berthold Goldschmidt already mentioned, both from 1960. Straightway I knew what I had been missing. These two great Mahler interpreters of the past may not be blessed with the kind of rich and detailed digital sound that Zander is given but such is their uncanny and innate understanding of the deep structures of this work that matters of sonics cease to matter. In Scherchens case he is even labouring under the disadvantage of conducting an orchestra that would struggle to be calledsecond rate. No matter. Such is the players grasp of what Scherchen is doing that even their technical shortcomings cease to matter all that much. In the case of Goldschmidt he had before him what was then one of the worlds best orchestras - in fact the same one as Zander, albeit of forty-three years ago. I must say that on this evidence the Philharmonia of 1960 knew their Mahler more intimately than their counterparts of 2003. Surprising because in 1960 they had never played the work before yet still had it within them to bend their collective spirit in a manner of playing, a tone of musical voice, that now seems lost. Both the older conductors project a symphony full of ambiguity,

cocky self-confidence, nave poetry, warmth of heart, wonderment and an emotional richness that comes not from an outside-in imposition but percolates out from the core, all in overarching, urgent, forward-moving structures that have you on the edge of your seat from first note to last. Just like my preferred stereo versions from pre-1970, in fact. It is a Mahlerian truth that a performance of the Third that fails to bring off the first movement successfully and idiomatically is fatally wounded. That is the case with the Zander recording. The horn-led opening under him is powerful, leonine and vividly projected, but not nearly elementally seismic enough. The high woodwind trills which become scattered right through the movement seem far too regimented and cleanly delivered to approach the demented squawks Mahler surely intended. The trombone solos are well played but, as with the woodwind trills, are still too contained, not rude enough. All of this is symptomatic for me of Zander not really "getting" this symphony. Under Zander there seems in the whole, long introductory passage of the first movement too literal a presentation of the material, a feeling the desire is to present the notes rather than what lies beneath them. The great march of Summer sees the bands beautifully turned out and well-drilled, though there is in the recorded sound an edge to the brass when playing full out that is tiring on the ear. Following the horn sections crowning of the climax at the mid point of the movement the lead-back to the return of the march and the stormy variation of it leaves me with the impression that Zander didnt really know what to do with this transitional passage. That hes just longing for that storm to come up. The battle of the storms is not as bone-shaking as it could be. Its a stiff breeze rather than a hurricane. The coda, capable of being the most exciting music that Mahler ever wrote, is ruined. Zander presses so hard down on the accelerator I was put in mind of the way Furtwngler used to conduct the coda to the last movement of Beethovens Ninth. The orchestra just about hangs on, but all nature-storming grandeur is knocked down in the rush. The second movement does contain some nice touches, in the string playing especially, but the slides are strictly controlled, the phrasing calculated. The third movement fares better with more of what has been missing in warmth and involvement, though there is still an impression of the metrical. Every rhythmic jump and jerk superbly prepared and executed. But are the animals in the forest really like that? Then there is the post-horn solo. This wonderful effect in the third movement is one of Mahlers greatest master-strokes. In this recording Zander calls for his soloist to use a genuine post-horn and the instrument is even described for us in the notes. The problem is that the player is set so far in the distance that you can barely hear what he is playing. You

can, of course, turn up the volume control but you would then have to turn it down again quickly when the whole orchestra joins in. In the two choral movements it was a pleasure to hear the warm tones of Lilli Paasikivi and the vitality of the Tiffin boys who all lead into a consoling and grand final movement where, at last, there is a glimpse of what a great Mahler Third really can be. The Philharmonia Orchestra plays well throughout and the recorded sound is rich, though the dynamic range is huge as I indicated when discussing the post-horn. Fix a volume setting to contain the all-out passages with comfort and you lose detail in the quiet passages. The newer recordings that now follow do, I believe, challenge the older ones more closely than the above two. Michael Tilson Thomass first version with the LSO on Sony boasted the best contralto of all in Janet Baker and a wonderful coupling of Baker singing the Kindertotenlieder. The Third recording had virtues but without quite convincing me it deserved promotion to front rank. However, Tilson Thomas has now re-recorded the Third as part of his ongoing San Francisco cycle (SFSO/Avie 821936-0003-2) and this one is a definite improvement. Make no mistake, this is a well-played, wellrecorded, enjoyable and involving performance. It is only when it is compared with the older recordings that you start to hear what is missing. If you must have a supplement in the very latest recorded sound then you might consider Michael Tilson Thomass new version, but read on. There is in the first movement still not quite enough of the rough-edged, rude banality Im sure Mahler meant us to hear which must have so shocked his first audience. This shortcoming is all the more sharply felt when contrasted with the nature painting Mahler provides to go with it. Cases in point are the great trombone solos. In the older recordings mentioned above these come over almost as a force of nature stressing bloated fecundity. Tilson Thomass soloist is a fine musician but his relatively backward placing in the sound picture and his straight-faced delivery of this rude, cheeky music is not powerful or coarse enough. Under Kubelik an unforgettable raw assault bears down on you like the earth being ripped apart. Horenstein and Barbirolli also pull this effect off. This is a small aspect, you may say. However I think it indicative of the overall tone of the first movement under Tilson Thomas which, by a crucial gnats whisker, fails to convey the "life or death" struggle Schoenberg noticed.

Maybe its the space Tilson Thomas gives the music in the first movement that makes it fall short on the urgency aspect. Just over thirty-six minutes is long even for this movement. I can admire the grandeur, though. Taken with his care for the lyric aspects it certainly engages right the way through. There are some carefully prepared stringtremolandi in the introduction, and the woodwinds squawk tunefully on cue every time their dovecotes are disturbed. I always think Mahlers birds should be more Alfred Hitchcock than Percy Edwards. This is certainly the case from Kubelik, Barbirolli and Horenstein and all the better to round out the picture. The great march of Summer which crosses and re-crosses the movement is done with gusto and panache, as you would expect from this conductor, though I found his tendency to over-control detracted from the "in your faceness" Mahler surely wanted. This march should just let rip and be its rude self no matter how coarse it might get. All of this remains the impression to the end of the movement: grandeur contrasted with lyricism, urgency and edge are downplayed by too much control. From Kubelik theres terrific forward momentum, even in the repose passages, and no lack of the uglier, coarser aspects of nature to go with the lyric ones. From Tilson Thomas there are a few of the colours missing, the primary ones, and not enough sense of danger. Tilson Thomass control of the second movement is strong too, which gives it an admirably taut quality but then detracts from the sense of intermezzo that perhaps it should have. There are some impressive things from the orchestra here, though. The third movement emerges naturally from the second and is most enjoyable. The post-horn solo is a little lacking in character, both in sound and delivery. Beautifully played but no real attempt to "sound-paint" a mood. The great coda to the movement, where nature rears up to bite our heads off, is delivered splendidly with tremendous portent and fear. Full marks to the horn section for the lungpower. Michelle de Young sings the fourth movement with a matronly operatic vibrato I didnt take to at all. Something more disembodied is called for here. Whilst the boys in the fifth movement are pure and bell-like to suit the words but I miss the Manchester lads from Barbirolli or the Wandsworth boys from Horenstein for their sheer cheeky edges. One of the many appeals of Mahlers music is how close it takes itself to edges without quite falling over them. This puts conductors on their honour to save Mahler from himself when they can. The Andante to the Sixth always seems to me a step short of kitsch. Likewise the last movement of the Third seems to me a step short of mawkish if not handled correctly. Like the slow movement from Bruckners Eighth this is, for most of the time, a meditation not a confession. I think Tilson Thomass "heart on sleeve" is too

close to his cuff so the music palls rather. Im well aware that many of you will love it and will swoon at this kind of treatment. I wish you well with it. For me something a little more detached goes a longer way, saves Mahler from himself, prevents his music being turned into our own personal psychiatrists couch. At the start of the music part of me thought I was listening to the opening of Barbers Adagio and that cant be right at all. Go back to Kubelik for the right balance of "heart on sleeve" and cerebral repose and you will see what I mean. But thats not the whole story of this movement, of course. The end should be triumphant and under Tilson Thomas it really is just that. The heart is warmed by the journeys end and this goes some way to making up for any reservations I may have over the rest. Im happy to stress pros rather than its cons here. The San Francisco Orchestra is on fine form and they are recorded with depth and spread in a realistic sound picture that packs a punch when needed but can pare down to intimacy too. It must be said that they dont have the last few ounces of tone colour variation that mark out the greatest Mahler orchestras from the others, woodwind especially. Their brass section too is rather soulless, especially when playing all out. Michael Gielen has been recording Mahler Symphonies for a number of years with his Baden-Baden orchestra and the results have been rightly admired. He approaches Mahler essentially from a 20th century viewpoint, seeing him as a composer looking forward rather than backward. In that aspect we hear Mahler in the clear light of day, instrumental lines clear, the sharp edges in his sound palette thrown into relief, the romantic and emotional effects not so much played down as left to their own devices. Some may find this last characteristic disappointing: a barrier between them and music that they think should move and thrill them more. But when so many conductors seem happy to connive with those who wish to use Mahler as their own personal consulting room I believe Gielen, like his predecessor at Baden-Baden Hans Rosbaud, presents an important and refreshing point of view and would urge you to try it (Hnssler Classics CD 93.017). One of the most notable aspects of the long first movement of the Third under Gielen is his deliberate tempo for the march that dominates it, crossing and re-crossing like armies over a familiar battlefield. There can be few recordings where this is given with such swagger and emphasis as here and I liked it very much. I also liked the fact that Gielen encourages his trombones to really observe the written glissandi at

the start that others seem to almost wilfully ignore. These are the kind of touches you would expect from Gielen: examples of his gimlet eye for radical detail that also means he is never dull, always with something to say. The recording balance helps too and I was especially impressed by how much you can hear of Mahlers dense textures. The many string tremolos shimmering and the woodwinds squealing and squawking above the heaviest scored of passages are examples of this. The attention to the kaleidoscopic textures is shown at its best in the section of the development where Mahler pitches the March material into furious battle. Gielen keeps track of every line of the score for us. Not for him any attempts to smooth out the music into more palatable form. The second movement shows a nice contrast between the pastoral minuet material and the more energetic trios. Again notice the snaps from the strings and the squeaks from the woodwinds. The third movement then seems to grow directly out of the second with some perky, cheeky woodwinds at the start but a very pure and ethereal trumpet solo in the remarkable central sections. Not for Gielen a flgelhorn here, as in Horensteins recording, for example. Perhaps that would present a little too much charged nostalgia. However Gielen manages plenty of power in the extraordinary passage at the end of the movement where Mahler depicts nature rearing up like a great prehistoric monster. In the fourth movement the contralto Corneila Kallisch is placed forward and sings well but the most notable sound you will take away from this movement is that of the oboe. Gielen instructs his soloist to observe Mahlers marking "hinaufziehen" and perform upward glissandi, as with Goldschmidt and Rattle, though in Gielens recording this effect is a little less obtrusive and I could be persuaded to accept it as played here. The mood of the fourth movement should then be broken sharply by the entry of the boys intoning the "Bimm-Bamms" of the bells in the fifth movement but in this recording they really dont do that, appearing to be set too far back to make much impact. I also think the boys sing too politely and sweetly even in a recording where we are kept at greater distance. I longed for Horensteins urchins at this point in an object lesson in how this movement should sound. After this the last movement is played with great restraint. A restraint many will find runs dangerously close to a detachment for music that has so much heartfelt emotion at its core and can stand some coaxing even in an interpretation like this. Certainly Gielen misses the inner spirituality others bring. But that is not the effect Gielen is aiming for overall and we must accept that or ignore his recording completely. The playing of the orchestra remains true and committed to the end rounding off what is still a fine and

interesting performance. This is a worthwhile and challenging recording of Mahlers longest work, fresh and clear. Not a first choice, but certainly one to compliment versions offering more personal involvement by the conductor and I believe it to be worth your consideration. Claudio Abbado has now recorded the Third Symphony for DG for a second time (471 502-2). His first version was studio made in Vienna and notable for its grasp of detail, even though I always felt there was something crucially missing in the direct communication department. Something that a "live" performance has every chance of redressing alongside offering a more mature interpretation. This new performance was given by Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic in London in October 1999. It was first broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and DG acknowledges the BBC in the liner credits so this could be said to be a harking back to the type of performance not meant for release that I praised earlier. The audience is impeccably behaved and the orchestra on top form. Perhaps they tire a little towards the end of the long evening, but that is what happens in concerts and only adds to the sense of occasion and really should worry only those who always demand the often clinical perfection of the studio. The extraordinary introduction section to the first movement is outstanding here for the acutely perceptive balancing of parts and sections and for the sense of a slow, inexorable forward momentum projected beneath the considerable degree of portent that Abbado brings. The lower string uprushes could kick a bit more but this might well be more to do with the recorded balance. Then notice the way the tone of the music lightens in the pastoral interlude at bars 57-131. The BPO delivers this material with a bright, golden tone so that when the terrific snarls arrive from the bass drum as the opening material reasserts, it is that much more vivid when seen in such contrast. The fact that Abbado is so convincing in these two most important faces of this movement bodes well. The performances of the first movement that come off best are those that dont shy away from the kaleidoscopic nature of a piece brimming with youthful exuberance and, most especially, sheer nerve. There had never been a symphonic movement like this before, after all, and you know Mahler knew it. Another equally important face to the movement is the great march of summer that comes so much to dominate everything that it should, in the very best performances, give the impression of even threatening to take it over. Under Abbado it seems to begin from far away and then advance towards us before bursting out in its summer glory. However what I dont hear, certainly not to the same degree, is the sheer

bumptious effrontery of it all that I do get with Barbirolli, Horenstein, Bernstein and Kubelik. They also deliver better the primeval elements of the movement, all that dirty bass-end grumbling and shuddering, that must also have come as such a shock to the first audiences. The climax to the marchs first procession (347-368) where the massed horns roar to the skies comes off very well under Abbado because here is a horn section that can be both powerful and retain great beauty of tone. But again the previous versions I mentioned manage it better because they seem not to care how bold or crude they sound here. The development then begins with that lyrical, golden music Abbado gives with even more warmth than before, allowing him to then segue effortlessly into the return of the march where the battle between good and evil that Schoenberg so perceptively noted can really be enacted. Notice here the Berlin double basses precision and the woodwinds shrieks. Nowhere does Abbados modernist soul allow him to smooth out or prettify Mahler, let me assure you. The "battle of the marches" (530-642) is suitably exciting with the impression of forces champing at the bit to be released and I think the fact that this is a "live" performance helps here. From recapitulation to coda we are taken in one grand arch but there is a real lean towards the grandeur of the music under Abbado - a "grandstand" end to the extraordinary musical events we have just heard which begins even in the solo trombone. Then when the coda swells to its massive climax, broad and with plenty of space, Abbados expansive approach is capped and justified. In all the first movement certainly holds the attention across its immense span because Abbado has the belief written through his interpretation that you cannot and should not try to contain this music. He is also blessed with an orchestra that is on top of the movements demands even under these concert hall conditions and seems to respond to that challenge. Abbado appreciates the importance of the second movement and so makes it memorable by paying it the same attention to detail he has to the first. He sets out the five-part structure very particularly. He also achieves by his colouring of the winds the important fact that whilst the flowers that are being portrayed in this movement can smell nice they can also sting. The playing of the Berliners is again beyond praise in giving pin-sharp ensemble and great beauty of tone, shifting and darting between the various episodes, responding to Abbados little dabs of colour and to his minute, but so telling, changes of tempo. All of which are carried over to the third movement which Abbado, quite rightly, sees as the next step up the level of ascent he has now set himself upon and seems to grow naturally out of what has just gone. Under him this movement manages to be both energetic and lyrical at turns and

pretty well covers all bases, though Barbirolli, Horenstein and Kubelik yet again take the more raucous passages even further than Abbado who holds them in by comparison. I also feel the crucial posthorn sections, that most evocative sound in all Mahler, whilst admirably played and positioned in the sound picture are a little stiff. In the fourth movement Anna Larsson is superb in her delivery of Mahlers night song to Nietzches "O Mensch!". Since his first recording Abbado has also has come over to the school of thought that believes the oboe soloist (and later cor anglais) should interpret Mahlers hinaufziehen marking in the solos as an upward glissando. The two local choirs sing well in the fifth movement but there is some attack missing from the children who are not helped by their backward balancing. That said, Abbado does catch the feeling of a fresh day awakening the symphony demands here and provides a fine prelude to the delivery of the last movement. Just when you thought this performance couldnt get any better, it does. The last movement has all the concentration of chamber music playing in a noble and spiritual reading that grows in emotion and warmth and it progresses. Notice especially how in the later pages Abbado manages to correctly recall moods from the first movement, binding the vast structure together prior to an ending that is uplifting and focussed - pulling on the heartstrings but never in danger of snapping them. The enthusiastic applause from the full house at the end is given an extra track on the disc so you can programme them out if you want. The sound is spatially very wide with impressive left/right and front/back spread and, crucially, much more air around the sound than we are used to in this hall. Instrumental detail is still very clear but I do wonder whether some of the impact of certain passages may have been better left as this hall usually delivers them to microphones. Dynamic range is wide but comfortable and believable. The effect is like sitting in a seat quite far back in the hall and contributes to the concert hall atmosphere. There are, of course, many other versions available in the catalogue but those I have dealt with in detail are for me representative of the best in this work. As so often we are comparing the excellent with the outstanding and the outstanding with the immortal. Nevertheless, let me round up a few more that I would not include at all in case anyone wonders where they are. James Levine on BMG is good but I always feel theres too much gloss and polish, especially in passages that demand a more "homespun" approach. He also drags badly in the last movement. The last movement is also the main problem in Lorin Maazels version with the Vienna Philharmonic on Sony, though not the only one. This is all a pity because the Vienna Philharmonic is magnificent

and the same applies to the sound recording. Bernard Haitink is slow in the last movement on his second recording with the Berlin Philharmonic on Philips, though not as slow as Abbado was in his old VPO version. The main problem with Haitink is his first movement where hes just too "foursquare", phlegmatic and sane for music that should retain at least a touch of madness. Ive heard him better "live" in this work, as he is on a performance preserved in the multi-disc Phillips collection of his TV Christmas Mahler concerts where the Concertgebouw Orchestra plays to the Mahler manner borne. Sir Georg Solti on Decca whips up too much excitement in parts of the last movement and, as always under him, I find the brilliant Chicago Symphony brass section inappropriately brilliant all too often. Esa-Pekka Salonens Los Angeles version on Sony has been widely praised. For me its let down by too smooth an approach in the first movement especially, and this is aided and abetted by a bass-rich recording more recessed than most with the result that too many details get "melded" into the whole and pass us by. Riccardo Chaillys Decca version is another from their Amsterdam production line - impeccably played, too backwardly recorded, all the appropriate boxes ticked, but ultimately uninspired and badly lacking in the effrontery department. Much the same applies to Kent Nagano on Teldec. In the case of Pierre Boulez on DG (4742982 - a hybrid CD/SACD) the presence of the Vienna Philharmonic and a DG recording team on top form makes this one of the best sounding Mahler Thirds now before us. However, I really cannot this time empathise with Boulezs seeming unwillingness to engage with the very elements of the work which I find so crucial. A creative detachment, so admirable in other symphonies, just seems, to me, misapplied here. Interestingly, his performance of the last movement is transcendently moving but his portrayal of the first seems wounded by his inability to bend with its many contours and byways and some of the tempi are on the slow side. The second movement too doesnt seem to possess enough warmth of heart though the third is more appealing. So, with regret, and with praise for the sound and the playing, I shall pass over this version even though I am certain Boulez has delivered the very performance that he meant us to have. For those on a limited budget let me draw attention to the version by Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Decca (443 030-2). This is a "Double Decca" set and couples a reasonable account of the First Symphony with

Mehta conducting the Israel Philharmonic so clinching its bargain status. Mehtas Third is a ripe and vivid account, well played and brightly recorded, though not in the front rank. Also for bargain hunters there is Erich Leinsdorf Boston Symphony account on BMG (63469) who also couples a good First Symphony so again is worth the price asked. As I indicated above, at the time of writing the first version of this survey I was of the belief that I would probably wait in vain for a modern digital recording by a living conductor to challenge the great versions of the past - Barbirolli, Horenstein, Bernstein, Kubelik, Scherchen etc. One was certainly needed because this symphony really benefits from the latest sound as the digital versions proved in spades. Gielen and Abbado come the closest of all of those so far dealt with, closer than the digital versions dealt with last time, and yet there is still one recent digital recording that I do think is worthy in performance terms to be spoken of in the same breath as the immortals and I turn to it now. If what I have to say about it seems briefer than some of the reviews above it is because I have so few reservations about it. Quite simply it is so good that it is just a sheer pleasure to listen to from start to finish. The first thing to be said about the Semyon Bychkovs version on Avie (AV 0019) is the detail of the sound recording that lets you hear every aspect of instrumentation of this great score in excellent proportion and balance to an extent that is still surprisingly rare even in the digital era. Not just a question of the fact that it is digital but also because the balance engineers have done their jobs properly. I suppose some might call it a "close-in" balance. For me the description "no frills" springs better to mind. It is as if you have a seat in the hall near the front of the platform. There are, after all, recordings of this work where a too reverberant balance robs us of hearing just what a revolutionary canvas Mahler presents us with. Highest to lowest frequencies are accommodated with thrilling definition here and the highs and lows in this symphony are very high and very low indeed. Next is the excellence of the principal players of the WDR SinfonieOrchester Kln whose contribution is heard to thrilling effect by the sound balance. This is the orchestra that recorded the superb Shostakovich symphony cycle under Barshai and the Mahler cycle under Bertini. The opening massed horn call is a call to attention, almost like a fanfare here, that sets out the stall from the start with clear intent. "You will listen to us,"

Bychkov appears to want to say before a refreshingly sharp delivery of the opening slow march follows with rhythms very sharply pointed and the uprushes of the basses articulated with razor-like precision. Spring may be trapped by Winter but this is a Winter with real bite. I like the lyrical contrast of the second theme that comes next but I like even more the way its fundamental precision seems to be an appropriate counterbalance to the opening. As, for example, in the bracing way in which the important trombone soloist has been instructed to play with a rude health that is so often missing in the more polite interpretations. This spills over into the march which, with the closer recording, the excellence of the players and Bychkovs sense of the unadorned, puts me in mind of Bernstein and Barbirolli in its proletarian kick and real sense of lift and determination. Notice especially the middle of movement climax, just prior to where the horns come back and blast to the four corners, how the woodwind choir lets out a great sustained high shriek that ushers in the horns with a climax to take your head off. Now there is the shock of the new. Or should that be the "shock and awe" of the new? In the return to the opening material again the deep frequencies are superbly rendered with bass shudders to shiver anyones timbers before the march comes back with renewed swaggering, ballsy confidence. The end when it comes is carefully prepared, never rushed and again every detail is heard. With a first movement like this we have in front of us a Mahler Third of rare quality. From the start through to the end you become aware of a conductor who has thought through this movement anew and has the sense that he is telling a story. This is a "live" performance before an audience too, though you would hardly know it. The instrumental contributions to the second movement maintain the quality of the first. It is a fine contrast to what has gone, just as it should be, and also pays as much attention to the sharp, tart elements as to the warmth. The third movement serves the early Mahler song on which it is based very well seeming to twist it slightly almost as if it is being "sent up" which is quite probably what Mahler intended when he wrote: "This piece really sounds as if all nature were making faces and sticking out its tongue. But there is such horrible, panic-like humour in it that one is overcome with horror rather than with laughter." The posthorn is closer than it often is but this seems well in keeping with the general approach and there is no diminution in nostalgia. The rearing up of fecund nature at the close is as dark and lowering as you could wish for, frightening in its immediacy here. I also like Marjana Lipovek in the fourth movements "Oh Mensch" movement very much. Especially her dark, portentous tone and care for the words. The oboe and cor anglais plays

the sliding glissandos now the fashion but the effect does not seem to jar as much as it did. Maybe Im getting more used to it. Fine and lusty boys usher in a finale that is judged to near perfection with radiant. glowing strings, light and dark perspectives, a beautifully sustained line that is crowned by a truly liberating and life-enhancing coda. You will have gathered by now that I rate this Bychkov recording very highly indeed and I write not with a new review disc that has just arrived on my desk and I have heard for the first time only in the previous few days. I have lived with this for many months and many playings and look forward to doing so for years to come. Here at last is a Mahler Third from the modern era worthy to go with the greats of the past and this is now my top recommendation for performance and sound. Often the most difficult reviews to write are the ones where the performance just seems to work and be right. You just put down your notes and listen as if anew to a work you thought you knew so well. That is the case with Bychkov in Mahlers Third and I recommend it to you enthusiastically. In the end, in terms of performance and interpretation alone, Horenstein and Barbirolli still remain supreme in this work for me with Bernstein and Kubelik (now available singly and in good open sound on Audite) very close behind. Hermann Scherchen is hors concoursoccupying the same kind of place that Stokowskis Second does in my survey of that work. For outstanding performance and interpretation that is in modern digital sound Semyon Bychkov is triumphantly top of the pile and he is followed by Abbado and Gielen in their differing ways and these are certainly honourable mentions as still are Sinopoli and Lopez-Cobos and Tilson Thomas too. Of all the recordings I have heard since writing my first version of this survey, though, only Semyon Bychkovs is the equal to the previous generation versions and only time will tell if he surpasses any of them. For a great and enduring Mahler Third, for now, the old guard do still have it. But all of these recordings meet the criteria I outlined at the start whilst still reflecting different aspects but never once losing track of this huge work and its special qualities. They bear out what the young Arnold Schoenberg wrote to Mahler about this symphony: "I saw your very soul naked, stark naked. I felt your symphony. I shared in the battling for illusion; I suffered the pangs of disillusionment; I saw the forces of good and evil wrestling with each other; I saw a man in torment struggling towards inward harmony. Forgive me, I cannot feel by halves." And, where Mahlers music is concerned, neither should we.

Tony Duggan Barbirolli Hall BBC Legends BBCL 4004-7 Amazon UK Amazon US Horenstein LSO UKCD2006/7 Amazon UK Amazon US Bernstein NYPO Sony SMK47590 Amazon UK Amazon US Kubelik Bavarian Radio Audite 23.403 Amazon UK Adler VSO TAH340341 Crotchet Sinopoli Philharmonia DG 4470512 Amazon UK Amazon US Jesus Lopez-Cobos Cincinnati SO Telarc 80481 Amazon UK Amazon US Rattle CBSO CDS5566572 Amazon UK Amazon US Tennstedt LPO EMI 5 74296 2 Amazon UK Amazon US Zander LPO Telarc 3SACD-60599 Amazon UK Amazon US Tilson-Thomas SFSO Avie 821936-0003-2 Amazon UK Amazon US Gielen Baden-Baden Hnssler Classics CD 93.017 Amazon UK Amazon US Abbado BPO DG 471 502-2 Amazon UK Amazon US Mehta LAPO 443 030-2 Amazon UK Amazon US Bychkov WDRSO Avie AV0019 Avie

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Symphony No.4 The Fourth Symphony is the last of the Wunderhorn group and a link back to the Third is confirmed by a quote from that work's fourth movement in the finale of this one. After the Fourth Mahler's sound and intellectual world-view would change profoundly, but there was still much to be gleaned from what had meant so much to him in these extraordinary poems. The principal work on the Fourth occupied him in 1899 and 1900, though one of its movements dates from 1892. This is the orchestral setting of the Wunderhorn song "Das Himmlische Leben" ("The Heavenly Life") which he first thought of as finale for his Third only to set it aside and carry it forward to be the unusual finale of this work. Clearly the words detailing heaven as seen through the eyes of a child painted a potent image, and the existence of this movement before the composition of the preceding three tells us this is the ideas "cluster" around which the symphony is constructed. What we have is an examination in music of the special nature of childish perception, specifically as it is brought to bear on those matters Mahler had wrestled with in his two previous works: questions of existence, of what happens after death, of what lies behind the everyday, all with the poems and world of "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" like a beating heart. In the Fourth he would use this connection to lay before us a proposition. Nothing less than that the perceptions of childish innocence are not innocent but, in fact, all-knowing and uniquely percipient. It's a set of ideas he would return to in the future. So in this work there is no actual wrestling with the questions of existence and hardly any concern with conflict and resolution either. For this reason the Fourth is often portrayed as Mahler's least troubled work and there is some truth in this on a surface level. It certainly means there is less the conductor can do to harm it and this is reflected in the recordings under discussion where differences are quite slight, unlike those that present themselves when recordings of the Second are compared, for example. For this reason my core selections of recordings remain constant in this revision though there are some new versions to be considered and one final thought to the future at the end. Since this is Mahler's shortest symphony and the one with the prettiest and most tuneful textures it's earned its place as his most popular and approachable. But be careful about viewing it as entirely untroubled. There are dark shades cast on the filigree

textures and piquant colours, as Deryck Cooke recognised when he wrote of "figures moving behind a veil which obscures their naked horror and makes them like the bogeymen which appear in illustrations to books of fairy tales." Grimm rather than Anderson, then. For the conductor this has always meant a balancing act. Accentuate the dark elements, pile the work with too much emotional drag, and the special fairy tale nature is lost. But play down the shadows, take too far a step back, and those bogeymen disappear from view. Most conductors pull off the trick admirably and tell us this is one Mahler work whose secrets may have been unlocked. But there are still comparisons to be made in a field of excellence and still a case to be made for selecting what I believe is the "crme de la crme" which is what I shall now do. This is the only complete Mahler symphony where we can compare and contrast recordings by the two conductors most closely associated with Mahler's work in his lifetime: Willem Mengelberg and Bruno Walter. Mengelberg sat in the audience in Amsterdam in 1904 to hear Mahler conduct the symphony with the Concertgebouw Orchestra twice in the same concert. He also attended the rehearsals, discussed the work with Mahler, and made copious notes in his score with Mahler's co-operation. Mahler in turn had a very high opinion of Mengelberg's conducting of his music so any recording by the Dutchman must carry a degree of authenticity but with the caveats that need to be applied to that word in this context. Whether what we hear in the "live" concert recording from November 1939 (Archipel ARPCD006) can be said to represent Mahler's own wishes is another question. I would only point out that by this time twenty-eight years had passed since Mahler's death and Mengelberg, a conductor known for a very expressive style, must have developed his interpretation in those years however much it may have been influenced by Mahler to start with. However, I think we can say this recording gives us a window into the way the generation nearest to the composer saw and performed his works. If you are only used to more recent recordings the opening will come as a shock and the shock will hardly leave you as the work proceeds. Mengelberg is more mannered and more moulded than anyone else, with sharply accentuated tempo changes forward and back, often in the space of a few bars. This extreme interventionism continues right through the work but in the first movement especially. Passages of nostalgic repose are delivered with

every ounce of care and feeling, wrung from them like ripe fruit being made to yield every drop of juice. The movement contains a double Exposition and it's in the second of these you also hear the full treatment of string slides the era this performance comes from, and which Mengelberg's and Mahler's audiences would have been used to and have expected, provides. But Mengelberg is good at the menacing shadows of the work, the lyricism and the nostalgia. Though I do wonder how much we today have ears that can take the bar-to-bar control he exercises, however brilliantly or authentically. In spite of his interventions, though, the underlying pulse of the music never flags. You know Mengelberg's intimate knowledge of this music, and that of his orchestra with it and his methods, means there is clear vision right through and it's this which ultimately saves the recording and makes for a remarkable experience. In the centre of the movement comes one of the few points of real crisis as the music is whipped into a dissonance that comes down on a trumpet fanfare Mahler will later recall at the start of his Fifth Symphony. Mengelberg's treatment of this shows him aware of the link forward, but he is also aware enough of the internal structure of the movement to make the clinching climax that follows it soon after more imposing where nostalgia and good humour carry the day. Following this, Mengelberg's second movement sees very much the same approach. He invests every bar with character and detail. We also hear what a superb instrument the pre-war Concertgebouw was and how at home they were with Mahler's music. Note especially the mellow sound of the superb principal horn. In general this is an orchestral style and sound now lost in an age where orchestras sound alike. The slow movement is one of Mahler's most noble and moving creations. A vision of a child asleep in death carved in stone atop a tomb was in his mind. Mengelberg and his players rise to the occasion with an account that, more than most with his expressive style, shows the ebbs and flows to superb effect. Mengelberg's interventions also seem less pronounced than in the first movement and I am struck by a wonderful honesty that more than confirms the high regard Mahler felt for his friend's work. The playing of the woodwind is a special delight and also the piercing solo trumpet at the climax. So this is an important recording, a recording that can be enjoyed on its own merits irrespective of historic nature, even though a deep breath might be needed for those who prefer their Mahler more circumspect. The mono sound may be a big problem for some too. It was recorded on discs and these have a degree of surface noise. But if you can listen through this, and the slightly pinched quality of the sound, you will come to regard this performance as an essential supplement.

Mengelbergs successor at the Concertgebouw, Eduard Van Beinum, did sterling service restoring Mahler to the European continent in the 1950s following the musics banning by the Nazi occupation. In 1951 he recorded the Fourth for Decca and whilst it may be hard to find this is still worth seeking out for those interested in an age of Mahler interpretation now sadly lost to us. However, if you are expecting a Mengelberg-like interpretation you will be surprised. He is swift and classicallythorough, an antidote to Mengelberg and to Walter whose recording was made four years earlier. What Van Beinum might take away in warmth and personal involvement is balanced by the Concertgebouw players whose experience under Mengelberg must still have been potent so what you are left with is a superb balance of head and heart with head just predominating. Margaret Richie is a wonderful soloist too and whilst this fine Decca mono recording can never be a front line choice it must be in the pantheon of Mahler Fourths. There are a number of recordings of the Fourth by Mahler's friend, assistant and disciple Bruno Walter available but I'm going to deal with the one made in New York in 1946 (Sony 5153012 coupled with the Fifth, or Naxos 8.110876) as broadly speaking his interpretation remained the same and this one is the easiest to obtain as well a being the only official one he ever made. Comparing him with Mengelberg's recording is especially interesting in that it warns us straight away not to be too quick to regard one way of playing Mahler as authentic. Walter knew Mahler even better than Mengelberg did. He also heard Mahler perform this and other of his works. So it's fascinating to hear Walter take a different approach, much less mannered, much less indulgent. One caveat must be made, however. Though this New York recording was made on discs which allowed takes of around sixteen minutes, Walter would have had to take note of the fact that it would be issued on 78rpm sides of around four minutes. This must have had an effect on some of the overall tempi adopted. Indeed, in an interview with Mahler biographer Henry-Louis de La Grange, the recording's soprano in the last movement Desi Halban confirmed this to be the case. That said, Walter's recording also deserves its place in the Fourth's discography, both as historic document and also a recording to be enjoyed on its own merits. I like the lighter, more pastoral approach Walter adopts at the start because this is allied to a definite underlying tread that never seems to leave him. It's a remarkable effect, a tempo that allows for a degree of expression that doesn't weight the music down with unnecessary mannerism. There is some quite tart playing from the woodwinds to which gives him the opportunity to respond to the special sound

of this work and balance Deryck Cooke's ghosts with the good humour. There is a price to pay. The climax on the dissonance is not as deep or profound as Mengelberg's, or some of the other conductors we will deal with. Also the symphonic thread is maintained, it seems to me, at some cost to the little amount of conflict there is in the work. But Walter's good sense is very engaging. In the second movement Walter makes his solo violinist sound more sinister than Mengelberg and this is correct as Mahler asks the player to tune his instrument up a tone to sound more diabolical. This, according to Mahler, is "Friend Death" leading a dance rather in the manner of the Pied Piper Death as friend, a beguiling character. The playing of the New York Philharmonic, another great Mahler orchestra, is full of character and security, fully aware of the idiom in which they are playing. Walter's account of the third movement is broad and noble but it moves forwards a little more than Mengelberg and so seems more true to Mahler's marking of "Restful" than Mengelberg's who, in comparison only, appears more troubled. This, as so often with Walter in Mahler's slow movements, carries the feeling of the Lied, and we must never forget how much of Mahler is allied to song. A feeling confirmed when the last movement enters. Even though a quite fast overall tempo is adopted, Desi Halban is encouraged to sing out rather than meld into the texture. Halban has a very distinctive voice too, not an especially attractive one, not the usual creamy modern "diva" soprano we are often used to, and I believe this is a gain. One of the great pities of recordings of this work is that none of the sopranos achieves the childlike quality Mahler wanted and neither does Desi Halban quite. But at least she's distinctive, at least she has character. One day a conductor will engage a choir girl to sing it and then we might have a recording that gets us to what Mahler really wanted. Two conductors (Bernstein and Nanut) have recorded the work with boy trebles but the results, to me at least, sound bizarre. There is a link to Mahler in Walter's choice of Desi Halban for this recording, by the way. Her mother was none other than Selma Kurz, one of the great stars of Mahler's glittering ten years at the helm of the Vienna Opera at the start of the twentieth century and a particular favourite of Mahlers. For this and other reasons this too is an essential recording. Not a reference version, but one to be considered in the same way as the Mengelberg as historic and illuminating. The clear mono sound is better than that of Mengelberg but remains rather boxy and unatmospheric.

Another conductor associated with Mahler in his lifetime, though to a lesser extent, is Otto Klemperer. There are a number of "live" Klemperer recordings of this work available but my advice is to stay with the studio recording (EMI 7243 5 67035 2 0) which dates from 1962 and is the first of the modern stereo recordings for us to consider especially now it has been remastered for the Klemperer Edition. This recording is frequently overlooked by surveys of this work and I think that's a pity because it has a lot going for it, not least Klemperer's mordant wit, structural integrity and superb ear for detail. It's certainly superbly played and recorded with Walter Legge in the control room and the great Philharmonia Orchestra in front of the microphones. The first movement is a lot statelier than under Walter or Mengelberg. In fact, it's on the fringes of being underpowered. But there are gains in the much clearer detailing of textures and parts, notably the woodwinds, always a fingerprint of Klemperer. Not for him the excessive indulgence of Mengelberg, or the softer grain of Walter, however. For Klemperer everything is clearly presented in bold, Breughel-like primary colours. The crisis on the dissonance emerges superbly from the structure, always a strong point in a Klemperer account, bold and grand. So too does the "big tone" Mahler asks for in the climax that follows. True, he misses some of the sourness, some of the filigree lightness too, but overall the distinctive playing is a joy. If the tempo seems a little under-paced in the first movement in the second it seems right where Klemperer's primary-colour sound palette again pays off along with our first real experience Klemperer's divided violins, left and right. There's no lingering for effect in the Trios but that's in keeping with the astringent approach, allied to superbly balanced recording. It's in the third movement the biggest surprise awaits us. Klemperer was capable of confounding critics as the supposed master of slow tempo and this is no more in evidence than here where he gives the quickest account of the slow movement of many I know. It alters the character of the piece and promotes this recording to one of even greater interest than it might have been, offering an alternative to the, under lesser men, often comatose accounts we can encounter. Sometimes Mahler would speak of this movement as an Adagio, sometimes Andante and this used to annoy his friend Natalie Bauer-Lechner so he told her he could just as well call it Moderato, Allegro or Presto "for it includes all of these." Klemperer has his justification. I also want to draw attention to the playing of woodwind against strings in this movement as it's like having the score in front of you, so clear is the balancing. Overall I think Klemperer gives a more unsettled view of the movement than most and

for that reason this recording has a special place in the list. Notice too how well he manages the increases in tempo between bars 222 and 282: an acid test for the conductor in this work. Then the moment of climax, when Mahler depicts the flinging open of the gates of heaven, timpani hammering out the bell-like motif hitherto heard quietly on harp and reminiscent of the bells in Wagner's Parsifal, really bursts with joy and is played for everything. It's a fine preparation for the last movement where we come to the most controversial part of this recording, the reason why many people dislike it so much. Singing in the fourth movement is no less than the great Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and it's clear from her first entry her approach is wrong for this music. That she is far too worldly, far too knowing, far too "arch" for what the strange and simple words and music need is obvious. And yet, for all that, she does it all so beautifully, even though I always shake my head when I hear her. And smile too. The Klemperer recording wasn't the first Mahler Fourth by the Philharmonia Orchestra of the old era with Walter Legge producing. As early as 1957 Paul Kletzki had made a version which Legge must have felt was going to be hard to equal, even with Klemperer (Royal Classics ROY6468). This must be at the top of the list for bargain hunters as well as a contender irrespective of price. It has always been a favourite of mine and I've always felt it has been overlooked because Kletzki is not a conductor usually associated with Mahler and was never one of the big names. He does superbly well and is supported by an orchestra which, at the time, was at the height of its considerable power. Some would say their response is not Mahlerian enough and I suppose I can see what they mean, but the gains they bring to their account are remarkable and, like the Concertgebouw of 1939, bring us a style of playing now lost. Straight away there is more lift to the first movement than with Klemperer, more bounce and optimism to aid the jocund woodwind - "Legge's Royal Flush", as they were known. Kletzki seems determined to press forward, accentuating a more spiky feel, less likely to lay back and contemplate. In the development this is even more in evidence where the principal horn of Dennis Brain makes a wonderful impression. More details beguile us including the shrieking clarinets as the point of crisis approaches. I think this recording has an almost ideal sound balance for home listening with every detail clear. Though a little age is betrayed by a touch of harshness at the climax even though I loved the tam-tam being allowed full rein. This is followed by a remarkable similarity between the textures of this section and the music of the Third Symphony's third movement, something no other conductor but Kletzki seems to have noticed. An illuminating touch from the conductor, but I think

Kletzki draws more out of the textures of this movement generally than Klemperer and can't help but wonder whether Legge realised this. There is a rather veiled quality to Kletzki's account of the second movement which is quite appropriate and refreshing. This isn't at the expense of important details since you can hear the clarinet really chuckling, showing us Kletzki is well aware of the humour in the music that is so often forgotten in the "It's Mahler so it must be depressing or ironic" school of thought. The more inner quality is apparent in the slow movement which emerges as deeply felt and noble with a hint of tragedy. Kletzkis soprano is Emmy Loose who seems far better suited to this symphony than does Elizabeth Schwarzkopf bringing a more child-like and wide-eyed approach that is more appropriate. Leopold Ludwig will be fondly remembered by Mahlerites of a certain age for a recording of the Ninth Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra that achieved wide circulation in the 1960s, first through Everest and then through the much-missed World Record Club. Coupled with Rudolf Schwarzs recording of the Fifth Symphony on the latter label it served us very well when there was little else available. His recording of the Fourth (Berlin Classics BC 2119-6) was made in Dresden in 1957, not long after the Kletzki, and has appeared sporadically over the years. In 1957 Mahlers music was still quite rare in the concert hall and these Dresden players especially must have approached the work as something of a novelty. Maybe this partly accounts for the fact that this is a very straightforward, supremely unmannered performance compared with many other versions an antidote to those who take the view that every expressive opportunity in Mahlers scores must be attended to as though under a magnifying glass, perhaps. But that cant be the only explanation. Leopold Ludwig was a fine conductor with a high reputation and must have decided his own approach from the start. Though I still cannot help wondering whether he felt he couldnt really test the players as much as he may have liked in music they hardly knew. More experienced Mahler listeners may be disappointed with the "hands-off" approach that emerges. But there are still some dividends to be had from this recording, especially when the orchestra concerned is one of the greatest that, even in late 1950s East Germany, had clearly maintained standards through hard times. In fact its interesting today to hear a performance taking Mahler at apparent face value in the first movement. Mahler does appear to have written something that implies sunshine and that is certainly what you get from Ludwig. Its almost as if he is determined to tell us there are absolutely no clouds and no storms on this horizon. The brisk tempo he sets and keeps, one probably closer to what Mahler intended than we may now be used to, helps. This is very much a

feeling that is continued in the second movement too. Other recordings will offer you more edge to the "Friend Death" off-key solo violin passages, as well as greater character to the woodwind textures, but what we have in this movement is very much in keeping with what has gone before and what will come plain, unadorned, uncomplicated playing. It was only in the third movement that I felt the lack of any personal involvement most strongly. Again the tempo is kept moving along and whilst there is still warmth and consolation to be felt it is only the fine phrasing of the Dresden strings that prevents this wonderful music leaving us feeling short-changed. The movement doesnt really linger in the mind as it can. Then in the last movement there is a little hesitancy in the delivery of the bursts of reprise from the first movement that punctuates the Wunderhorn setting. The only tangible impression of unfamiliarity with this music on the part of the players, I feel. Almost as if the music takes them by surprise. Anny Schlemm is no more than an adequate soloist and certainly doesnt manage to deliver the hearts ease that other sopranos can at the very close. Unfamiliarity with the genre again, perhaps? Mahlers Wunderhorn settings are a very particular mix of humour and fantasy which it has taken a generation for singers and players to really master. However, this is an interesting recording from an era prior to the Mahler boom and from behind the Iron Curtain. Benjamin Britten's admiration for Mahler went back long before the "boom" of the early sixties and in his notes to the BBC Legends issue (BBCB 8004-2) containing Britten's 1961 Aldeburgh Festival performance of the Fourth Donald Mitchell identifies his friend as one of the leading figures in the early renaissance of Mahler's music. This BBC mono recording with the LSO in Orford Church has a rich, deep sound with some church reverberation but no distortion to playing which breathes humanity and involvement. In 1963 Britten talked about this performance to an interviewer and said: "My experience of conducting the Fourth Symphony at Aldeburgh showed me what a master of form he (Mahler) is, particularly in the first movement of that great work." These thoughts seem to partly explain the decision for his very brisk tempo in this movement. The effect from the start and throughout is of lightness and optimism, classical tautness rather than romantic weight, and I think this suits the character of the music well. One of the sounds one takes away from this recording is the attention Britten pays to articulating the lower strings, helped by the acoustic. At the close of the Exposition there are some lovely slides, as idiomatic a Mahler sound as you could hope for, and this also applies to the spicy woodwinds at the start of the Development where Britten

injects a more dramatic cloak to the proceedings. The "climax on the dissonance" is well observed but not to the extent that it protrudes and holds up the sense of momentum the structural/formal approach has brought. It's a delicate balance this "form versus detail" dichotomy. Though Britten clearly veers to the former he seems well aware enough of the latter pulling him back since, in the closing section, his ability to bring out points of detail without diminishing the sharp focus shows that a conductor doesn't really need to slow up and "ham up" in order to seduce the ears of the listener. By not lingering over the Trios in the second movement Britten keeps momentum up here too. I must also draw attention to the deliciously played violin solos which make their out-of-tune effect without appearing too ill-mannered. There is some superb solo horn playing also. The performance of this movement comes out on the side of the angels to come rather than the Devil, whose violinist Death dances around us but never really threatens. If freshness and classical rigour seemed the keynote in the first and second movements it's clear Britten reserves the true emotional heart for the third in an interpretation which is one of the finest I have ever heard. Listen to the meticulous care for dynamics, both in the string parts and the woodwind solos, and the flinging open of the gates of heaven is big, powerful and warm also. It sounds perfectly integrated with the rest of the movement. Barry Tuckwell's horn section are resplendent over timps that are admirably reined back for a change too. Sometimes the final song can sound as though it's been tacked on as an afterthought. Under Britten and his care for through-thinking there is no question that he accepts Mahler's decision to end like this and is able to make it sound a natural progression. Again he is quick and pungent with some sharp interruptions and is aided by his lively soprano, Joan Carlyle, who has a Tomboy quality to her: a Cherubino rather than a Susanna. At the same time as the release of the Britten recording, BBC Legends also gave an official release to one by Sir John Barbirolli and the BBC Symphony Orchestra made in Prague in 1967. (BBCL 4014-2). Although Barbirolli was of the "interventionist" school of Mahler conductors his brand of expressionism never sprang from self indulgence. Michael Kennedy found a quotation from Russell in the conductor's papers: "....underneath the passion there should always be that large impersonal survey which sets limits to actions that our passions inspire." There is about his reading of the Fourth a remarkable air of calculation underpinning the emotion that throws a frame

around what, under other conductors, might sound like hamming. The feeling that thought and careful planning has gone into every bar and every sound too as this is a recording where the sound of this symphony has been rendered to a more vivid degree than I have heard in a long time. You could also say this is Mahler's Fourth in retrospect from later works. Barbirolli doesn't at all indulge in the excesses of Mengelberg, but he's closer to the Dutchman than many. In the tapes made by William Malloch of the old New York players who played under Mahler himself we hear how the composer would interpret the opening theme of this movement and it's as if Barbirolli had heard this too for in the fourth note you hear the same drag that with Mengelberg is so accentuated it can annoy on rehearing whereas under Barbirolli it has the effect of a rather arch "Once upon a time" and is quite charming. Likewise his rendering of the second theme marked "Broadly sung" where Barbirolli really takes Mahler at his word. But that appears to be the hallmark for the strings, the cellos especially, in this performance. One of the other glories of this recording is the prominence given to woodwinds with some particular phrasing in the oboes and the sound of the bassoon against high flutes in the development especially notable - reminder of Mahler's propensity to pitch highest and lowest against each other that would reach its apogee in the last movement of the Ninth. In sum, I think Barbirolli sees this movement's darker, unhinged side more than most. The pizzicatos and spiky high woodwinds really protrude from the texture. In the second movement I liked the woodwind chuckling in the Trios and the clarinet shrieking like a startled bird. In performance Sir John always positioned his harps at the front of the platform beneath him and this may account for the prominence of the harps in the performance as a whole. The way it underpins the texture bell-like is another memorable sound to come out of this recording, again apparent in the third movement which receives a performance in the grand manner, spacious, well-upholstered, broadly sung, but also consciously moulded with the most elastic approach to tempo in the whole symphony. There are many fine points of detail brought out. Most notable are passages for the woodwind that take on an autumnal colouring. Just before the passage where the gates of heaven are flung open Sir John achieves a real sense of stillness akin to that at the end of the Ninth which makes the outburst that crowns the movement that much more towering. I want to pay special tribute to the coda under Sir John. He sees a perfumed garden, exotic and hazy, and I couldn't help but see Mahler here as a distant musical cousin of Frederick Delius. The last movement is a relative disappointment, though. Heather Harper has the wrong kind of voice for this

movement. She is too matronly for the childish quality needed. Barbirolli also does himself no favours by adopting a slow tempo for the stanzas and an even slower one for the final stanza of all. The effect is a bit dreamy most of the time, broken only by the sudden jolt of his quicker tempo for the incursions of the bells. It would be wrong to let this reservation spoil what is a remarkable, if very individual, reading of the work which has needed to be restored officially to the catalogue for years. Rafael Kubelik's recording with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra can be found singly on a Deutsche Gramophon Eloquence release (469 6372), otherwise it's in the boxed set of his complete cycle. As always Kubelik's tempi are on the quicker side compared with others, but this is never at the expense of inner detail, quite the opposite in fact. Early in the first movement notice the solo clarinet chugging away around the strings and listen also to how Kubelik sours the music in the Development. He has a great line in the grotesque with the bassoon especially memorable and, as the central crisis approaches, notice too the squeals of flutes and oboes. In fact at this point Kubelik is perhaps the most harsh and most abrasive of all. Kubelik is another conductor who realises this symphony needs a particular treatment, a light touch in front of the grotesques for them to make a more distinctive mark. The climax on the dissonance is superb with the bass line especially accentuated by the sharp recording against the piquant woodwind. Then, when the music resumes, the effect is like that of a day dream passing, which seems to me to be what Mahler intended. The second movement follows on from the kind of mood Kubelik is trying to portray in the first with the solo violin balanced forward to make its "out of tune" effect well. Then the Trios strike a very four-square pose with clipped woodwind contributions attended to in a performance that radiates attention to detail right down to really malevolent clarinets at the close. A fine prelude to the lovely performance of the slow movement where Kubelik maintains the same kind of singing line as Walter. He even brings in the movement at around the same overall timing as Klemperer but by speeding up more in the faster sections gives himself that little more space in the lyrical passages. So his handling of the surprisingly many tempo changes, some of them quite drastic, in a movement too often referred to as the "slow" movement is one of its most remarkable features. Not least the passage between 222 and 282 we noticed under Klemperer where Kubelik is even more convincing in handling the step-by-step increase in

tempo. I also want to draw attention to the way Kubelik treats the sound of woodwind against strings in this movement and how they are reproduced in the recording. One early commentator dubbed this delicate sound"Klangfarbenmelodie" ("Tone-colour Melody"), a term used later by Schoenberg and that link between these two great Viennese composers never seemed more significant in these passages as interpreted by Kubelik. Again the soprano in this work, Elsie Morrison, fails to really deliver a childlike response in the last movement, but she sings with great meaning and Kubelik seems more anxious than most to mark the relationship between aspects of this last movement and the second. The faster sections also are very impish and the work is rounded of beautifully. One brief sidelight on Kubelik's recording which I leave you to ponder is the following. In 1900 Mahler told Natalie Bauer-Lechner that the Fourth Symphony would last forty-five minutes, which is a surprisingly short amount of time when you consider most recordings and performances. But notated in pencil in the autograph score, on the title page of the fourth movement, can be seen the numbers 15, 10, 11, 8 and 44 which is their total. Do these represent Mahler's ideas for the duration of the movements ? If so they are very quick, much quicker than we are used to. Of all the recordings before me Rafael Kubelik's comes closest: 15:48, 9:05, 18:50, 7:58, which total 51:41. The third movement is the problem, but since Kubelik is one of the two fastest, a few seconds only short of Klemperer, we can allow for that if we accept the figures for what they appear to be. Whatever the truth, for me Kubelik's recording is one of the supreme accounts of this work. It's care for detail, its sense of the special sound of the piece, but above all its care for this work as it stands rather than as precursor of what is to come make it a must for all aspiring and established Mahlerites. It lets the symphony be itself. Following concert performances in October 1970, Jascha Horenstein went into Barking Town Hall in London with the London Philharmonic to record the Fourth (in between bursts from pneumatic drills doing road works in the street outside). This was to be one of the first recordings for the new Classics For Pleasure bargain LP label and the result was musically deeply satisfying even though the sound on the LP left a lot to be desired. For what ever reason, the recording failed to sell very well so was never really considered among the

recommended versions in the way others have been down the years. Then for a long time it was out of the catalogue leading many to be unaware of its existence until a fine remastering job was done for an LP reissue by CFP in the 1980s. Now that remastering has been reissued for CD (5 74882 2) and it can more than hold up its head among the greats at last. Horenstein's first movement starts out a degree more distanced than Kubelik's, less distinctive, but just as aware of the work's special tone colouring. Compared with Kubelik, Horenstein is more "through-thought" and symphonic, preferring a slightly tighter rein on proceedings. So this is not a performance in the Mengelberg tradition. Horenstein was a different kind of conductor even though he admired the Dutchman. Even so, this is Horenstein more unbuttoned than we are perhaps used to, showing what anyone who has ever heard his recordings of Viennese Waltzes knows that he can charm and beguile with the best of them. Listen to the way he gets his cellos to slide if you want more convincing, for example. In the Development a slight hesitancy pays off in introducing a degree of trepidation. As if, master of the developing argument that he was, Horenstein makes us aware that the one true crisis in this work is casting a very long shadow back. His slower tempo, judged to near perfection, allow for the ghosts to peek out from the filigree with real drama and the climax itself to be grand and imposing. So the first movement under Horenstein is remarkable for its structural integrity, breadth, but also charm, delicacy and feelings of menace. Again in the second movement Horenstein is that bit more distanced from the music than Kubelik and some others - his woodwind not quite as prominent and his tempo just that little broader - but this approach is not to be discounted. By keeping a degree of distance Horenstein seems to accentuate the dream-like quality. His clarinets chuckle wonderfully and there is a trace of elegy in the Trios Kubelik misses rather. More nostalgia with Horenstein, I think. I also like the way the music seems to be fading into the distance as the movement draws to a close. It is as if we are walking away from the scene. As you would expect, Horenstein hardly intervenes in the phrasing of the slow movement. If he does it's the lightest of hands on the rudder. As so often, he chooses at the outset a tempo that suits the music and let's it speak for itself. However, such simplicity of utterance is also strength of utterance for what we have is more towards the repose Mahler is asking for, I believe. There is at the start a cool beauty that refreshes. This more cerebral/ intellectual approach needs time and repeated hearings to make its effect, but those passages of greater drama, of pain and yearning grow from this sustained opening and gain from the comparison. After this, Margaret Price is a very creamy-toned

soprano who pouts a little too much for my liking. But she's as good in this as most sopranos and her contribution rounds off as performance I cannot recommend too highly especially at the super-bargain price. It is, as with Horensteins recordings of Mahlers Third, one of the finest Mahler performances ever committed to tape. The sound is showing its age when compared with the best of the most recent but the performance more than compensates.

George Szell and Fritz Reiner had much in common. They were both born in Hungary, both enjoyed success in post-war America, both led two of the greatest of American orchestras, and both had a reputation for their authoritarian styles. And they both left us great recordings of Mahler's Fourth. The Szell recording with the Cleveland Orchestra (Sony SBK 46535) has never been out of the catalogue since its release in the 1960s and such is its reputation it's traditional for Mahlerians to genuflect at the flame every time discussion of the Fourth comes up. One almost has the feeling that criticism of it is not to be countenanced under any circumstances. The first movement presents a nicely median tempo with some magical playing from an orchestra that was, at the time, arguably the finest in the world. There is great poise and refinement too, but maybe a degree of polish that means we cannot penetrate quite as deep beneath the surface as we would like. Szell's concentration on refinement has always rather blunted the first movement climax for me and always seems to confirm that, great though this recording certainly is, it's an example of what might best be described as "controlled risk" conducting. The feeling that Szell is prepared to go so far with character and expression but not too far that perfection of playing are compromised even the cost of the music's deeper meaning. Consider the recording alone and this is not a problem. I know many who swear by this recording. But I have to report that in close comparison with those already dealt with I find myself yearning for more depth. In the second movement there is again a wonderful attention to tonal beauty but I wonder whether Szell is really aware of what the music really means, or whether he is just giving a very good impression that he does. No praise can be too high for that playing, though. Myron Bloom's horn is magnificent. But the sourness and grotesques written into the woodwind, which Kubelik and Horenstein and others bring out to a greater degree, don't make as great a point. Certainly Szell's account of the slow movement is

deeply moving. I am aware many will find my slightly negative feelings towards the Szell recording disappointing, shocking even, but I would not be honest if I didn't report them. The recording should have, and fully deserves, its place among the greatest and that is why I mention it here and by doing so recommend it to you. It's just that I think others penetrate the piece more than Szell does. One authority once went on record as saying he believed Szell to be "no Mahlerian". I have heard "live" recordings of Szell in Mahler's Sixth, Ninth and Das Lied Von der Erde, and count them among the best I have ever heard. His Mahler repertoire was small but so was Klemperer's. Fritz Reiner also exercises great control over his orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, and even more on the music. (RCA 82876679012[SACD] or 09026640022). Where George Szell's emphasis was on beauty of tone, Reiner's is on clarity. There are gains here in that you are aware to a remarkable degree of the texture of the piece, but there is a brittle quality to it that can be rather wearing on repeated listening. Like the Szell recording this has a rightful place in the pantheon of Fourth recordings, but what is missing here is that sense of repose that is so important especially in passages of nostalgic reverie. Reiner can bring out the grotesques, but there is less context for them, less ability for us to reflect on what they mean to us, because we have little with which to compare them. It's a very sharp ride then, but one that should be experienced by those interested in how this symphony ticks and in hearing a great conductor and orchestra again at the height of their powers. Also from the USA of the same period comes Leonard Bernsteins first recording of this symphony with the New York Philharmonic. It was made in 1960 though it would be 1971 before it was released in Europe. As a statement of intent, if that is the way it was perceived at the time, it must have struck American collectors as quite a style change from this orchestras previous recording of the work under Walter. The first movement is sassy and sharp in its pointing up of every small detail, woodwinds especially cheeky, and is a sparky realisation of Mahlers happiest music. Though I think the development section is a shade too fast I can compliment the NYPO for holding on so well. This does betray what sounds like impatience on Bernsteins part though Im sure that is not what he meant. The second movement is equally colourful and helped by a sound balance that is

exemplary for home listening with only the top edge betraying age. The third movement starts serene and becomes volatile but only occasionally strays beyond the tasteful and full marks to Bernstein for the snappy tempo he adopts in the last movement. That must have sounded more controversial then than it does now. Reri Grist has a distinctive enough timbre but I cannot escape the impression that she doesnt really know what she is singing about. At least she is a woman. In his second recording of the work on DG Bernstein casts a boy treble in the last movement which I think rules it out completely. Had Mahler wanted a boy to sing the last movement I am willing to believe he would have said so in the score. My choices for recordings of this work so far have come from at least thirty years ago but it would be wrong to think that in the case of this symphony as opposed to the Third only "the old boys" have it. Far from it. There are still new things being said by the present generation of conductors in this work. Daniele Gatti's recording is a case in point. He is forging a well-deserved reputation as a Mahler interpreter and there is room in a very crowded list for his Fourth Symphony with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on RCA (75605 51345 2). His grasp of the many-faceted nature of this work is impressive. Though some of his extremes of tempi, some of them from bar to bar, might bother those more experienced Mahlerites whose predilection is for the handsoff approach. I think Gatti comes out of the tradition of Mengelberg and Barbirolli in this work, controlling and interpreting every bar and note. There is no doubt he submits the first movement to a very deep analysis with the slower, reflective passages lovingly and warmly conveyed and the sharper, quicker ones very jerky and piquant, not missing the grotesqueries that lie beneath the surface of a work too often seen as light and amiable. This central idea of the symphony having two distinct faces - reflection contrasted with restlessness - continues in the second movement where the Trios have even more moulded contours than their counterparts in the first and border on the mannered. But they are delivered with such style and aplomb you cannot help smiling at their returns. There is humour in the mix of this movement and it's surprising how few conductors realise this and bring it out. At times you even have the impression Gatti is sending the piece up here. The "out-of-tune" violin solo has never sounded more sinister either and a special word of praise is due to the principal horn. In the slow movement there is much intensity in the hushed pianissimos that is swept away by a remarkably muscular attack in the climaxes. After all of asset, even at the extremes of tempi that her

conductor maintains, bells jangling. The playing of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is exemplary in all departments with some spiky woodwind well caught by the spacious but sharp sound, especially in the fourth movement where Gatti doesn't forget the animals that are being depicted in the accompaniment. The recording of the Fourth by Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra on DG (463 275-2) will divide opinions just as the others in his cycle have. Ever the clear-eyed interpreter of Mahler, Boulez barely acknowledges the availability in the score of the many expressive opportunities other conductors use to the full. At the fourth bar of the first movement, for example, where others have been known to almost bring proceedings to a halt, Boulezs mere Gallic shrug in the direction of Mahlers marking (and the performance tradition) itself stands out. An expressive opportunity more conspicuous in the breach rather than the observance, I think. This general attitude will be one of this recordings most obvious fingerprints as the same sharpness of focus continues through the first movement where a brisk, clear, neo-classical effect is aimed for and achieved. This impression is assisted by a care for balancing every section of the orchestra so nothing protrudes to rock the boat. To some this will be evidence of coldness, to others it will be a refreshing "back to basics" that takes us further into the origins of this work as representative of Mahlers "Wunderhorn" period. Not least with the trumpet figure Mahler called the "Kleiner Appel" and later recalled at the start of his Fifth Symphony. Here this crucial appearance, half way through the movement, is buried by Boulez within the texture rather than trying to override it which it sometimes does in other versions where conductors try to make a link to a work Mahler had not even considered when he wrote this one. Then the second movement continues Boulezs general approach but deepens the music with superb woodwind solos from the Cleveland players caught by the fine recorded balance. What we hear in the third movement is remarkable for its lack of pretension and its greater stress on classical poise. I was even reminded of the slow movement of the Schubert String Quintet at the start, so fine is Boulezs sense of stillness achieved without an especially slow overall tempo. In the first main variation notice too the balance of oboe against horn and then the surprisingly expressive quality that emerges chaste on the strings. Another point to listen out for is how the timpani are never in danger of overwhelming the more passionate, climactic passages. So Boulezs watchwords of "balance", "poise" and "transparency" really reveal details others can miss.

The aftermath of the central climax of the slow movement, where the gates of heaven are flung open by Mahler, is especially fine in this respect and also structurally accentuates the arc-like design of the movement. Juliane Banse sings beautifully in the last movement, making no attempt to impose herself too much as some singers make the mistake of doing. Of course some will say she should sound more child-like, just as Mahler intended, but shes not alone in concentrating on the notes and words and I was delighted by her contribution as its beautifully tailored to the rest of the performance which is, after all, as it should be. For many this new recording will be just too clear-eyed, too lacking in character, too tidy a performance of this lovely work. For me it represents Boulezs Mahler at its very best and does, in the end, show a certain degree of warmth thats crucially tempered by that classical poise to give another refreshing view of a work we might think we are all too familiar with. By some strange alchemy Benjamin Zander has managed to vividly convey the last movement as the real culmination of the Fourth, the homecoming for the whole work and it is that that in the final analysis makes his recording with the Philharmonia (Telarc 2CD-80555) a satisfying one. Indeed I have heard other recordings where, in comparison to this one, it is almost as if the conductor is rather embarrassed by such an apparently trite ending to such a spacious work, especially following one of the greatest and most profound movements Mahler ever wrote. As always with Mahler there is profundity to be found in the most unlikely places and juxtapositions and it takes a conductor who knows his Mahler to bring this out. His soprano soloist, Camilla Tilling, is charming too. Far more the "tomboy" than many of her colleagues and her contribution undoubtedly assists Zander in marking the performance of this movement out as distinctive. Something which might not have been the case with a more established diva. As if to further prove he has thought very deeply about how this movement should be presented, in his discussion disc Zander plays an extract from a concert performance of the work he conducted in Vienna where he used a boy soprano for the movement. This has been done a couple of times on record (by Nanut and Bernstein in his second recording on DG) but I have never been in favour of it. Not least for the fact that Mahler asks for a soprano and not a treble. So Im glad Zander resisted the temptation to cast a boy in the recording, as it must have crossed his mind to do. In the first movement Zander appears suspended on the cusp between neo-classical restraint and zeal to deliver surface lustre. It certainly seems as though he is wary of crumbling the musics petals so the movement emerges in a rather patrician fashion: all symphonic and score details attended

to but lacking degrees of fallibility. I dont think he is helped by the recorded sound that I find a little too general and bass light to make a great impact and deliver the musics character. Contrast this with the Kletzki recording, for example. Even after all these years this is still an object lesson in how to balance this work with bags of detail in perfect proportion. The second movement is more persuasive in both cases with Zander, though. Here he and his violin soloist, Christopher Warren-Green, really have gone to some trouble to project the particular fairy tale evil lurking behind "Friend Death". I liked too the character-filled chuckling of the clarinets and the effortless way the music segues into the Upper Austrian trios. You can almost see the orchestra members, exemplary throughout, smiling at those points. In the discussion disc Zander makes the inspired connection between the solo fiddling in this movement and that in Stravinskys "A Soldiers Tale" which was, let us remember, just eighteen years away when Mahler completed this symphony. Theres a thought. I always find connections like that send me back to the music with new ears and that, as always, is the great value of the discussion disc which I suggest you listen to after you have heard the symphony. The great slow movement receives a luminous, seamless performance from Zander and the orchestra with great line that just fails to penetrate beneath the surface beauty. Here I see Zander as a collector and connoisseur of Dresden china who has taken down a much-loved piece from his shelf that he knows every inch of and wants you to know every inch of too and come to love just as much as he does. As fine a guide to the movement than you could ask for but, as with the first movement, he is rather afraid of dropping his much loved ornament and smashing it to bits. The patrician again. Dont get me wrong. I like patricians, even in Mahler. There is a certain streak of the patrician in Jascha Horenstein and I admire his Mahler conducting above most. But I do wonder whether, over time, the extreme care Zander takes over the first three movements will mean that this recording wont endure, wont really endear itself to the listener in the way others have. Certainly in the great "collapse climaxes" in the centre of the slow movement the music opens out wonderfully, the great vistas as impressive as ever, and the gates of heaven burst with a real surge of energy. It is then that the last movement enters and is able to make the effect I so much admire. For that aspect above all this version earns its place in the discography. If Donald Rumsfeld were a Mahlerite he would hate the recording of the Fourth by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFSO

Media/Avie 82193600042, an SACD release). The third movement had barely been underway two minutes when I had written in my notes "Old Europe" which is something of abte noire for Mr. R. Its all in the strings. Especially in the third movement there is a marked degree of portamenti or sliding between the notes in phrases that you associate with a recording made over sixty years ago. Im not complaining. Quite the opposite. Dont think that what you are going to hear will distract you or grate in any way as this practice can when taken to the extreme. Tilson Thomas has asked for and been given by his string players just enough of that "old world" phrasing to make this movement a really moving and distinctive experience getting right to the warm heart of the movement and therefore the symphony and bringing memories of Walter and Mengelberg flooding back. Its a fine achievement and a welcome antidote to some of the squeaky-clean, machine-tooled Mahler recordings heard so often. The overall tempo for the movement is slow, slower than many, but never drags. Momentum never flags, such is the attention to detail, to springing the underlying rhythms and the marking of the nodal points. Though you would never know it, this CD is the result of "live" performances so perhaps the experience of performing the movement in one go is paying dividends. Tilson Thomas delineates so well the two aspects of Mahlers "once upon a time" world making up the first movements symphonic argument. Mahler was probably describing in music his own bright-sky exhilaration at arriving as the conquering hero in Vienna. However he uses a spiky, unsettled development of the expositions more dreamy and laid-back material to vary the course of the movement. Tilson Thomas grasps this aspect admirably. The ability to "read" a movements topography in this way is so often the sign of a fine Mahler conductor. There is a sense of contented repose to be found in the exposition and then a full exploitation of the orchestras fine woodwind and brass players to spice up the development. These players are heard to excellent effect in what is a superb sound balance. All comes to a perfectly judged resolution at the climax of the development where the emergence of the trumpet solo, prefiguring the opening of the Fifth Symphony, makes its mark. Tilson Thomas and his engineers are careful not to let this trumpet moment protrude too much. In the later stages the string phrasing, the "old world" slides that will become so much a part of the third movement, make their first real appearance and are deeply satisfying. The second movement accentuates the mood of the firsts development with great scope given to the weird violin solo and the cluckings of the woodwind players who are again heard to fine effect in the recording. The third movement stresses the contemplative side of

the symphony. All that is then needed to complete the story is an adroit performance of the final movement to bring it all to final rest. So much depends on the delivery of the soprano soloist who must give a childs view of heaven and so must sound young. I am too much of a gentleman to ask Laura Claycombs age but I think I can safely say she fits the bill admirably, as does her feisty "daddys girl" delivery. For his part Tilson Thomas drives the sleigh bell interludes with a terrific snap. In this he keeps in our minds, right to the end, the bipolar element that exists in even this most amiable of Mahlers symphonies. The playing of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra is exemplary throughout and the recording rich and detailed. There have been so many fine recordings of this work over the years that there are many that can be recommended to collectors to last them a lifetime. This latest one is certainly now among them. If you have room for another Fourth that is wellrecorded and well played, and with that striking sense of "old Europe" in the third movement, this is certainly one to consider seriously in a crowded field. Just dont send a copy to the Pentagon. Tilson Thomass gives us a Fourth from the grand tradition and one of the most recommendable now before us. In Mahler's Fourth Symphony there is no great wrestling with questions of existence as there is in the previous two. Hardly any concern either with conflict and resolution as in the succeeding three. The Fourth is often seen as Mahler's least troubled symphony. Since it's also his shortest and the one with the prettiest, most tuneful textures, it's also his most popular and approachable. However be careful about viewing it as entirely untroubled. There are dark shades on these textures and a delicate interplay of emotion and for the conductor this all means a careful balancing act. Accentuate those dark elements, pile the work with too much emotional drag and the fairy tale nature is lost. Play down the shadows, take too far a step back and the bogeymen peeping out from behind the drapes disappear from view. Leif Segerstam (Chandos CHAN9836) with the Danish National Radio Symphony tends towards the former category and this is in keeping with his approach to Mahler generally which always tends to the dramatic, the romantic and, in some cases, the mannered. Maybe it's the special nature of the Fourth but not even Segerstam, some of whose Mahlerian excesses I have found unacceptable, can spoil the work and prevent him delivering a recording with much appeal, though it could not be called "mainstream" like those by Kletzki, Szell, Horenstein or Kubelik are. Segerstam falls more into the kind of subjective interpretation represented by Mengelberg or Barbirolli but with the extra advantage of superb playing and recording, even though the latter may strike some as being too large-scale to suit what is a more intimate work.

The slow third movement is best representative of the kind of interpretation Segerstam seems to be offering. The approach is deeply expressive and the effect deeply tragic: worlds away from the Schubert-like poise of Boulez on DG or the ice- crystal purity of Reiner on RCA, for example. In fact I think Segerstam looks to what would for Mahler be more recent times as he puts me in mind of the hot house atmosphere of Wagner's Wesendonk Lieder with its dark colours and long, sensuous lines. Never was Beecham's remark about this work of Mahler's as "the illegitimate offspring of Tristan and Isolde" more apt. We should have been alerted to the approach Segerstam would adopt in the third movement from his account of the second. His "hands-on" approach allows him to accentuate weirdness in the Trios that ought to have more parody about them. He probably takes this movement too much at face value where Mahler has something subtler in mind - a cartoon world of fairy tale fears in his portrayal of "Friend Death" striking up on his out-of-tune fiddle. In the first movement Segerstam also invests every bar with special attention and this brings some nice touches, like the lower woodwind chuckling away in the Development. But some may find his close attention to detail here ultimately gets in the way of the broader flow. It only remains to report that Eva Johansson is a rather anonymous soprano in the last movement though Segerstam's accompaniment of her is exemplary. An expressive, consciously moulded performance resonantly recorded and sonorously played. Some of Mahler's lightness of touch is sacrificed but Segerstam's involvement offers a persuasive alternative to more central views. Klaus Tennstedts fine reading of the Fourth with the London Philharmonic on EMI (EMI 5 74296 2) is coupled with his Third which I included in my survey of that work. With such a large work as the Third taking up most of the two discs it might be the case that the Fourth Symphony is overlooked and this would be a pity. Both the first and second movements see Tennstedt pressing forward in the vigorous passages so that when he relaxes in the more reflective ones he doesn't need to slow down too much to make the kind of contrast he seemed unable to make in the first movement of the Third. It's certainly an impressive and compelling approach. He is also blessed again with excellent playing from the LPO who by then were his to command. They are on their toes throughout for the engineers to capture every detail of their playing and I especially liked the passage between bars 221 and 238 in the first movement where Tennstedt conveys a feeling of spiralling out of control very well. He clearly sees the third movement as one of Mahler's greatest slow movements as he phrases it with a rich depth of tone from the orchestra. Later

on his tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve in Mahler intrudes too much but it's always within the bounds of taste and great depth of feeling is conveyed. You can argue for a more detached and analytical approach, less mannered, but you would have to have a heart of stone not to be involved and moved by this. But I think the last movement is far too dark-toned and serious for what Mahler had in mind. Tennstedt has slipped back into his old Third Symphony ways here as he seems determined not to break the mood he has established in the third movement whereas I'm convinced that is exactly what Mahler wants the conductor to do. The playing is superb but too straight-faced to convey any of the fun the words carry. The recordings detailed above are, I think, the most desirable of all to own in their different ways. There are many more recordings, of course. There are fine ones by Lorin Maazel and the Vienna Philharmonic on Sony and Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips. Both are superbly played and recorded, both would grace your collection, but neither quite penetrates the work as deeply as the ones already dealt with. I am still surprised at my reaction to the Maazel recording, though. When I began this survey back in 1997 I fully expected to include it among the leading choices then, but hearing it in context with the others disappointed me a little and, on a fine balance, I decided to leave it out and I must say that I havent changed my mind now. But I do want to draw it to your attention again and to some lovely playing and conducting that is contained there (Sony SMK39072). Another recording I want to mention is by Franz Welser-Most and the London Philharmonic on EMI Classics for Pleasure (5734372). This offers a fine performance in the grand and romantic manner at a cheap price. It's ruled out for general recommendation for me by a very slow reading indeed of the third movement. Its a mind-boggling twenty-five minutes as opposed to just eighteen with Kubelik and is surely far too long no matter how well the London Philharmonic bring it off. Many like this recording just for this reading of the third movement alone. Many like their Mahler excessive anyway, many think Mahler should be excessive at all times. My reply to that is that what excess there is in the music doesn't need adding to by the conductor. Excess is the main problem in Claudio Abbados recording with the Berlin Philharmonic on DG but you dont hear it until the last movement. Abbados first recording with the Vienna Philharmonic was never very high in my estimation. I always felt that he was never quite at home with the mixture of fantasy and classicism and never really reconciled them. His new recording is rethought somewhat but to no great effect. The Berlin Philharmonic, as usual, show little corporate Mahler feeling and then in the fourth movement

Rene Fleming stands up and ruins everything. If I say that the manner she adopts would have better suited "Daddy Wouldnt Buy Me a Bow-Wow" I think you will catch my drift. Casting star sopranos in what ever new Mahler Fourth passed through the recording companies seemed to be quite a practice once. It knocked the final nail in the coffin of the, too hyper-sharp, Solti recording in Chicago for Decca when Kiri Te Kanawa arrived and might just as well have been singing the small-ads from "Exchange and Mart" for all the attention she seemed to be paying to the words. Simon Rattles EMI recording might well have likewise been spoiled by his soloist Amanda Roocroft, a fine artist but here with her feet in quite the wrong wellies, were it not for the fact that his own mannered delivery of the previous three movements had already done that pretty conclusively. Rattle is no Mengelberg, certainly not in this symphony. In Christoph Von Dohnanyis recording with the Cleveland Orchestra on Decca it is the soprano soloist, Dawn Upshaw, who is the highlight. In the rest, as so often is the case, Dohnanyi just fails to get inside the special world of this symphony and certainly comes nowhere near delivering as great a performance as the last time the symphony was recorded in Cleveland by Szell. There is just too much of the routine about it, the slow movement especially, and there is a feeling that the orchestra are not on top form either. That fine and invariably interesting Mahlerian Michael Gielen is not quite at his best in this work either. Strange how this seemingly most simple and "easy" of Mahlers symphonies can bring even the best conductors to grief. Are they perhaps beguiled by its apparent simplicity? Yoel Levi does much better in his Atlanta Symphony recording on Telarc. He is blessed with superb sound and excellent playing but isnt he just a little too studied, too careful, too punctilious for his impeccably played and pointed version to add up to anything more than the lightweight and the superficial? We hear lots of detail, but whats going on beneath? Readers of these surveys will not be surprised to know that the word "superficial" is also one I choose to apply to Riccardo Chaillys version on Decca with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. He is as well recorded as Levi and his orchestra play even better and with more idiom, the strings particularly fuller, but then stand Chailly and Levi up against Horenstein and Barbirolli, to name just two, and the deficiencies of the two modern conductors are only too obvious. Where is their heart, where is their soul? As always in Mahler, the performance to convince is the one that is the sum of all the parts - those are the ones with the heart and the soul. A consequence of writing surveys like this is the amount of "lobbying" one receives from people anxious that favourite recordings may have been overlooked by me. Maurice Abravanels Mahler recordings have come in for

their fair share of lobbying and his Fourth in particular has many advocates. Abravanel was a Mahler pioneer but I think today that his Utah orchestra just do not have the class or the Mahler pedigree to match even the worthy Mahlerian he was. Another piece of lobbying I have received since starting these surveys and which refers particularly to the Fourth comes from the existence of an arrangement of the work for fifteen chamber players (including piano!) that was made by Erwin Stein in 1920 for Arnold Schoenbergs Society For Private Musical Performances. This short-lived organization was dedicated to performing new and under-performed works and as Mahlers symphonies were still of sufficient novelty at that time the Sixth and Seventh symphonies were presented in two piano arrangements and "Das Lied Von Der Erde" and the Fourth Symphony in reduced chamber versions. The Fourth would seem a natural for such a treatment as it is the most chamber-like of Mahlers major works. In the time since the appearance of the first version of this survey a number of recordings of this Stein arrangement have appeared and, if my lobbying is anything to go by, is highly regarded by many people. For myself I see nothing at all to get excited about. Quite the opposite, in fact. No matter how felicitous, no matter how much care, no matter how much integrity Erwin Stein brought to his work in 1920 the fact remains that Mahlers miraculous scoring is here literally butchered before our ears, rendered down like a prime carcass in a meat factory into something easily chewable for the fast food industry. If Mahlers Fourth in its finished form is a big juicy turkey fresh from the oven the Erwin Stein chamber arrangement is a plate of underdone Turkey Twizzlers. Not to put too fine a point on it, I loathe it with a passion. I loathe it because I love the original so much, and am at a loss to know why so many people who also love the original can apparently find anything in this abomination to detain them. I suppose it served a purpose at a time when it was not possible to hear in performance what Mahler really wrote. But now we have lots of performances, many recordings and frequent broadcasts so there seems no need for the Stein arrangement other than as a bizarre curio from a bygone age with a sound more suited to a Palm Court tea dance complete with lukewarm tea urns, curling cucumber sandwiches and the distant snap of arthritic hips. If you do still want to hear it after I have just trashed it so enthusiastically (and that means you probably do now) then the fine recording by Douglas Boyd and the Manchester Camerata on Avie (AV 2069)) is the one to have. Not least for the delicious singing of Kate Royal in the last movement and the clear balanced recording all at super bargain price. These players at their full strength would do well to consider performing the real thing as it stands because let us hold the thought of a chamber orchestra in Mahlers Fourth

Symphony a little while longer as I deal with one more recording that I wouldnt want you to overlook. Playing Mahlers Fourth as it stands in the finished score but with a chamber sized string section is not as mad an idea as it may at first sound. In his chapter "Mahlers Kammermusikton" in "The Mahler Companion" Donald Mitchell writes in fascinating detail about two performances of Kindertotenlieder and other songs that Mahler himself mounted in Vienna in the small Brahmssaal in 1902. The orchestra comprised members of the Vienna Philharmonic formed into a chamber orchestra and subsequent research points to an ensemble of approximately thirty-six players, a lot less than we are used to in Mahlers songs. Research by Renate Hilmar-Voit suggests strings of about 8-10 violins, 6-8 violas, 4-6 cellos and 2-4 basses. (In a 1966 Aldeburgh performance Benjamin Britten gave Kindertotenlieder with 17 violins, 4 violas, 5 cellos and 2 basses and that with no access to any research just his own instincts.) In an earlier chapter in the Mahler Companion, this time specifically about the Fourth Symphony, Mitchell goes further when he writes of Innocence and Experience manifested in this work and pursuing Innocence he cites, among other things, "the shift towards a chamber-orchestra style that Mahler was soon to establish in Kindertotenlieder and the late Ruckert settings, his Kammermusikton as he was himself to describe it." (The italics are mine). Then in a footnote Mitchell draws our attention to that very 1902 Brahmssaal concert already mentioned. So why not try performing the Fourth Symphony with such a chamber orchestra? Leave aside the chamber arrangement by Stein completely if small forces only are possible? Well this is largely what Daniel Harding and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra seem to have done in their recording for Virgin Classics (7243 5 45665 2 3). The first movement is crisp and clear with great bounce and optimism with great care given to the dark and light contrasts. The smaller than usual string section really allows the winds to stand out here. In the second movement there is more character and great wit too with the smaller string body again making the detail stand out in sharper relief than we are used to. Some may find the third movement the place where the strings are needed more. That would only really be the case if you are determined to view this movement as a lush, romantic meditation instead of being the product of a more neo-classical sound world. With Harding and his players it emerges with a chaste purity to start with but there is some power too in the later sections. The overall tempo is also very moderate and is sustained superbly. As with the two previous movements the perspectives on the winds are changed profoundly but dont think there is no power there. But it is often a latent

power and the flinging open of the gates could not be more dramatic coming as a real shock. The last movement fits quite naturally and Dorothea Roschmann is a lovely soloist who seems in complete accord with her conductor. An unusual choice to end this survey with, therefore, but one that I think points us in a direction for this work which is novel and worth considering very seriously in the light of Mahler and is Kammermusikton and worth considering for the setting of future performing trends. To sum up, Mengelbergs immortal recording from 1939 remains hors concors,Barbirolli's is in the same category. Following these I would not want to be without Horenstein, Kubelik and Kletzki from the past generation, and Gatti, Boulez and Tilson Thomas from the present. The Tilson Thomas recording is, I think, a truly great version and certainly the best all round for performance and recorded sound together. Benjamin Britten is on hand for the profound insight of a fellow composer and Daniel Harding for a new insight that, in fact, may not be new at all but which, as I have tried to indicate, might take us back in time to some of Mahlers own thinking about how his orchestra can sound; a challenge to how we listen to this work and I, for one, am always up for a challenge in Mahler. With which thought, albeit a tentative one, I will leave you to enjoy Mahlers loveliest work again. Maybe with new ears. Tony Tony Duggan May 2006 Mengelberg Walter Klemperer Kletzki Britten Barbirolli Kubelik Horenstein Szell Reiner Bernstein Gatti Boulez Zander Tilson-Thomas Duggan

Tennstedt Welser-Most Boyd Harding

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Symphony No.5 [updated August 2006] "With each new symphony - and sometimes with each new movement inside each new symphony - we are taken into a different world. In each case there is a passionate, even desperate identification with a certain attitude - but only in the last resort, for what it is worth; suddenly the scene changes and another attitude is being identified with - but again, only for what it is worth." So wrote Deryck Cooke on what another Mahler scholar, Neville Cardus, characterised as Mahler's ability to "shed a skin" with each new work. This aspect of his creative life was never more in evidence than with the arrival of the Fifth Symphony and the two symphonies that followed. The Wunderhornbased visions and dreams of the first four symphonies that, along with first love and religious questioning, provided an escape valve and a vast comfortzone, were replaced in the three purely instrumental works of his middle period by a clear resolve to face the realities of life. No more fairy tales, no more theology, no more overt programmes, no more voices, no more poetry. Structures are tighter and more symphonic, textures are clearer and more experimental, ideas are more uncompromising and more self-centred. There are still the vestiges of the past. No artist's creative life is neatly compartmentalised. There are Wunderhorn song analogies in two of the three works but the context has changed. Song influences in these works are now just as likely to come from Mahler's settings of poems by Freidrich Ruckert which run contemporary with them. So with the Fifth Symphony Mahler grows up, puts away childish things and sees the world through a glass sometimes darkly sometimes not. The Fifth Symphony presents us with the musical equivalent of a split personality. Musical polar opposites are presented side by side - tragedy and joy, depression and mania, pain and pleasure, despair and hope, etc. These opposing attitudes are held together by a tripartite structure that charts a general course out of despair towards ultimate joy but with a journey that is by no means smooth. The first two movements form Part I, the last two Part III. The third movement forms Part II by itself and it's in this movement, a huge Scherzo lasting up to twenty minutes, that the opposing forces all appear to meet and become transformed rather than resolved (resolution must wait) into what Mahler thought of as a portrait of a man of the world. So this third movement/Part II is the hub of a revolving wheel whose perimeter is the four

movements making up Parts I and III and from whose revolutions fly off the opposing ideas Mahler uses as his material which the two parts either side present. The first movement is a drastic funeral march with elegiac asides and one incredible outburst of anguish. The second movement is an eruption of furious energy punctuated by moments of utter despair and a tantalising vision of paradise and resolution before despair seems to finally win. The fourth movement is a nostalgically-charged song without words for strings and harp, the fifth a jubilant, neo-classical rondo that concludes by recalling the vision of paradise from the second movement as a true resolution that knits the disparate work together. And in the centre is that third movement with its little dance episodes, its romantic horn solos and its outbursts of benign energy. For the conductor the Fifth Symphony must pose the greatest challenge in Mahler. He must bring unity to a work that is about disunity. To make it work he must allow us to hear every aspect of it in equal measure. The fourth movement, the much-loved Adagietto for strings and harp, is Mahler's most famous composition. Frequently heard alone on radio stations and in those compilation discs much beloved of the company marketing departments, it's probably the piece of music that introduces the name Gustav Mahler to more people than any other. Its use in the Visconti film "Death In Venice" only added to its popularity. It is, of course, an intensely beautiful piece, well-deserving fame and affection. However, I and many others believe fame and affection has taken a toll on performances in that most conductors opt to play it slower than was meant by the composer. There is no doubting its appeal when performances stretch to twelve, thirteen, even fourteen minutes. But the fact is there's strong evidence to suggest Mahler only meant it to last around seven or eight and to stretch it out robs it of its delicate magic and compromises its place in the greater scheme. Even leaving aside the evidence of contemporaries whose notes confirm a more animated interpretation (and the example on record of Mahler's disciples Walter and Mengelberg) there's the strongly-held belief this is, as Donald Mitchell suggests, a Ruckert "song without words" to be played in line with what the human voice could cope with. Performances that last anything into double figures surely fall outside that. I would only add a further point. In the fifth movement Mahler recalls the theme of the Adagietto in the way that he also does themes from the first movement in the second movement. I believe the recapitulation of the Adagietto material in the fifth movement works better the closer it sounds to the way we heard it first. Since the reprise of the material in the fifth

movement is, by nature of the movement it's contained in, quicker then an Adagietto nearer to it in tempo reinforces the point Mahler is trying to make that these two movements are connected. Of course, a slow Adagietto should not rule out a recording of the symphony. As Mitchell also says: "There are occasions when the 'wrong' tempo in the right hands can convince, whereas the observe does not...." With that fact firmly in mind I still believe this question of the Adagietto's tempo should be there when considering different interpretations of the Fifth Symphony. Since writing the first version of this survey many new recordings and reissues of this symphony have appeared in the catalogue to tempt collectors, both new and experienced. My task has therefore been to decide whether any of them fall into the extra-special category I have outlined in my Preface. Bruno Walter made the first complete recording of the work in 1946 and this is available on Sony (SMK 64451). It's a recording that all those interested in this composer should hear as it's full of insights into the work by his closest disciple, not least in the sub seven minute Adagietto. However, I don't think it can go in as a general recommendation. Tempos are very quick throughout and, though this probably reflects Walter's more astringent approach at that time in his life, you cannot escape the impression that another determinant was the need to fit the recording on to 78rpm sides. The early recording technology also means that the sound, though clear, is rather boxy and unatmospheric. There were plans for Walter to re-record the work in stereo but his death intervened. Rafael Kubelik recorded the Fifth officially only once as part of his complete cycle on DG with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He gives a lean and hungry performance on that occasion. The first movement has no "fat on the bone" so this means its rather lacking in the Tragedy department. A significant loss especially as this whole symphony works on balancing Tragedy with Triumph and all stops in between. The second movement is excellent. Quick and fierce but the steely, abrasive edge on the recorded sound really becomes a trial here, distorting the sonorities. However, Kubeliks pacing of the disparate episodes remains faultless. Things improve in the Scherzo where there is spring in the step and poise in the delivery: a feeling of joy and carnival, though again the sound is still a problem. This was the last of the symphonies to be recorded for this cycle so the question of the problematic sound quality is even more perplexing. There is another Mahler Fifth from

Kubelik and this orchestra on the market. Its a "live" one on the Audite label (95.465) that makes this studio version seem like a blueprint in that the later one is a touch more substantial and spacious where it counts and better recorded. However, I am going to pass over both of these in favour of a "live" recording of a performance Kubelik gave with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in 1951. Its on the Tahra label (TAH 419) and is a thoroughly convincing and idiomatic performance from a time long before the so-called Mahler "boom" began that I find insists itself into this survey revision as a main recommendation. A performance like this shows that Mahler was indeed fully understood, in Holland if nowhere else, as early as 1951 and that there was a young Bohemian-born conductor who understood him too. Put him in front of an orchestra who knew it better than any other on the planet and the result is magic. Its taken from a performance at the Holland Festival that also included Otto Klemperer conducting the Second Symphony with the same orchestra that you can hear on the Decca release mentioned in my survey of that work. As with that Klemperer recording, the mono sound is taken from radio transcription discs. Though this set of discs appears to have stood the test of time better. There is a small degree of surface noise but its slight and shouldnt bother anyone used to listening to such recordings. Ruled out as a first choice for this reason, yes, but certainly one for the discerning Mahlerite to add to the collection. As always with Tahra they have gone back to the original master for this official release and so this is the best sound available. There is also enough of this great halls acoustic to give sense of space also but we are close in enough to hear an extraordinary amount of detail from the orchestra. The old idea that tempi in Mahler performances have become progressively slower as time has gone on is again borne out by this performance. Kubelik was never a ponderous Mahlerian, of course. Here we find him even fleeter of foot than he was in the DG studio recording. In fact in 1951 his timing comes closer to Bruno Walter in 1947. And yet the tempo differences between the three Kubelik performances are all proportional and I am not concerned by the fact of quicker tempi here. What matters most are aspects of phrasing and the relationships between the differences of tempo within each movement and across the work as well as how well the players seem to get into the metabolism of the music. This is the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the year of Mengelbergs death and even though he hadnt stood in front of them for six

years this is still his orchestra. You just know that they know this music, love it and understand it, and it was Mengelberg who taught it to them over many years after he learned it from Mahler. Not only because many of these players must have played it under the man himself, their orchestral parts must also have been be littered with notes gleaned from Mengelbergs direction. So I dont think its stretching the imagination to say we are listening here to a tradition of playing that can be traced back to the composer, irrespective of the unique insights brought to bear by Kubelik himself. Its a case of youth and experience coming together and it produces a gem of a disc. A carefully paced fanfare and a beautifully delivered funeral march dominate the first movement. There is weight but there is also power. The great "jumpoff" point at bar 155, Trio I, explodes vividly to uncurl itself with a controlled power that carries superb contrast to what has gone. There is no hint of hysteria here, just drama. Notice especially how all the strings "ride" the brass and percussion with supreme confidence at the point just before passage collapses back to the fanfare. That indicates Mahler playing of the very highest order. There is a hint of real anger in the funeral march return also which is quite refreshing. It suggests that the deceased did not go quietly and it illustrates Kubeliks ability even then to dig out details of the music, the mark of a great Mahlerian. Listen too to the woodwind choir when playing full out. Not the sweet and cultured tones we have become used to of late. Here are some "reedy" players who are not ashamed to sound just a little weatherworn, as Mahler would have expected. That great "way point", the moment marked "Klagend" at the end of the movement followed by the descent to the coda, is as deep and terrifying as it should be with the trumpets last return carrying so much tragic weight by a player who has clearly played it many times. You can certainly tell when musicians love and understand the music in front of them. There is a confidence in what they do, especially when they are especially exposed, as the principal trumpet is in this movement. Do also notice the very quiet final pizzicato note on double bass. There is now compelling evidence to suggest that the violent "Bartok-like" thwack that is so often heard here is incorrect and moves now appear to be afoot to correct this in a new edition. Is this performance, from 1951, how Mahler meant it to sound? If so, Kubeliks performance certainly seems to justify it and I wonder if the evidence is there in the score part being used. In his two later recordings Kubelik delivers this note with maximum force. It is on such detailed points as this that Mahlerian scholarship can turn.

Even in 1951 Kubelik has the measure of the difficult, shifting second movement. He never uses excessive force in any direction, never thrusts forward too quickly, never pulls back too slowly. Neither does he ever impose on the music an excess of emotion that it doesnt have. It is the perfect example of letting Mahler speak for himself. Of course the orchestras familiarity with the music must help here again. The fearsomely complex counterpoint playing holds no fears at all. There are passages where the players are like a chamber orchestra playing by listening to each other. In the passage leading to the great chorale climax Kubelik covers all bases from despair to the brief happiness, even a touch of nostalgia in the trumpets, but thrusts home the final denouement with real confidence. Though time will tell if there has been too much. This moment should never prove to outshine the corresponding one at the close of the symphony where the chorale comes back. In sum, Kubelik keeps the thread of the argument with apparent ease, though I suspect it was not easy and he needed the full panoply of this great orchestras inherited collective soul to pull it off. He also delivers the two movements together as Part I, which is as it should be. Though this is a very fleet performance of the Scherzo the mood under Kubelik is dead right from the start and it never appears to be rushed. Gone is the tragedy and anguish from the first two movements. Here is the energy and bounce juxtaposed with those lonely contemplative moments when the horn and other solos take the stage. After all, juxtaposition is the meat and drink of this whole symphony across the three parts and this central movement must reflect its own juxtapositions so long as the conductor doesnt appear to rush as the composer feared and, in spite of just 16 minutes, Kubelik doesnt seem to. How he pulls off the trick of appearing to be spacious and yet not be, I have only theories. I suppose it all comes down again to the idiomatic phrasing and the sense of the pieces special poetry; a match of a master conductor and an orchestra experienced intimately with the music. Note the way the horn theme, always undergoing transformation, is carefully attended to every time. You have the feeling that these players know how to always look for a slightly different way of playing what appears to be the same material. Not an attribute you come across too often in Mahler but you certainly know it when you hear it. In the end it is the energy and love of life that flows out of this movement and it provides the correct keystone to the works complexity, as we shall see. The horn solo is very soft and mellow, by the way. Antidote to the sharp, penetrating sound we hear so often today and an echo from a bygone age.

Kubelik was never one to indulge the Adagietto fourth movement. He seemed to know that too slow a tempo betrays Mahlers intention of a "song without words" and here in Amsterdam he delivers just such a song shy of ten minutes. The strings of the Concertgebouw are very warm-hearted and consoling before the last movement enters "attacca". The first aspect I noticed here was the wonderful character of the plangent woodwinds which, even in this mono radio disc recording, are balanced pretty well ideally. Then the strings again show superb discipline and that confidence in their knowledge of the music. Not least in the recalls of the Adagietto theme where the relationship is between the two movements of Part III are made manifest. By now this is clearly one of those performances where everything has gone right. We have gone from bitter tragedy to unalloyed joy and ultimate triumph passing through pastoral contemplation. The final chorale climax does indeed trump the first appearance and so that crucial structural imperative has been attended to which is always a good sign that all was indeed well. There is a story that Furtwangler once attended a performance of Mahlers Fifth Symphony conducted by Kubelik and after congratulating him backstage nevertheless wondered if it was all worth the effort. Kubelik certainly believed Mahler was worth the effort as this recording from early in his career and at what must have been near the time when Furtwangler heard him proves. As a performance this is the best of Kubeliks three available recordings. An archive recording all Mahlerites should own for the young Kubelik and for the old Concertgebouw. The fact that it is in mono should be noted but, on this occasion, I am not letting that fact get in the way of including it as a main recommendation. Among other conductors of a previous generation is Rudolf Schwarz whose 1959 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra for Everest (EVC 9032) remains a leading contender. The solo trumpet fanfare that opens the work and which will haunt the whole first movement is a determined sound and ushers in a steady funeral march with great weight and dignity. I also admire the way

the elegiac second theme dovetails out of the funeral march. At the point marked "Suddenly faster. Passionate. Wild", in fact a quasi Trio, Schwarz resists the temptation to hit the accelerator as Tennstedt, Bernstein and others do. What emerges from him is tragic and strong rather than frantic. Then, when the main material returns there is bitterness as the funeral tread strides magnificently and with great character. The second return of the Trio material, this time ghostly and remote, finds Schwarz a master of contrast with a slightly more measured tempo. The conclusion of the movement sees the music rise to a climax marked "Klagend" ("Lamenting") after which it descends and withdraws into some pit of mystery and despair. Schwarz imparts real dread here, punctuated by that emphatic trumpet solo making its last appearance. His second movement is rugged and determined and measured enough for us to hear everything clearly. I like the chattering woodwind when the storm subsides, for example. Too often the desire by the engineers to give us concert hall balance can rob these interpolations of their weird power. The theme that then emerges is from the first movement and Schwarz makes us all too aware of this. After another stormy outburst the music withdraws into what Constantin Floros calls "the monody of the lamenting cellos", a prayer like passage in the eye of the storm. Schwarz conducts this without artifice but not so withdrawn that it sounds detached. Towards the end of the movement the music propels hell-for-leather towards the emergence of what will bring the whole symphony to triumphant conclusion: a huge, chorale-like theme in the brass. Under Schwarz this is delivered emphatically but not overwhelmingly. This should be underplayed slightly so the final appearance at the end of the last movement is not robbed of its resolution. Mahler once despaired that conductors would take the third movement too fast and it is the case that performances which give the various episodes of this movement the time they need to really breathe are the ones that most convince. They are also the ones that make the best possible contrast with what has gone before. There really should be a complete change of mood at this point. Mahler seems to be telling us there is a completely different way of looking at the world, in spite of what we might have thought. Schwarz seems to agree. There is a lightness and lift to the opening and a dance element to the whole of the movement which, when added to a sense of old-world charm and grace, makes for a really idiomatic performance. The crucially important solo horn part that distinguishes this movement was probably played on this recording by Barry Tuckwell and he gives a lovely account of it, placed within the orchestra rather than too far forward. Later in the movement when Mahler

has shuffled his material into the recapitulation, Schwarz makes a really kaleidoscopic picture of colour, rhythm and gayety. It's in the Adagietto that Schwarz's recording confirms its special nature because, like Walter and also Rudolf Barshai dealt with below (and also Jascha Horenstein in three privately held archive recordings), he treats the Adagietto to the nearest overall timing that coincides with what is believed to be Mahler's. What we hear under Schwarz is a delicate, nostalgically-charged song that fits perfectly with its recapitulation in the final movement which itself receives a spacious, ripe account with the right amount of forward momentum. Others may deliver more energy and virtuosity here but I think Schwarz's kind of approach pays greater dividends since it contrasts better with the first movement which it is surely meant to counterbalance. The conclusion, where the chorale from the end of the second movement returns in triumph, rounds off the performance in as satisfying a way as you could wish. There are drawbacks which I must mention. Firstly, the playing of the 1959 LSO has its few uncertain patches. Don't expect quite the whip-crack response this orchestra might have delivered a few years later in better times, or under a conductor they knew more intimately. The sound recording is clear and wellbalanced, employing a recording system unique in its day that has now been restored using the latest technology. It is a well-balanced stereo picture and only the most fanatical of hi-fi enthusiasts would object. I really recommend this recording highly. In terms of character and insight it has so much to tell us. Another conductor who brings unique character to this work is Sir John Barbirolli with the New Philharmonia on EMI GROC (5669102). This has topped of the list of many recommendations for years. But it has to be said it isn't without its controversial elements which, for some, might rule it out of court altogether. The funeral march has great tragic weight with an element of national mourning not far away. However, this is a dignified grieving rather than an over-dramatised one, as it is under Wyn Morris, for example. Like with Schwarz, the jump-off point at the first Trio finds Sir John ever the expansive Mahlerian, refusing to rush and taking the opportunity to let his horns really whoop. The return of the march is superb too with real iron in the soul and even more dread to the funeral steps. The second movement opens with the cellos and basses grinding their bows into the strings superbly. Some may find Barbirolli's overall expansiveness just over the edge in this movement. If it comes off, which I believe it does, it's because he remembers

Mahler's marking of "Vehement" for the stormy episodes. The punching brass at the start of the development are especially memorable and so too is the central cello lament which Barbirolli gets his players to deliver with all the eloquence you would expect from him. Listen also to the great whoops from the massed horns at the recapitulation. In fact, right the way through this movement the brass deliver all the power you could want, especially in the passage marked "Wuchtig" prior to the chorale climax which is really built up with unerring power. Barbirolli also manages the mood switch in the third movement and here his expansive approach pays unquestioned dividends in one of the finest performances of this movement on record. This is all helped by the open quality to the sound picture with brass and woodwind balanced forward and the woodwind especially showing this was still Klemperer's orchestra. (No recording by Klemperer, of course. The old man had a very low opinion of this symphony which might have been why he allowed Barbirolli to record it.) To an even greater extent than Schwarz, Barbirolli recognises the old-world elements in this movement, the charm, the nostalgia, all deeply etched in music that he makes breathe humanity from every pore and explode into joy when the need arises. Though he's more expansive than Schwarz in the Adagietto it's interesting to note that even Barbiroilli recognises the need to keep the tempo under some control. At under ten minutes he is certainly at the quicker end of the scale when compared with some. But his phrasing of this wonderful music is so warm and full of heart that you would have to be made of stone not to respond to it. I find his account of this movement perfectly acceptable, especially when heard in context of his performance of the last movement which is slower overall than anyone, apart from Morris. Those who think this really does need dash and virtuosity will not be able to take the movement as conducted by Sir John. But those who respond to his rather mordant wit will find that it carries all before it. At such a grand tempo, the delivery of the final pages ought to leave you with the warm glow Mahler surely intended and with a real feeling of an immense distance travelled since the opening of the work. Whilst we are dealing with Mahler conductors of a previous generation let me warn you to beware of Hermann Scherchens "live" French Radio Orchestra recording on Harmonia Mundi as it is savagely cut in the Scherzo and so ruled out. Admirers of Scherchens quixotic, illuminating, often eccentric view of Mahler in this work could try to find his 1953 mono recording on

Universal/Millennium (MCD 80081) which is the o only one he made that is complete in every note and carries many of the virtues, and the vices, apparent in those parts of the work that get heard in this issue. Frank Shipway isn't the first conductor you think of as a Mahler interpreter. In fact he may not be among the first conductors you think of, period. He's British and, at the time of his recording of the Fifth, headed the National Symphony Orchestra of RAI in Italy and the BRNT Orchestra in Belgium. Behind Shipway's recording of the Fifth with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra seems to lie one overriding idea that he uses to hold the huge structure together to superb effect. This is that contrasting of opposites that we have recognised as being at the core of this work but Shipway seems to have decided he will make the illustration of them the absolute "be all and end all" of his performance. So, every contrast that can be brought out is brought out, every opposing idea measured. It's an approach established from the start so it stays in the mind until the end . In the first movement, the funeral march proper has a huge and heavy tread while the quieter, reflective parts seem distanced, veiled, like the faces of the women mourners in the cortege. In fact there's something very 19th century about all this: dark, decaying, a bit gothic. Then, when the music calls for release, Shipway throws caution to the wind and goes for broke. You will remember how we noticed in the Schwarz and Barbirolli recordings a slight unwillingness to surrender to the moment here. Shipway is the total opposite. It's a mood swing that will have you calling your analyst (Freudian, of course. This IS 19th century Vienna !) but it's one you have to get used to in this recording. He doesn't mould the themes in the way Tennstedt does, doesn't "ham" like Morris, there's no "drag" on the secondary theme of the funeral march like Bernstein. It's extremes of dynamics and tempo that stay in the mind and this is carried over to the second movement also. How savagely the lower strings grind out the opening. Then that long, elegiac cello episode that leads back to the recall of the funeral march music is as withdrawn and soft as I have ever heard it and, again, veiled. Then, when Shipway presses forward, we're back on a roller-coaster, hanging on for dear life. We also realise the span from the start of the quiet cello section to the end of the chorale episode is a huge arc which, with the skill of an opera man, Shipway encompasses with ease. He does mould the chorale theme towards the end of the second movement very rhetorically, but by then I was too shell shocked and ready to ring up the white flag to protest.

The contrasts carry on in the Scherzo but their presentation is profoundly different. The main episodes themselves are taken very fast, challenging the orchestra who are a match for any in the world on this showing. But, as soon as the first Trio arrives, Shipway slows the tempo and dynamic right down to almost private contemplation. He appears to want to show us that polar opposing forces can co-exist when not creating conflict. The horn obbligato sections (with superb playing by John Bimson, also the soloist for Gatti) I think anticipate the Seventh Symphony's Nachtmusik in being dark and dreamy with the darker colours accentuated. With all these contrasts duly brought out to the full Shipway's scherzo is therefore not as sunny as we may be used to. There is a case to be made for the movement being more troubled and that's what Shipway gives us: the undertow is downward. There's certainly less of the Viennese lilt to the waltz episodes too and that may be a problem for some people. The Adagietto is very slow but when the music calls for intensity Shipway lets the strings have their heads and the way the violins dig into the bows reminds me of the Adagio from the Ninth symphony. The final descent at the end begins with an almost primal scream from the violins with a vast tone from the massed strings following. As I have said, I don't believe this "on the edge of despair" is what Mahler intended, but it's still in keeping with the Shipway approach and has to be accepted. Perhaps this is a good example of the "Mitchell Principle" about not minding the "wrong" tempo in the right hands. It's in the last movement that the opposites at last resolve themselves and, with no contrasts to be marked, conflict ceases. Shipway plays this movement as a carefree, jaunty romp. At 14.30 it's just seconds short of Walter's speed, worlds away from Barbirolli or Morris. When the Adagietto music returns it's especially light and joyous, a fascinating metamorphosis. Likewise the triumphant return of the chorale with no attempt at moulding the theme this time. It's played straight from the heart with ringing trumpets. There seems no doubt in Shipway's mind this work ends in unequivocal triumph. The biggest contrast of all is therefore the end of the symphony when compared with the beginning. I found myself smiling a lot during this last movement under Shipway. The sound recording is big and bold to cope with his conception and seems to fill out to meet his demands. The acoustic of Watford Coliseum gives a large sound picture with the horns especially caught which is just as well because

Shipway seems to be in love with the sound of this symphony, luxuriating in it at times. There is a veiled quality to the softer passages, however, which may trouble some. To me it suits Shipway's conception again. This recording isn't an easy option but, so far as I'm concerned, it's brought me that bit closer to the piece again. Since my earlier version of this survey the recording has jumped record labels and is now on Membran (222845) and has become an SACD hybrid. In terms of sound, Daniele Gatti's recording of the Fifth with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Conifer (75605 51318 2) is one of the best before us. It's a close-in balance with every detail sharp and clear, almost like having the score in front of you. It was made in Henry Wood Hall which is where the London orchestras rehearse, so there wouldn't have been much room for vast reverb which I don't think is suited to this work anyway. It is also, as we shall see, a sound picture well-suited to Gatti's interpretation. The playing is exemplary. There isn't a department unprepared for the demands placed on them with brass especially virtuoso in passages when they are going all out. It's a reading that stresses symphonic structure, eschewing overt expression or emotion, clear-sighted, clear-headed, pure-minded, an almost calculated realisation of the score but saved by a crucial sense of drama and travail that convinces brilliantly. So the opening trumpet fanfare is meticulously spaced to an extent you don't often hear. Arresting when done like this because it has the effect of lingering in your mind right through the movement, as it should. The clear-sightedness is maintained when the funeral march gets under way as the "dragging" many conductors adopt here is not in Gatti's imagination. When he reaches the marking "Suddenly faster. Passionate. Wild" the sharp, bold lines of the reading accentuates a feeling of energy. This is Mahler decisively for the head rather than the heart - not on the sleeve, at least. With the return of the main funeral material Gatti shows he wants to compartmentalise Mahler's material in an almost manic sense of organisation. As if his firm hand on the material is all that's keeping us from chaos and, for me, this soon sets up a special kind of tension missing from similar kinds of readings. The end of the second Trio, right at the end of the movement, marked "Klagend" is delivered like a guillotine followed by an impressive, snarling descent into oblivion. The second movement is fast, furiously so in parts. At the beginning I liked the sound of the basses digging into the strings and then, soon after, the precise chattering of the woodwinds whose presence here will never flag. Gatti's insistence on a tempo just a little faster than we are used to in the really

fast sections keeps the sonata form structure of this movement in our minds. The cello's lament at 188, the eye of peace in the hurricane, is likewise that little bit more flowing than usual. None of the heavier emotional pull of Shipway or Bernstein or Morris, for example. But the passage is not so fast it fails to make its effect. Here is a conductor careful to want each episode to slip into the next without having to take any kind of evasive or dramatic action. The section leading to the great chorale cross-beam also refuses to yield to the moment. Unkind souls might say Gatti is too anxious to get us to it, and there's no doubt that, compared with others, some power is lost in exchange for movement and the clear head. But the arrival of the chorale is all you wish for in terms of reaching a "way point" in the symphony. Purity is the word that springs to mind for the Scherzo: purity of sound and expression. The opening is characterised by more sharp lines and vital rhythms, but even Gatti can't help himself relaxing his guard for moments of repose. There is an air of "Forgive me a moment but I can't help myself" about it. The impression in Daniele Gatti is of a serious young man anxious not to offend, careful not to appear too gauche or on anything other than his best behaviour. As I said earlier, that can set up its own tension but can also undermine music that actually needs more "heft" and abandon. But there is much to admire and enjoy here. As the movement progresses, the unwillingness of Gatti to yield to the greater lyricism of this movement, the place where the two violently contrasting and opposing worlds of feeling in the symphony pivot, fails to win the movement deep place in the emotional structure in anything but a superficial way but succeeds well in the story of the symphonys journey from dark to light. Other conductors - Shipway, Barbirolli, Bernstein, Schwarz, Tennstedt - take us deeper into the nooks and crannies but its a near thing. The Adagietto flows well and the central section with its faster tempo is more muscular. When the slower tempo is asked for towards the end, because the initial tempo was faster than we are often used to, the singing line is maintained well. The Finale is a great virtuoso display and goes along with real bounce and wining verve. Other conductors can bring more warmth and humour to this movement where Gatti seems to want to maintain his sharp concentration to the end. He does raise the orchestra to a fine peroration at the close, though, and is more than satisfying as a conclusion to this great work. I don't want to seem harsher in my judgement of this recording than I am. It is a worthy contender and I recommend it.

Pierre Boulez's recording with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon (458 416-2) isn't what you might be expecting from this conductor in that he gives quite a traditional reading. Yet he does have some new things to say which, in that context, prove illuminating. Take the first movement as an example. The overall timing is 12:50, pretty much Mahler's own, and at the outset all appears as normal. Then, at the first Trio's great jump-off point where conductors like Shipway, Bernstein and Tennstedt take Mahler at his word and hit the accelerator, Boulez deliberately keeps the tempo under very tight control, tighter than anyone. The result is that you hear more detail while still being aware of the pent-up energy that has been released, made even more emphatic in the memory for not being rushed. Then, soon after, at the marking "a tempo", there is less of a feeling of deflation because less slowing down has been necessary. The Vienna woodwinds have almost the same quality Barbirolli conjures out of the NPO, by the way. Then, near the end, where the marking is "Klagend", that key moment in the movement is superbly "placed" with almost the vividness it gets from Mackerras in his Liverpool recording on Classics For Pleasure. The tempo for the second movement is, like the outburst in the first, held back a little. That isn't to say Boulez is slow but he certainly doesn't appear to rush the approach to the chorale entry - a part of the piece that can see a conductor at sea and be the moment when the attention starts to wonder. Unless this passage is sifted, sorted, understood by the conductor, it can appear as just a procession of noisy outbursts. But Boulez has clearly weighed and balanced it. This passage also illustrates how careful he is with letting the Vienna Philharmonic's brass only have their heads at certain key moments. When they really let rip the moment is remembered - as in the appearance of the chorale. The lower brass at "Wuchtig" are magnificent. The third movement is quite restrained, elegant even. I like the way the solo horn is balanced more to the back of orchestra too and I love also the string portamenti in the metropolitan waltzes. Again, not what you expect from Boulez. If I have a major criticism it is that Boulez polishes the surfaces too much, both here and elsewhere. The Adagietto is, for me, a letdown. It's superbly played and sounds beautiful, but it's slow (10.59) which surprised me as I would have expected something more radical from Boulez, rather more like his treatment of the Ninth Symphony's last movement. This Adagietto is quite emotionally detached as well - cool and remote. The Rondo-Finale is again well paced in tempo, not too fast but with enough spring in the step.

The sound recording won't be liked by everyone and I must confess to finding it a problem at times. It's very bright and smooth, multi-miked with a good deal of reverberation from the Musikverein in Vienna which tends to give a polish to the sound which borders on the glaring. In addition to Henry-Louis de La Grange's musical notes there's a short article by Pierre Boulez in which he talks of the VPO's tradition in playing Mahler and playing him in that hall. I have already said how much I was struck at the traditional elements. Boulez also writes of how conducting Wagner helped him conduct Mahler, instilling in him the necessity of knowing exactly where you are at any point. "I think that this kind of continuity, the flow of the music, is for me the most important thing," he writes. That says a lot about his overall approach in this work. The great moments are never allowed to swamp the incidental details. In spite of any reservations I recommend this recording but more as an alternative. Klaus Tennstedt has recorded the Fifth Symphony twice with the London Philharmonic on EMI, once in the studio and once "live" at the Royal Festival Hall. The later "live" recording (7 49888-2) is the easiest to obtain and is the finer of the two, though it is broadly the same conception. The delivery of the opening funeral march is vivid and dramatic, but with less of the dread you find with Barbirolli, for example. Likewise in his despatch of the first Trio. Tennstedt is of the school who believes in taking Mahler at his word with a great forward thrust in the leap into the maelstrom. The return of the funeral music brings some superb brass playing but I wish there could have been some more power at "Klagend" towards the end, even though the descent to the conclusion of the movement is impressive. The feeling that Tennstedt's stress is on drama is confirmed by his faster speed for the second movement too. This leads to less impact from the lower strings at the start. Things pick up, though. Following the cello lament, a seamless transition under Tennstedt here, the music begins its inexorable climb out of the pit with some wonderful sifting of the many sounds and colours in this extraordinary movement. I do wonder if the return of the death march is rendered a little too lovingly by Tennstedt with the excellent momentum he has set up faltering somewhat here but that's a small "fly in the ointment" as he drives on towards the movement's high point with care for the inner details which the analytical recording and the clinical acoustic help to bring out. Also note the passage "Wuchtig" where Tennstedt really gives what Mahler asks for. Maybe he elongates the chorale a little too much, giving away what really should be saved for the end of the work but, again, with music making of this quality it's a small quibble. This is a "live" performance, after all, and the grabbing of a moment in the "muck and bullets" of the night is always to be welcomed. All in all, a superb

performance of the second movement. Tennstedt understands the need to organise the material so that the ear of the listener is not tired at any point. The Scherzo receives a tight, controlled performance. Perhaps too unsmiling to really be the total contrast to what has gone. That isn't to say Tennstedt doesn't vary the material. It's just that, to me, there isn't enough spontaneity about it. Everything is rather Teutonically shaped, efficient and organised. Though the actual pacing of each episode is exemplary. Tennstedt is good at the darker, dramatic episodes of this symphony but this is at the expense of the lighter elements. So, in the Adagietto, Tennstedt is conventionally slow. In fact there are times when he seems to be trying to approach the kind of Zen-like stasis more suited to the end of the Ninth Symphony and that surely cannot be right. It's just inappropriate, especially when compared with others before us. This approach to the Adagietto doesn't fit with the last movement as conducted by Tennstedt either. This does receive a thrilling, though rather too calculatedly thrilling, reading that lacks a lot of the rubicund glow that distinguishes other accounts and means the recall of the Adagietto material fails to really tell as it can when that movement has been delivered in a more appropriate way. Tennstedt's finale is a great virtuoso display, a real rollercoaster, but I'm afraid it put me in mind of the finale of Bartok's Concerto For Orchestra with the coda despatched with what sounds like too ruthless efficiency. Be very sure this is a superb recording with a lot to admire but also a good deal to disagree with. Fans of Tennstedt need not hesitate. The rest of us will look elsewhere. If close personal involvement from the conductor is what you're looking for but one that sees things more "in the round" Leonard Bernstein with the Vienna Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon (452 416-2) is a much better prospect. I'm no knee-jerk admirer of Bernstein in Mahler, but even I have to admit his Vienna Fifth is a performance of thrilling power and eloquence. The huge dynamic range of the recording in the opening pages is indicative of what is to come. This is a performance that storms the heights and depths of this work like no other. The elegiac passages of the funeral march are filled with the deepest emotion, dragging themselves along. Then the jump-off point at the first Trio is big, eloquent and wild, with the brass especially resplendent and the strings at full stretch. Bernstein seems to be in superb control of the intensity, however, not letting too much emotion cloud the issue. At the conclusion of the movement, at the "Klagend" marking which sees the music

spiral down to silence, notice his care for the lower strings. The second movement sees Bernstein and the orchestra throwing caution to the wind by tearing into the maelstrom with lower strings again really biting and the big bass response of the recording balance letting us hear everything. After the first storm has subsided, the woodwind seem a little distanced from everything else which is a pity but is in keeping with the larger-than-life sound picture the engineers seem to be aiming for. This is one of the best readings of this movement you are likely to hear with every twist and turn of this extraordinary music catered for. For example, the "monody of the lamenting cellos" is so wonderfully withdrawn you almost want to hold your breath. In fact Bernstein makes the whole of this incident-packed movement into a seamless cloth with the Vienna Philharmonic at times playing like things possessed. The chorale climax is immense and so too is the final collapse with trumpets blazing followed by a really spooky rendition of the strange closing pages. An extraordinary performance. Bernstein's approach in the Scherzo is similar to Barbirolli's in that he is prepared to give every episode the space to breath, but Bernstein is blessed with the better orchestra. There is a fine lift to the rhythmic life of the movement also and Bernstein is a master at pointing-up of all those little "moments" others can miss. The ending finds him as exuberant and joyful as you could wish with the Vienna Philharmonic playing at the top of their form. This is followed, as you might have expected, by a very intense Adagietto filled with rare tenderness. Bernstein is slower than Schwarz, Walter and Barbirolli here, but not so slow he distorts the piece out of shape. Then in the finale he and the orchestra carry all before them. Again, the depth of the recording's dynamic range might bother some. But especially memorable is the warmth of heart in the climactic passages and the conclusion itself where Bernstein pulls out all the stops, capping the earlier appearance of the chorale with a no-holds-barred broadening of the tempo at the moment of release. This is, therefore, a superb realisation of the Fifth Symphony. A roller-coaster of a performance that will give you all you could possibly want from it, and some more. Maybe Bernstein goes to excess a few times, but that was the character of the man and captured here "live" he is irresistible. You cannot stress too strongly the spell that Vienna cast over Mahler from the earliest age. You can almost imagine him as a child like a Bohemian Jude Fawley metaphorically stopping his wagon to look at the sun glinting on Viennas, rather than Oxfords, windows in the distance and dreaming of greatness. The difference between Hardys fictional doomed hero from

Wessex and our real-life doomed hero from the backwoods of AustriaHungary is that "Gustav The Obscure" would achieve everything "Jude The Obscure" did not. Not only did he get to the city of his dreams but also for ten tempestuous years he was the most famous man in town after the Emperor. Only then did the city throw him out. In Judes case it was the curse of class prejudice that excluded him. In Mahlers case it was race prejudice, laced with the bitter poison of envy, that was his downfall. But the spell never broke. In spite of it all Mahler returned to die in Vienna and his bones lie there now. This is all relevant to Benjamin Zanders conception of the Fifth Symphony with the Philharmonia on Telarc (2CD80569) because, in the accompanying talk, he sees the Scherzo at the centre of the works tripartite structure as musical evocation of Mahlers attitude to the city at the time of composition. The city of caf houses, waltzes, the opera, The Ring. All of these Mahler loved and celebrates, Zander tells us. Behind all this, however, he wants us to remember the pressure of cynicism, anti-Semitism and the "straws in the wind" for the end of the vast Empire that Vienna represented and which Mahler must have sensed. What is clear from Zanders performance is that he recognises the crucial importance of stressing those contrasts within and across the five movements. It is very strong indeed on the inner detail - the "cogs and pulleys" of the work. Both the performance and the sound recording work hand in glove with the concept of illuminating what makes the Fifth tick with Zander almost bringing a lawyers eye to the small print in Mahlers contracts. However, rest assured this ear for detail is never at the expense of the overarching structure, never at the expense of feeling either, a fault which, as you will see later, leads me to leave out Simon Rattles recording from this survey which Zander avoids. Zander never imposes himself on the music in any way. He is a conductor who lets the music speak for itself and with an orchestra prepared to follow his every request we are the beneficiaries. The funeral march that opens the first movement is dark-toned and leonine, ready to spring, quite threatening. There is steel in the grimace of the strict rhythmic pull too. However, in his talk and notes Zander shows he has gone back to Mahlers own piano roll of this movement made in 1905. He points out the very particular way Mahler appears to articulate the dotted funeral rhythm and you can just hear this in the performance where it adds a

distinctive aspect. He projects the first Trio at bar 155 without the hysteria that can disfigure the passage under other hands and so make it seem to spring naturally from the march so that when the march comes back we are aware that it never really went away thus unifying the material. Praise here for principal trumpet Mark David who drags us back to earth with his instrument acting like a hypodermic full of strychnine into the symphonys body. Indeed in this whole movement the solo trumpet must both initiate and react to drama and knowing the difference distinguishes this particular account of the solo part running through the movement. Following the great collapse climax at bar 357 Zander finally pulls the music down to the depths of despair admirably. But there is a sting in the tail. The final pizzicato note is reproduced here with startling force, like something out of Bartk. As I said above, there is now doubt as to whether Mahler meant it to be heard like this, but full marks to Zander for reading it like we all believed it should have been read. In the second movement Zander is careful to project the ebb and flow that makes this movement so involving. I have heard recordings where the conductor hasnt thought through the implications of what is going on, doesnt appreciate the need to carefully grade dynamics and tempo changes so you know where you have been, where you are and where you are going. In these cases the result is just a lot of noise punctuated by pauses for breath. Zander certainly coaxes the Philharmonias woodwind choir to chatter and cackle in those extraordinary figurations Mahler keeps throwing in. Also the reproduction of the pizzicato notes that go with them make for a nervy quality. The delivery of the chorale passage at the climax has secure, liberating brass and forms the organic centre of the movement. But it is interesting that, for me, Rudolf Barshai in his version shifts the emphasis of this movement over to the collapse that comes a little later and that outclasses everyone as we shall see. I have already mentioned Zanders view of the Scherzo as Mahlers complex interaction with Vienna. You need to hear his talk to get to grips with what he means and hear his performance too. All I will say is that the arrival of the movement in the recording does the most important job of all and that is mark the emotional shift Mahler clearly had in mind and which is so important to this work as it proceeds. The mood is certainly transformed and "Jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain top," as Romeo might have put it had he been a Mahlerite. In this movement there is also that important solo for the principal horn. As with his trumpet colleague in the first movement, he must be initiator and reactor, but he must also be storyteller in those quiet, reflective

passages and must know when each role is relevant. Laurence Davies certainly does. Overall Barshai is one and half minutes slower in the Scherzo in his recording than Zander and in so doing makes the music breathe even more. Mahler, after all, worried that conductors would take it too fast. Zander certainly does not do that, but maybe his ideas of the "hidden agenda" behind the movement has made him more pro-active and to the musics benefit because he does no where to stop. All change emotionally again for the final two movements and Zander certainly delivers change again. He also recognises the importance of the vexed tempo question in the Adagietto fourth movement and keeps the tempo up. Zander is keen to stress the rubato possible in this music particularly and especially at the start. More than you might expect, in fact. By so doing he can also slow down more at the end. The last movement is an unhurried celebration with enough spring in its step to allow the witty twists and turns Mahler gives us to win through and, as I have outlined, form a link between this movement and the one before it stressing structural integrity to the end. In his absorption of every detail of the score, allied to zeal to bring them out, Zander's is a recording of Mahlers most wide-ranging work that should be on every Mahler collectors shelf. Conductor and orchestra are served by a recorded sound that is superbly balanced and dynamic enough to encompass every aspect of the score. So Zanders recording of this symphony goes into a very select list. Not the killer version, but an impressive one worthy of inclusion here.

In fact I have left the "killer version" until last, as I did last time. To recap, Mahlers Fifth dramatises in music the whole concept of change and contrast in sympathy with his development as composer and man at that point in his life. It is such a supreme test for conductor and orchestra because it challenges them to explore extremes of expression whilst maintaining a unity of purpose that ultimately leads to satisfaction. Do anything else and it doesnt cohere since it travels the greatest emotional distance of all his works. This is Mahlers "Eroica", his "A Winters Tale", or as Herbert Von Karajan once observed: "When you get to the end you find you have forgotten what age you were when you started." So, as we have seen, its a tall order to cover all bases and some conductors dont even come close, as you will see below. Most are good at the dramatic/tragic/dark end of the work but fewer appreciate the need to bring out the fantastic/joyful/light end that balances the piece across the whole range. Even less can balance the two perfectly. But Rudolf Barshai with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie on Laurel and Brilliant Classics does and it is that which makes his recording so special. This is not a studio production put together from many takes. This is a one-off performance where what the audience heard is what we hear. This may go some way towards making it the exceptional recording it is because the challenges of "live" performance often bring a sense of drama that no studio production can match, even though the price might sometimes be lapses in playing. However, I cannot hear any part of this performance where the playing is never less than inspired. All in all a remarkable feat when you remember this is an orchestra of students. Has the clean slate of inexperience been put to best use by a first class orchestral trainer making his mark? They do play as though their lives depended on giving Barshai every drop of attention and skill and the results are stunning. This would be considered great playing from one of the worlds top professional orchestras. The recorded sound is big and bold also, with plenty of air around the instruments and a good generalised picture. Once or twice you feel the engineers have had to compromise dynamic levels, but this is a small quibble and should not bother you very much. The opening funeral march is deceptive. There are recordings that launch us into an even blacker tragedy than this but it soon becomes clear that Barshai has a bigger agenda. By holding back just a little on tragic weight he seems to be more aware than most that this movement is part of two greater wholes: as first movement in both the two-movement Part I and in the five-movement

symphony. It was only after repeated listening that this aspect became clear to me, but it soon came to assume greater relevance. Indeed it provided the key to what makes this performance tick. I think it vindicates an approach to the first movement that may well not knock you out on first hearing like some recordings do. Ones that, in the end, do not do the whole work as much justice as this o one does. Having noted all of that, there is still no feeling of being unmoved by the first movements implications under Barshai. Its just that he integrates the emotional foundations Mahler is laying into the works nervous system far better. He is not the kind of conductor who wears his heart on his sleeve, and Mahler is not the kind of composer who ultimately benefits from that approach. The greatest Mahler conductors listen first to what Mahler is saying and then help the rest of us to hear it. The lesser talents listen to what Mahler is saying and join in. Barshai is clearly of the former category along with Jascha Horenstein whose spirit seems to be evoked here. So, like Horenstein (one of whose three off-air recordings languishes in an archive in London and demands release), Barshai takes the longer view. The opening trumpet fanfare is challenging and the funeral march tough and dignified. Then, at the point in the movement marked "Suddenly faster. Passionate. Wild", there is release and power but no pointless hysteria. In fact Barshai just projects the music forward with great thrust and leaves it to make its own effect. We are then dragged back to reality by an especially poisonous return of the trumpet fanfare only to be then ushered into the long winding down to the end in an unbroken strand. At the point just before the end where a kind of black hole opens up and swallows us, marked by Mahler "Klagend", Barshai doesnt deliver this in quite the usual way. Most times the moment is rendered suddenly, like a great door slamming in our faces. Here it arrives like a bow wave seeming, like so much else in this performance, to come from within the cortex of the music. I have known recordings where too dramatic a delivery of the first movement can then deaden the effect of the opening of the second. Barshais view of the first movement and the way he gets his young players to unleash the second means this is certainly not the case here. Once again there is the feeling of integration between the two movements of Part I. The way the young German string players explode in the opening of the second movement also truly gives us Mahlers marking "Turbulently rough. With the greatest vehemence" marking. They are assisted by magnificent unanimity in the brass and by the woodwinds chattering malevolently when the storm dies down to bring in the reprise of the funeral march from the first movement. Here Barshai relates this reference back to the remarkable degree that is becoming

so much a feature of this recording. So too is his feeling for the special colour of this movement as it progresses. This is especially evident in the build-up to the climax that is also superbly paced and full of great playing, especially at the climax itself where strings and brass are pitted thrillingly against each other. The coda then really snatches apparent hard-won triumph away. This passage is terrifying with brass as black as doom and crowned by a massive smash from the tam-tam that sends the movement to hell like a great mad animal felled by a juggernaut that in the closing pages lies twitching and wounded on the floor. By shifting the climax of the movement to this point Barshai opens up a completely new perspective on the work. The third movement is the point at which you know if the conductor has succeeded in catching the protean nature of the work by switching the mood to reflect the breadth of Mahlers conception. Mahler himself always feared conductors would take the third movement too fast but Barshai doesnt fall into that trap. At over eighteen minutes this is one of the longest versions you will hear and yet it doesnt seem like it. He also shows awareness of various rhythmic snaps that seem to invest every bar, especially the dance-like sections. As well as this he can pare the music down for the intimate sections notice the lovely cello phrasing - then switch to the landscape-storming passages with the skill of a conjurer. Here the solo horn is especially fine and the spacious recording balance gives the impression of distance. We are a million miles from the trials of the first two movements and that is all a conductor needs to convey. But it needs intimate knowledge and a rare confidence that Barshai seems to possess in spades. The last two movements together make up Part III, reflecting and balancing the structural imperative of the first two movements that make Part I. Since Barshai seemed very aware of that its no surprise he is aware of it here also. However, the degree to which he is aware of it is still surprising and goes a long way to distinguishing this performance further. The Adagietto receives a unique performance. Barshai takes just over eight minutes for the and that seems just right for investing it with the right amount of charged nostalgia and giving that crucial binding effect with the last movement when the reprise arrives. The string playing is also exceptional with matchless phrasing from all the desks. Further than that I can only add that this is the first time I have really been made to think of this wonderful movement as one among five rather than as a piece all to itself. I mentioned feeling the same way with his first movement so this is another example of Barshais remarkable identification of the deep structures in this work.

Taken together as Part III the final two movements are here different again from the third movement, but the structural integrity that is again stressed helps bind the elements together. The last movement itself is spaciously drawn and Barshai pulls off the trick of not letting the tension dip as Barbirolli does a little. By also paying attention to the rhythmic gait, as well as to the Adagietto reprises, Barshai conveys an honest, earthy humour that is ripe and exuberant but never forced. Another example of giving Mahler the last word. The end of the work in this recording is winning and enhancing and with the feeling that a vast journey has been completed, but one when you can remember every detail. That, in the last analysis, is the clincher for this recording as the best this work has received. It first appeared singly on Laurel Record (905) and you may still be able to buy it that way. Alternatively it has been re-issued on the super-bargain Brilliant Classics label (92205) where it is coupled with Barshais recording of his own realization of Mahlers Tenth with the same orchestra. Rest assured that this is more than the equal of the performance of the Fifth and so represents a tremendous bargain. There are many other recordings of this symphony but none I have heard which I would recommend above any of the above. Those by Inbal and Neumann I will deal with in detail in my review of boxed sets, but there are single recordings by Ricardo Chailly (Decca) and Claudio Abbado (DG) that offer superb playing and recording for starters. It remains the case that I find Chailly's Mahler too much on the calculatedly side and Abbado, fine Mahlerian though he is, fails to convince me that in this work he has penetrated to the core even in his Berlin Philharmonic recording that has now superseded his strangely disconnected earlier one from Chicago. I have already mentioned a number of times a recording by Wyn Morris and his Symphonica of London on IMP. This is a very personal interpretation indeed that should only be investigated by those who like their Mahler rich, ripe (maybe overripe) and heavily romantic. Morris is the most expansive conductor in every movement except the one you expect. Ever the individual, he delivers a beautifully phrased Adagietto of just eight minutes which sounds curiously out of place with the longer span of his other movements. But if you relish the dark 19th century drama in this work then look out for Morris. There is next a fine super-bargain version conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra that I want to mention in passing on Classics For Pleasure (5856222). The recording is a little unatmospheric with the brass a bit shrill, but for those on a very tight budget it too should not be overlooked.

Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra must be passed over for a number of reasons. Much as I admire Barenboim in other repertoire I have never felt Mahlers particular mix to be is metier. Some musicians are just not emotionally suited to some music. The Chicago orchestra seldom produces an appropriate Mahler sound either and this recording bears that out again. The brass are too strident, the strings too inflexible and add to this Barenboims "top-loading" of what he perceives to be Mahlerian qualities brings a fundamental falseness to what we hear. You can forget Andrew Littons early recording of this work with the Dallas Symphony on Dorian too. Either this is a work which, like it does other conductors, eludes Litton or this caught him on a bad day or too early in his career. Any attempt at the subtle interplay of darkness and light, positive and negative emotions in opposition, all so important in this work, are missing. This is a lacklustre, dull and pedestrian recording that should have been quietly forgotten about and from which no one emerges with any distinction. Christoph Von Dohnanyis agenda in Cleveland for Decca seems to be for clarity and sharpness of focus. He delivers all that to us but in the process delivers very little else. Excellent sound and playing, though, but we need more than that as I have tried to show and Gatti seems to bring off a much more convincing reading of the sharp variety. Yoel Levi with the Atlanta Symphony on Telarc is just plain boring and even the famed Telarc sound is a little below par. There has to be some level of personal involvement to make us care and Levi just doesnt have it. When the music is meant to explode it merely shouts, when it is meant to beguile it merely insinuates. At least Levi seems to know where he is at each moment where Lorin Maazel is just at sea too many times in the complexities of this work for his version on Sony to need detain us. The same applies to Seiji Ozawa on Philips whose Mahler I have always found shallow and he doesnt let me down here. How well this symphony sorts out the really great Mahler conductors from the second-raters never fails to astound me. Likewise how this work can seem beyond even some of the first-raters. The latter case might well be illustrated by Gnther Herbig on Berlin Classics. Having heard and greatly admired Herbigs Sixth from just three years ago I would love to hear how he conducts the Fifth today as my final conclusion on his recording from twenty years ago must surely be one of "interpretation in progress" from this fine conductor. Things do start well. It is in the final two movements where I felt a curious but very palpable falling away of what was promising to be something quite special. Into the studio again for Herbig then, I think. Also from Berlin Classics we have Hans Swarowsky. For many years Swarowsky headed the

conductors class at Vienna Conservatory and he was responsible for nurturing Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado, Giuseppe Sinopoli and Mariss Jansons, so you can perhaps see why he may go down to history better regarded as a teacher rather than a conductor in his own right. He is served by a well-balanced recording and some fine playing, but his Fifth is far too grave and far too dark and so it short-changes us because there is so much more here. At polar opposite Sakari Oramo and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on Warner Classics are too lightweight in too many passages to make us feel that the music matters so much. The first movement doesnt really sound like the funeral march it is meant to be and the storms of the second movement are tame when compared with other versions. The Adagietto seems to lack the nostalgic turn but the last movement does convince. A performance of this symphony must convince from first bar to last, though. Released around the same time and worth looking out for is Jonathan Nott and the Bamberg Symphony on Tudor. In the final analysis this, for me, borderline case for inclusion is left out of prime recommendation because of some disappointment in the third movement. Nott micromanages the movement rather too much, takes it a tad too slowly for his own conception as well, and in all robs it of its unique poetry and character by constantly interrupting the essential flow to mark a phrase. He is served by a superb recording balance and fine playing and his first two movements are top notch, but the whole must convince and a slower than preferred Adagietto comes as quite a surprise as well. Mentioning micromanagement brings me to Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic on EMI. For me Rattle conducts Mahler like the young Oliver played Shakespeare: with every word considered and interpreted; every glance, every gesture, every movement and resonance calculated micromanaged to an almost obsessive degree. Of course, like Oliviers Shakespeare, Rattles Mahler can be (and in the case of his Second, Sixth, and Tenth certainly is) deeply impressive and illuminating, an antidote to so many routine and lacklustre Mahler recordings and performances that come by down the years. However, especially over time - the acid test in recordings - I think this is the kind of approach to Mahler that can, when at its most inappropriate as it is here, take attention away from the work itself, placing it on the interpretation itself and how that interpretation is achieved. I suppose what Rattle lacks here is what I can best describe as "the art that

conceals the art". The third movement is the point at which you know if the conductor has succeeded in catching the protean nature of the work by switching completely the mood of the first two movements to reflect the breadth of Mahlers conception and then let the movement simply be itself. Though he certainly goes some of the distance I dont think Rattle does that sufficiently for his performance to be complete in the way that others are. The problem lies in this "micro management" of every moment in the score I referred to earlier. It has the effect on repeated listening of "straitjacketing" music that must be allowed to breathe and develop unaided. Rattle really does need to learn that sometimes "less is more" both in this movement and in the rest and that he doesnt have to be heard to be doing something, anything, to every moment of the music. He has come a long way from his dreadful London Proms performance of this work in 2000 when he barely skated over the surface in the quickest performance I have ever heard, as well as the most superficial and unfeeling. But I think he still has some way to go yet. Mentioning Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic reminds me that I am sure I will again receive e-mails pointing out that I have not mentioned the DG recording of this work by Herbert Von Karajan. Well now I have mentioned it and so I will pass on to Giuseppe Sinopolis version also on DG. This is not far short of greatness but that falling short is all it takes to rule out a recording of this work. He can bring out the contrasts well but this is at the expense of being too languid in too many of the intimate passages which I think interrupts the symphonic flow too much. James Levines recording, which appears mainly on RCA labels, is similarly near to the best. The Philadelphia Orchestra are superb in all departments but his very slow Adagietto is just too much for me. Zubin Mehtas version on Belart is a virtuoso display with some fine speeds in the fast sections but he misses the humanity of the work. Maybe a newer recording would find him more responsive. At the last count there were three official recordings of this work by Bernard Haitink and four if you count the one in the Amsterdam Christmas Day recordings box. His most recent recording is surprisingly with the French National Radio Orchestra "live" in Paris on Nave. Though a touch quicker overall than his previous recording with the Berlin Philharmonic on Philips which suffered from an interminable Adagietto, this is still too dogged and too stately to present a case for major recommendation. Also here is a case of a performance where you can tell that the musicians neither know nor care very much about the music they are playing, even leaving aside Haitinks shortcomings and their own in some lapses of ensemble. Haitink did this work

best the first time with the Concertgebouw on Philips, but even that performance falls short of the elect detailed above. The flow of new recordings and re-issues of Mahlers Fifth seem never ending. Any survey of them is always going to be incomplete, always soon out of date. Even as I write I can report that a new version by Michael Tilson Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony on the orchestras own label is scheduled for release later in 2006. Having heard a pre-release copy I think I can say that those collecting the SFSO cycle will not be disappointed and I will deal with the recording in proper detail at the time of release. By then there may well be others as this work also seems the Mahler debut work of choice for the ambitious young conductor, as Oramo and Nott have proved so recently. But I do believe I have given you a comprehensive enough guide to what I think are the very best recordings available, the crme de la crme, and why I consider them so when held alongside those which, for me, do not quite do this amazing work its fullest justice. I would not wish to be without any of the main recommendations detailed above in a complex and difficult to bring off piece capable of such a huge range of interpretation but with so many dividends when it all works. So Bernstein, Boulez, Gatti, Zander, Tennstedt and Shipway are certainly head and shoulders among the crowd. But in the end I maintain my personal admiration most for Rudolf Schwarz on Everest, John Barbirolli on EMI and, added to this survey for the first time, Rafael Kubelik on Tahra. In fact the Kubelik Tahra recording is the single addition that I have made in this survey to the main recommendations. However, it is still Rudolf Barshais version that remains for me the finest of all recordings of the Fifth currently available and I recommend it to you without any reservation at all. Tony Duggan Selected discography Rudolf Barshai: Now on Brilliant Classics label (92205) Purchase Please read the full reviews. and review coupled to the 10th Bruno Walter: New York Philharmonic Sony SMK 64451 Amazon UK (midprice) Rudolf Schwarz: London Symphony Orchestra Everest EVC9032 Amazon UK (full price) Sir John Barbirolli: New Philharmonia on EMI Great Recordings of the Century CDM5 669102 AmazonUK (mid-price)

Frank Shipway :Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Tring TRP 096 Amazon UK (bargain price) Daniele Gatti :Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Conifer 75605 51318 2 Amazon UK (mid-price) Pierre Boulez: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Deutsche Gramophon 458 416-2 Amazon UK (Full price) Leonard Bernstein: Vienna Philharmonic Deutsche Gramophon 452 4162 Amazon UK Sir Charles Mackerras: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra EMI CDEMX 2164 Amazon UK (Bargain price) Benjamin Zander Philharmonia on Telarc 2CD-80569 Amazon UK Simon Rattle Berlin Philharmoniker EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 57385 2 Amazon UK

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan MAHLER Symphony No. 6 Revision May 2007 When I wrote the first version of this survey in 1998 I concluded it with these words: Mahler said "My Sixth will be asking riddles that can be solved only by a generation that has received and digested my first five." He was right. I believe the Sixth is the principal work of Mahlers that performers and audiences are still coming to terms with, still solving those riddles, and so my conclusions here are perforce less emphatic, more provisional. No bad thing. Part of the response to great art is the constant asking of questions. That way we become more involved and maybe another generation must pass before we come close to pinning down what Mahler was doing in this work. In the years that have followed, those words have stayed with me each time I have heard the work in recordings familiar from that first survey and in recordings that have appeared since. That feeling of "work in progress" with regards to both how we listeners respond to this work and how conductors interpret it never seemed more appropriate on each occasion. It has caused me in this present revision to therefore submit each recording I dealt with last time to an even fresher and even longer analysis than in the revisions that have preceded this one, along with the necessity of taking in as many of the new and newly reissued recordings that have appeared since as possible. To an extent I think I have hardened what firm conclusions I reached the first time as to how this symphony should be played. But the "work in progress" impression also remains. In the Summer of 1904 the Sixth Symphony was emerging from Mahlers composing hut. When life was very sweet he was mapping Downfall. Some would say his own, others that of an "Everyman", maybe it was both. Alma Mahler said: "Not one of his works came as directly from his innermost heart as this. We both wept that day. The music and what it foretold touched us deeply. ..." Yet the Sixth is formally the most classically conceived of them all; the first conventional, four movement, one key symphony he wrote. The

first movement in particular sees classical form frame the drama with exposition and repeat, development, recapitulation and coda. The second subject of the exposition an abandoned, soaring theme on violins meant as a musical portrait of Alma herself but, true to the works nature, swept aside by the march rhythms that cross and re-cross the symphony like successive generations of armies over the same battlefields. But this is creatively deceptive because there is no work of Mahlers which is, by the end of it, more despairing and pessimistic. Alone among his symphonies, mirroring only his first major work "Das Klagende Lied", it ends in complete disaster after a last movement where Mahler seems to be dramatising in music humanity and its very condition. Our "hero" keeps pressing forward, imbued with optimism, only to be struck down three times by blows of fate amidst the battering of those march rhythms and a particularly nasty fate motif on timpani carried over from the first movement. For these "blows of fate" Mahler uses a hammer effect, the delivery of which has tested the skill of percussionists (and recording engineers) for years. The last blow of all, meant to bring in the requiem-like coda, was in the end deleted by Mahler, whether out of superstition or dramatic sense this is not the place to discuss. (Some conductors restore it against Mahlers wishes.) Suffice it to say Mahler originally meant the whole work to have five hammer blows rather than three and that the final tally of two therefore came out of more sound musical judgements stretching back a lot further than people realise. You will certainly hear the explanation, taken from Alma Mahlers own account of their life together, that in this work Mahler "foresaw" his own fate. That in the year following the first performance of the work three "blows of fate" did visit him. Unless you believe Mahler had second sight this is a story that should be examined very carefully and treated with caution for all manner of reasons. That Mahler, like all great artists, could see beneath the surface of life and, in spite of his own present situation, appear to map the complete opposite is not in doubt. So see the Sixth as one of the great "human condition" works of the twentieth century, prepare to be rocked, and you will be on the right lines. It has always seemed to me appropriate that the works 1906 premiere took place in Essen, the cradle of German heavy industry. All those driving, relentless, militaristic rhythms, mechanistic percussion and harsh-edged contrasts that permeate so much of this work have always seemed, to me, to share kinship with the place where the work was first heard. Here were the foundries and factories that put the iron in The Iron Chancellor and built the

guns that would spill the blood in his "blood and iron" when fired in World War One, the cultural pre-echo of whose cataclysm eight years later the work seems partly to illustrate. A case of Mahler the sensitive showing himself in tune with his times, I think. So I believe this symphony is, first and foremost, a twentieth century work Perhaps the first twentieth century symphony. It breathes as much the same air as Krupp as it does Freud, and its concerns are those of our time because so much of our time was formed in the furnaces of Essen as in the consulting rooms of Vienna. The work's classical structure also implies the same creative detachment crucially demanded by classical tragedy and I believe any performance thats going to make us appreciate the Sixths Modernism has to take this into account too, strip Mahler bare of nineteenth century sonorities and folk memories, contrast the sound of the Fifth Symphony and project, as though on a bright stage, a bitter, unforgiving elegy that opens out the tragedy into something universal, held at one remove to reinforce the tragedys universality and confirm its contemporary relevance. I feel so strongly this is the right path the work should take that Im prepared to court the approbation of Mahlerian comrades-in-arms and rule out versions that try to personalise this music, in the end treat it as an excuse by the conductor for romantic excess and the kind of mannered intervention it might seem to court and which many seem ready to indulge. So Ive found the survey for this symphony the most difficult to "call" of them all and am aware Ive cut a swathe through the list to do so. No Bernstein or Tennstedt recordings here, for example. Both men recorded the work twice (studio and "live") but both, for me, turn Tragedy into Melodrama too often by much intervention of their own personalities in mannerisms of emphasis of phrasing and colouring and tempo. Wonderful as "one-off" experiences in the concert hall, I have no doubt, but for repeated listening the creative detachment that I prefer and believe more appropriate for the work makes for a more surer guide over time. Many will disagree, of course. Many will continue to find my passing-over of Bernstein especially in this score worrying. But if you read what I have to say about this work in general you will see why I find Bernsteins hands-on melodrama one step too far. Both of his versions are excellent in their own way and given a choice of him in the work I prefer the alert and spiky sound quality as well as the pioneering spirit of his first recording made in New York available on Sony. But I must in the end go with my beliefs about this work and remain convinced that for us to get closer to the full implications of the Sixth we must turn elsewhere and to a handful of conductors that seem to take, to a greater or lesser extent, the more circumspect, classical, symphonically-aware approach outlined above. It will mean my calling up a version or two which are hard to find, but I defend that

because I believe this great masterpiece demands only the best from the recording companies. Before we begin with the recordings let me deal with one very vexed question which last time I only brushed against. As many of you will know Mahler dithered over the order of the two inner movements of this work. The symphony was conceived with Scherzo followed by Andante and was played like that in a rehearsal and a run-through performance in Vienna. Then later at the works premiere in Essen something made Mahler reverse the order to become Andante/Scherzo. He further instructed his publishers accordingly and never conducted it again in any other order in subsequent performances. But when a Critical Edition of the work was published in 1963 the then Chief Editor of the Mahler Edition, Erwin Ratz, put the order of movements back to Scherzo/Andante and this became the norm for most recordings and performances that followed although a handful of conductors retained Mahlers premiere performance revision. Then in 2004, which is since the appearance of the first version of this survey, the Kaplan Foundation in New York published a monograph by Jerry Bruck which sets out the case in favour of Mahlers Essen revision - Andante/Scherzo - as being the only one to be followed. Such was the effect of this monographs publication that a new Critical Edition of the work now affirms Andante/Scherzo order for the inner movements as the only order to be followed and that this therefore settles any question about movement order once and for all time. The problem is that it does no such thing and I shall be including in this survey an Appendix in reply to the Bruck monograph setting out why I feel this to be so. For the purposes of this survey let me simply state that, whilst I myself prefer Scherzo/Andante as the order of inner movements, I continue to believe, as indeed I always have believed, that an option of choice of inner movement order must be maintained and that it should be that of the conductor to make. One of the finest versions of this work ever to appear is by Thomas Sanderling and the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic on RS Real Sound (RS 953-0186). In an interview in "Fanfare" at the time of its release Sanderling was keen to stress that the Allegro tempo for the first movement is dictated by Mahlers sub-marking "Heftig, aber markig" ("Vehement, but pithy") to bring out a combative, "Sturm und Drang", martial tone. So he's on the slower, grimmer end of the tempo scale. Not as slow as Sir John Barbirolli, as we will see, but steady enough to make every note tell without dragging the movement down.

Which is just as well because when the "Alma theme" is reached one is still aware of a broadening, with the lady emerging with ardour. I like the contrast this gives to the movement because, though the theme is treated with some warmth, Sanderling doesn't overheat the emotion, passing it as the second subject in a sonata form pure and simple. He's helped by reining back the brass at particular points, especially in the quicker sections too. Note also the bass drum and celesta - clear without being obtrusive. When the exposition repeat is over, the return to the martial material is more grim and bitter and I like the way Sanderling makes his side-drummer sound like a second cousin to the one in Nielsen's Fifth. Too often the first pastoral interlude with cowbells is a signal for the conductor to drop his guard and introduce warmth and lyricism where sharpness of focus is still needed. That this is a contemplative moment theres no doubt. The key lies in what kind of contemplation is presented. Fortunately Sanderling's approach is to suggest a very cold contemplation. Not as cold as Jascha Horenstein, as we shall see, but chilly all the same. The shimmers of the strings around the distant bells and cor anglais suggest the rarefied atmosphere of the high Alps where the air bites the back of the throat and whatever sun that shines has no warmth in it. By now the martial quality to the main material has been established so when it resumes it comes as no surprise. An even more pleasant surprise awaits in the coda because Sanderling resists the temptation of rushing to the end, sticking to his tempo after the great explosion of percussion. I always think to take the coda too fast, as Karajan does for example, suggests hysteria where we need optimism. Our "hero" is still in control of events, or believes he is, and this is what Sanderling gives us. The Scherzo under Sanderling is, in his words, a "horror movement", a Danse Macabre with prominent xylophone and shrieking woodwind within the same steady tempo as the first movement. In fact Sanderling seems anxious to make us hear the Scherzo very much as the first movement's counterpart and justify the placing of this movement second. In his "Fanfare" interview he also made reference to this movement showing Mahler "whipped, chased, prosecuted ... as we know, in Vienna his position was under threat, and his basic situation was just the same even in New York...." (Essen's relentless steam hammers and glowing smithies are what I was made to think of too.) What Sanderling doesn't do is what Tennstedt and Levine, among others, does and thats to make rhetorical jabs and jerks that might just thrill on first hearing but soon become deeply tiresome on repeats and detract from the classical detachment the piece demands to make the modern tragedy tell. I liked the huge smash

from the tam-tam just before the music ratchets down to final, uneasy rest where the dying woodwinds are at their most foul and poisonous. The Andante maintains Sanderling's classical detachment by not giving in to sentimentality or sheer bathos. Tempo-wise here is a true Andante with none of the consolation offered by a slower tempo and, in my experience, only Szell's recording is quicker. That isn't to say theres no emotion but what emotion there is arises from the way the movement fits with the overall scheme and stresses symphonic argument. Sanderling believes this himself. In his interview he sees this movement as "the other side" of Mahler's life to that depicted in the Scherzo. So if, for Sanderling, the Scherzo represents Mahler "whipped, chased, prosecuted ", the Andante becomes, to quote him again, "summer at Toblach, and again music of withdrawal, escape from reality. It speaks to us very directly of nature, God, the world, and again I view this as a sublimation of Mahler's entire personal aesthetic. The things of which he speaks are of the eternal reality, and not of the kind of society and the pressures he had left behind him in Vienna." Note that "eternal" reality. The idea of Mahler standing as a universal. So Sanderling means us to contrast the Andante with what has gone immediately before and, in my view, connect it with the cowbells episode of the first movement because he also says in his interview that that episode is "essential to the dramaturgy ...a moment of retreat from the world, and a detachment from actuality. The same sublimation is found in the Andante." He further weaves the symphonic structure together with this idea and provides the Andante with the role of a more extended interlude of contemplation which would, I think, not work if the movement was taken too slowly or given too much dramatic weight which is what happens disastrously under Sinopoli. For me it's Sanderlings delivery of the last movement that clinches this recording's worth. The other movements were leading to the kind of interpretation I was hoping for but even I find myself surprised by how satisfied I am with it and remain so for this revision. I think what is wanted in the last movement is a drama in which tragedy is measured by the degree to which we are able to see how far the hero falls, otherwise we have no reference for how bereft he is going to be when all is taken away. This relates back to the circumspection of classical tragedy because only by seeing Oedipus "in the round", at the height of his power, are we able to comprehend the depth of his fate as Tragedy overwhelms him and then feel the release of Catharsis. For the last movement of the Sixth this means hearing the movement as 1) firmly attached symphonically to the previous three to give

"framing" and 2) within itself an allowance by the conductor of what small moments of light there are to come through before being snuffed out. For all that the fourth movement can still be said, as liner notes author Quirino Principe has it, to be a depiction of "total chaos" it is, in fact, a carefully organised sonata form which imposes a fierce order to the chaos - not such a contradiction in terms as you might think. Each section of the sonata form is signalled by the violins' upward sweep, the fate motif on timpani and Floros's "major-minor seal". This is then followed by passages for bells. In each case Sanderling conveys a sense of arrival and a feeling that here indeed are "way points" that give the movement symphonic coherence and further relate it to the wider argument by making the bell passages recall the sound-world of the Andante and the cowbell passages in the first movement. The intention seems to be to take us into the mind of the hero and make us see his view of the world. Then, in passages of release and energy, like that between the first two hammer blows where the "whip" is deployed for the only time, there is a real sense of buoyancy too. Here is a man of action, "in full leaf and flower" as Alma described Mahler. Not one who is weighted down, as so often depicted especially by Tennstedt, but one still realistically believing he can escape Fate. So, when the second hammer blow comes, the sense of negation is enhanced. The same applies to the towering passage up to the place of the last blow where, among roaring brass and hammering percussion, a quickening suggests desperation: the last throw of the dice, all or nothing, with Sanderling also bringing out once more the martial quality in the music along with a wonderful ear for balance. You can certainly hear everything, especially what the busy strings are doing. The hammer blows themselves are nothing special in this recording. But such is the preparation that what we get is all that's needed to make Mahler's point, and where the third blow should be it's as if exhaustion brings the world crashing down finally. The coda is masterly in that it is slow, solemn and withdrawn - as much an elegy as a requiem, a fermata stressing loss as well as despair. When the final crash comes theres restraint observed that doesn't make you jump like so often and Sanderling manages to get the slightest decrescendo into the timpani's final statement. I always feel Barbirolli spoils the ending by getting his timpanist to underline each note rhetorically and have the final pizzicato note follow a pause. I think the damage to our hero has already done by this point and the final sounds we hear should be those of an inevitable coup de grace, which is how they sound here. A great performance will shine through the worst of sound but it's always good when the recording is of top quality and suited to the kind of

performance it records, as it does here. Theres some reverberation, just enough, but the heavy brass and percussion emerge clean. It's also good to be able to hear when woodwind and brass sound together and for the bass drum to make you shudder without making you jump. Its not a pretty sound, but pretty is not what we want ? Earlier I referred to it being appropriate that the 1906 premier took place in Essen, the cradle of German industry. The liner notes to the Gunther Herbig recording on Berlin Classics (0094612BC) fascinatingly quotes a review of that premier that actually named the Sixth the "Krupp-Sinfonie". Unlike a lot of issues from Berlin Classics and its parent company Edel this Herbig recording is not a reissue but a "live" performance given in Saarbrcken by the Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1999. Like many "live" performances it gains markedly from the feeling of "concert hall theatre" but with very few of the drawbacks. There are very few mistakes in the playing and the audience is well behaved and attentive. Herbig allows the music of the Andante to unfold without mannerism superbly. Under Herbig, however, there is an ounce or two more feeling that just evades Szell, for example. Interestingly, both also leave out the first movement exposition repeat and you need to be aware of this when considering Herbigs recording. Whatever the reason for leaving the repeat out, I dont think losing it damages Herbigs performance. His view of the first movement, though not without lift, is on the determined side and not hearing the repeat adds to the performances sense of "getting on with it" which brings its own dividends. In the first movement the overall approach to tempo seems to me to satisfy Mahlers apparently ambiguous demands. It possesses both the forward momentum of the "Allegro energico" but just enough trenchancy to cope with the "ma non troppo" that in turn allows the German sub-heading "Heftig, aber markig" ("Vehement, but pithy") to really tell. The latter is, of course, more a "mood marking" than a tempo marking and Herbig seems to read Mahlers intentions with a rare and potent intelligence. There is a confidence at the outset of the journey towards tragedy that is compelling. What is more remarkable again is that the constituent parts of the Exposition fit together seamlessly with the "Schwungvoll" marking for the second subject "Alma portrait" weighted just enough to let the passage emerge with nobility but not hold up the progress of the argument. Note here the excellent balancing of the

orchestras sections so that the woodwinds against the brass really sound distinctively edged. Contrapuntal detailing everywhere else is clear too celesta, woodwind alone and percussion taps. Then in the Development Herbigs delivery of the pastoral, cow-bell-accompanied central section is cool and glacial, a ghostly pre-echo of the opening of the fourth movement showing Herbigs grasp of the bigger picture. Note too the plangent woodwinds and the solo horn: expressive but within bounds. This particular passage stays in the mind, which it has to since it is one of the few times in this symphony when real, uncomplicated light is let in on the gloom before the march imperative returns for the Recapitulation. This latter is made more terrible here by the way Herbig makes it seem to "mirror-image" the Exposition. But after that the Coda is optimistic again. Launched from the wonderfully heavy brass comes a message of hope not despair. As you can tell, Herbig in fact covers a long a wide span of feeling. The scherzo is placed second and the main material has the same energetic thrust of the first movement but with the same accompanying downforce to take in the "Wuchtig" ("Heavy") marking Mahler asks for. Again the balance by Herbig is true. The trio sections with Mahlers ironic marking "Altvaterisch" (literally "Old father-like" or "old-fashioned") have the kind of mordancy that put me in mind of Otto Klemperer. Even though Klemperer never conducted this work I wonder if these passages would have sounded a little like this if he had. Herbig also attends to the special rhythmic games contained in this movement. All the little jumps and skips Alma Mahler maintained were her small children playing in the sand are delivered well, but Herbig doesnt use too heavy a hand on them, like Levine or Tennstedt. As always, Herbigs judgement is appropriate. However, this does not stop him making his brass players reach down into the murky depths for those extraordinary passages of Berg-like pre-echo. Thomas Sanderling is even more remarkable in this movement. Blessed with the finer orchestra he manages to project an even weirder experience overall. But Herbig comes close. In the Andante we have one of the quickest accounts on record, almost as fast as Szells. This music is always just a step or two short of kitsch and it takes a firm hand like Herbigs to stop it descending into it. For an example of how good this movement sounds under Herbig I would point to the central climax which is intensely moving for its simple honesty and complete lack of overheating that makes me admire Herbig even more. Here is a fine example of a conductor who is self-effacing enough and confident enough in the music

to let the music make its own effect the art that conceals the art. The cowbells recall the first movement and there is a lovely "outdoor" feel all through. Played like this it all emerges as a simple "song without words" with kinship to the "Kindertotenlieder" and more than enough respite from the fray of the rest to give us pause for reflection before the final drama of the last movement. Throughout the fourth movement Herbigs grasp of the symphonic logic that he has established from the first bar of the first movement never fails him. Each ushering in by the upward sweep of the violins of the unfolding four-part drama is almost as pointed as it is under Thomas Sanderling. In the extraordinary opening passage the clear and unfussy recording balance allows you to hear everything in proper proportion, as it does too in the passage at 237-270 after the second violin uprush brings in effectively the Development. This recalls near-perfectly the pastoral interlude back in the first movements Development section, so stressing symphonic logic again but also with the nagging, worrying interpolations of new fourth movement material. This way Herbig also communicates Mahlerian kaleidoscope. The build up to the first hammer, which comes almost straight afterwards, takes place with admirable but unforced inevitability and the hammer itself is well-placed and distinctive. I also liked very much the way Herbig delivers the crucial "whipped" passage (299-457) with the right amount of lift and pressing forward. Tennstedt, for example, weighs this passage down far too much where it is crucial we have the effect that our "hero" is still alive and kicking, still with is head up. Herbig and the orchestra give a towering performance of the Recapitulation up to where Mahler originally placed a third hammer blow but then withdrew it. There is power, the same clarity of attack in the playing there has been from the start, momentum too, and the realisation that this really is the heros last throw. The heavy brass and percussion are balanced but do not overwhelm and the ascent to the climactic moment where the third blow used to be is broad and well paced. Following Mahlers wishes Herbig accepts the Ratz editions leaving out of the third hammer blow and vindicates that decision. All the damage is done by now and the ultimate, crushing negation is to come in the works coda. Under Herbig this is veiled and drear, all energy and passion spent. The final percussion crash, followed by a mind-numbing delivery by the timpanist of the last appearance of the fate rhythm and its dumping of us poor listeners into cold oblivion, is absolutely shattering. Sanderlings wind lines jut out with a touch more character and there is a degree more of the "Krupp-Sinfonie" about his performance. This may have to

do with the fact that in the St. Petersburg Philharmonic he has the better orchestra and a closer-in recording to really bring out the modern feel. The playing of the Saarbrcken Orchestra for Herbig, however, is excellent throughout. Especially remarkable for the fact that this is just a single performance unedited. The recorded sound from the Saarbrcken Radio engineers is clear and detailed but there is sufficient air around the instruments to give the impression of being at the performance which fully deserves the enthusiastic applause it receives after a fitting pause. I know that some will find it performance too austere, astringent and those who put more of their own emotional baggage into the score. My advice is to get the Herbig and persevere with it because I am convinced this is the kind of recording that delivers its effect over time. The Mahler Sixth conducted by Mariss Jansons was the first Mahler release from the LSO Live label (LSO0038). Over many years, the London Symphony Orchestra has built a fine reputation as a Mahler instrument. So I am glad that LSO Live caught this fluent, expressive, powerful performance on the wing from two concert performances in London late in 2002. Jansons is among those conductors who, I believe rightly, sees the first movement as containing more optimism than pessimism. By doing so this sets the tragedy to come later in its proper context and so makes its eventual arrival that much more terrible. Jansons manages this, like a select band of other conductors, by minding the classical symphony "shop" Mahler sets out in this movement. He does this by keeping his tempo "up" enough to allow things to move along with life and vigour, but held on course enough to make all the notes tell. Not for Jansons the world-weary drag of Barbirolli in this movement, but neither a swift "quick march" like Kubelik or Levi. The effect of all this is to hear the movement presented "all of a piece" with minimum changes of tempo or expression for each episode. It works, as indeed it does through the whole of Jansons performance. Im sure there are some of you who will feel robbed of your beloved Mahlerian agony and torture at this early stage, but I think that would be inappropriate. Even the great second subject upsurge, the entrance of the lovely Alma, is contained, reined back; that is until a deft and very effective flourish in the lower strings pitches a singing line with expressive vibrato, flashing the ladys allure as she turns away in a flounce of her skirts. Jansons can clearly spot the rustle of silk at fifty paces. He can also be aware of the press of the great events of this movement during the sublime interlude where cowbells and strings shimmer with enough lyric allure to throw us off guard but not be surprised when the martial music comes back with a

vengeance. This is an impressive achievement, as too is the effect of all the threads being knitted together as the movement marches to conclusion. False optimism, perhaps, but optimism all the same. The detailed sound recording means everything is heard, woodwind especially pungent poking out of the texture, and propelling us to the, very upbeat, coda. Mariss Jansons places the Andante second. I was surprised to find myself reminded here a little of the Seventh Symphony whilst listening. Not something I expected yet not so strange since both symphonies have kinship with the "Kindertotenlieder" which were contemporary with both. I suppose its in the phrasing that Jansons adopts and most particularly the darker colouring he finds, certainly at the start. What Jansons certainly does do is keep the music moving; fully aware that this is not an Adagio. This movement is essentially a meditation on a very simple idea and repays a hundred-fold when the conductor applies a light touch, as Jansons does. I know that some prefer, again, more angst, more "heart-on-sleeve", but I firmly believe that this symphonys classical nature is served better by some creative detachment. The following Scherzo is suitably truculent with the ungainly gait marked but not underlined too much. There is some nice detailing made in the trio sections which make a fine contrast. Notice especially the LSOs strings in their carefully prepared slides. Again the detailed recording really helps; even in the densest textures everything is transparent. Sometimes the acoustic of The Barbican has been a definite minus to LSO Live releases, the Bruckner recordings by Colin Davis are a case in point. In this work, however, Tony Faulkners balancing of the hall really works in the musics favour right through. Mahlers Sixth benefits from a close-in sound like this and gives it a brittle quality that it needs. In the Sixth all roads lead to the fourth movement and any performance or recording really needs something special from conductor and players to crown the drama of this great work. In "live" performance recordings this is sometimes a problem because to play this thirty minute piece of such challenging dimensions after having played the preceding three, stretches the greatest orchestras to breaking point. I can only say that the LSO rises to the challenge and passes it with flying colours, compelling from start to finish. The amazing opening passage is brilliantly projected, balanced excellently by Jansons and his engineer and once the main allegro gets underway the powerful, driving logic behind Jansonss conception becomes crystal clear - as crystal clear as the sound balance. Holding fast to the symphonic line, as he

did in the first movement, the tension that Jansons conveys is palpable and never flags and you know that it comes from within the music, is not imposed from outside it. Time and again Jansonss grasp of the long movements geography pays dividends. Listen to how he stunningly relates the cowbells episodes here to those in the first movement and the Andante, knitting the drama together. But hear too at the passage leading to the first hammer-blow the way that the lower strings dig deep and, soon after, the magnificent LSO horn section cutting through the texture like thermic lances and then, immediately before the hammer comes down, the woodwind choir squealing for all they are worth before the hammer finally obliterates them. The sound of the hammer on this recording is, by the way, excellent. Not too loud, but loud enough to sound distinctive. There are just the two hammers, as Mahler finally decided, but the passage where the third blow used to be, leading to the great, dark coda is delivered with thrilling inevitability. Such profound inevitability is coursing through the musics veins by now that a third hammer blow would have spoilt it, overdone it, and so damaged the great crash that brings the symphony to its final, horrifying whimper. Passion and power with a purpose - a lean and clean Mahler machine. Just a couple of years after the release of this LSO Live version the then new Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras own CD label also released a "live" Jansons Mahler Sixth (RCO06001). The two interpretations are, to all intents and purposes, identical. The principal differences are the slightly mellower sound of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the more reverberant acoustic of the great Amsterdam hall. Neither, for me, are reasons to prefer this version over that of the one on LSO Live and so it is that one I point you towards. In addition, the London Symphonys more "caution to the wind" approach is more compelling. With Michael Gielens perceived credentials as an interpreter with head and heart set in the twentieth century I have to say I was mildly surprised by some parts of his performance on Hnssler with the SWR Symphony Orchestra (CD 93.029) as it isnt quite what I expected. There are certainly more examples of what one might describe as personal involvement here than there are in previous symphony recordings of Mahler that I have heard from him. In the first movements second subject, a portrait of Mahlers wife, is buoyed along with all the Schwungvoll that Mahler could ask for but also by some

unashamed rubato that certainly raised an eyebrow from this reviewer. However, never let it be said I should base a review on what a performance is not rather than what it is. What you get overall in the first movement is a concentrated blend of very grim determination laced with yearning nostalgia. Gielens overall tempo choice is slower than many colleagues, which certainly gives him chance to make sure everything is heard very clearly but it does lack something in energy. The exposition is full of incident, however, and more than justifies the repeat. Along with the very moulded Alma theme, notice too the plangent high woodwinds and the very low brass. This exploration by Gielen and his engineers of every register of the orchestra will be a mark of the recording right the way through and is certainly one of its plusses. Not least in the pastoral/mountain interlude where the cowbells are perfectly placed to add a cold, unforgiving air against the shimmer of the strings. The whole effect of Gielens delivery of the recapitulation is then an emphatic statement that life goes on in spite of everything and that clear impression carries into a quite hedonistic treatment of the coda. Not one that has any hint that there is tragedy bearing down on us. Alma Mahler remarked that when he wrote the Sixth, Mahler was "in full leaf and flower", which is exactly the impression gained here from Gielen. True, there are demons, forces working against our hero, but he is on top of them at first and there really is nothing to knock him off course. Here is a fully thought out performance by a conductor who understands only too well the implications of this movement. Gielen is good at "ugly" and the Scherzo, placed second, shows this again. The overall tone of the movement, its general gait and delivery, is as real counterpart to the first movement so what we hear is again very grim and nostalgic at turns. The main scherzo material echoes the first movement march and then the mood is lightened by the altvrterisch trio sections that Gielen delivers with a halting, awkward quality that is never grotesquely twisted out of shape. Indeed much of the effect of these passages is achieved by a nice contrast in tempo between the interludes and the main material. The tension doesnt really flag and the movement hangs together mainly because again the detail in the score is attended to well. Anything slower than this and there may have been a problem. As expected, those twentieth century sounds, those Bergian "pre-echoes", are attended to by Gielen, as also is the sinister descent at the close. Unlike the close of the first movement, there is the feeling under Gielen that the skies are darkening at last. The Andante is then given a rhapsodic, free-spirited performance that Gielen clearly sees as his last chance to show us our hero in happy times before the

great struggle that will ensue in the last movement. In this Gielen tells us he is supremely aware of the true nature of tragedy. That only by showing us what the hero is losing do we appreciate his loss when it finally comes and placing the Andante third has always seemed to me to be fully in line with that. When the last movement immediately follows the restful dying away of the third Gielen then manages to deliver such a devastating impression of "as I was saying" that he fully justifies this particular inner movement order rather than the lesser played one of Andante second and Scherzo third. Note in the opening pages, surely the most remarkable Mahler ever composed, the almost chamber-like filtering of textures with lower brass and percussion again impressing with the sense of looking ahead. Gielen then attends to every mood and facet of this movement. Unlike some he doesnt stress the tragic at the expense of the few passages of light that depict what is being taken away by fate as represented by the hammer and so achieves just the right balance for the drama. In fact it is a summation of all we have heard and felt in the previous three movements. The two hammer blows are clear and definite. Though they still sound like a very large bass drum being struck, they have the right impact to depict negation. In keeping with the score edition he is using, Gielen rightly respects Mahlers wishes and doesnt restore the third blow. In fact so well does he present the passage where once there was a third blow that this is one of those performances where I am certain a third would have been excessive, as Mahler concluded. Is this fate playing a cruel trick on us, we ask? Just when we are expecting it to batter us for the last time, it doesnt. By now the damage is done and the final, shattering verdict is saved for the very end. You will gather that I rate this performance very highly. It is as if Gielen feels freer in this work than he usually does in Mahler to involve himself more, to be a little freer with his interpretation, more emotional. Hence the slightly larger-than-life Alma passages in the first movement and the fiercer emotional contrasts inside the Scherzo and between the ugly Scherzo and the beauteous Andante. The last movement also has profound contrasts on display. The orchestra responds to Gielens every demand too. This is a Mahler Sixth to go into the collection of all those who recognise this symphony as one of the profoundest statements on the human condition in music. Where man meets fate and the nineteenth century meets the twentieth. Another of the recordings on one disc is by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

conducted by Yoel Levi on Telarc (CD-80444). What Levi does in the first movement is what will make or break this recording for many. He launches his opening march on the fastest end of the scale, seeming to take Mahler's "Allegro energico" only as his motto. So what we hear is a hyper, almost manic impression. If this isn't problem enough theres no Exposition repeat to counterbalance. (It is no secret that a version of the first movement with Exposition repeat was made at the sessions but never released.) There are two things to be said about this. If its the case Levi doesn't include the repeat out of artistic choice we can be sure his intention is to deliver a very particular, radical view of the movement. If, however, the repeat is missing so as to fit the work on one CD that doesn't apply. I will assume the former and go on to speculate that Levi wants to stress that the tragedy at the core of this symphony does not overwhelm the hero until the last movement. In which case the first movement in this interpretation really does emerge as a portrait of a man of action and vitality before all is taken from him. There are even moments of joy under Levi but I'm not sure whether that isn't going a little too far in the opposite direction to too much tragedy from the start. An interesting idea all the same. I don't usually take to fast first movements. I think a more concentrated, heavier tempo for the main march is needed as Mahler himself adds the word "Heftig" otherwise the march fails to ingrain itself into your mind and haunt you right the way through the symphony. Full marks to the orchestra for hanging on, though. The Scherzo forms a fine counterpart to the first movement. This is less controversial because a performance like this would have fitted a performance with a more conventional first movement. I was impressed by the Altvaterisch trios which are played "straight" with no artifice or emotional "pulling about" but also have a nice "lift" to them. When the main material resumes the contrast is suitably stark, very like that which Levi makes between the main march in the first movement and the pastoral sections. Here the, now brokenbacked, march still gives the impression of a man of action now impeded by thoughts of distant tragedy not yet upon him. I also liked the Andante third movement under Levi. Its the haven of peace it should be but retains the right amount of uneasiness: a stoic reading with care to the weight of the climaxes which emerge with a purity of utterance that is moving. The last movement is the most conventional but it's possible to say Levi misses an opportunity as I wish he had had the courage of the convictions he showed in the first movement and gone for broke with the kind of last movement that complimented it. Under Levi the structure appears undermined

a little by a deliberate, dark (impressive on its own) interpretation of the introductory material in the three sections whenever it recurs. Thomas Sanderling links these sections back to the pastoral sections of the first movement and the cowbells in the Andante, a remarkable piece of symphonic planning that seems to be outside Levi's ken. The build-up to the first hammer blow is bold and unafraid and the way the woodwind hang on like grim death, squealing plangently as the hammer comes down, is exciting. The hammer itself is bold and very deep. I like a more precise, placed sound but theres no doubting the blows are there. The build-up to the second blow is even more towering. Almost a "Hammer Horror" hammer horror! All in all, apart from the deliberate tempo for the three "music from far away" sections, I cannot really fault Levi in this movement. The recorded sound is big and spacious. Lots of air around the instruments in a concert hall balance with good detailing of the soloists. The big moments are held by the recording with ease and no "crowding" on the ear. When the orchestra is going full out you are aware of everything, every level of frequency. So an interesting sound for Mahlers Sixth. This version makes it into this survey by the narrowest of squeaks because I think, in spite of reservations, Levi is on the right lines and makes us ask questions of the music and I applaud him for that. Also on the right lines is Pierre Boulez with the Vienna Philharmonic on DG (445 835-2) who also manages to fit the work on to one disc but this time with the first movement repeat. This is a very refined performance indeed, one that fulfils all the criteria of classically-contained drama I prefer but, in the final analysis, one that marginally fails to deliver a lasting impression. On its own I admire it greatly. In comparison, I find myself with some doubts, wishing I was listening to others. But I draw it to your attention, not least for the excellent playing of the Vienna Philharmonic and the opportunity to hear Boulezs view of this crucial work in twentieth century music. A truly great recording of this work is one by the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos "live" at Carnegie Hall in 1955. Unfortunately this is only available as part of a very expensive multi-disc NYPO commemorative box called "The Mahler Broadcasts" but is the one performance in that box that cries out for individual release. Im still using this survey to make a strong plea that the orchestra authorities contribute to the Mahler discography and licence it to one of the major companies as the remastering engineers have certainly done it proud. One critic described this as a "dramatic, intense reading of molten heat and energy" and I wouldnt disagree with that. Mitropoulos was a Mahler pioneer who gave the first American performance

of this work in 1947 and its extraordinary to hear this performance when you consider that it predates all but the earliest released versions by Charles Adler and Eduard Flipse, both of which are available on compact disc still and deserve to be heard, even though I am left with the impression that even the 1950s were early days in the consideration of this forward-looking work. The playing by the New York Philharmonic for Mitropoulos more than justifies their reputation as one of the great Mahler ensembles and proves beyond doubt they could play Mahler magnificently long before Leonard Bernstein came along and usurped his old mentor. The first movement begins with another superbly weighty yet also forward moving tempo, each element of the exposition crucially integrated: energetic yet reflective at the same time, classical structure maintained with expressive contours. Alma is urgently conveyed with a real sense of the "Schwungvoll" ("Gusto" or "Spirited") Mahler asks. There is no exposition repeat from this era but Mitropoulos has invoked such a sense of the "all-or-nothing" you feel you just want to press on regardless. He makes no apologies for the relentless quality to the march rhythm, of course, with really unforgiving percussion battering away at us so that the pastoral interlude with cowbells seems a welcome place to catch our breaths before the recapitulation pitches us back into the maelstrom which seems to grow out of the music. Mitropoulos proves, if proof were ever needed, that to keep the symphonic argument to the fore brings the greatest dividends. This performance took place before publication of the works critical edition so it reverses the usual order of the inner movements. Mitropouloss coranglais soloist manages a fine lamenting quality at the start of the Andante, as does his solo trumpeter later with some nice vibrato, really idiomatic, charged in its nostalgic feel but absolutely part of the whole. Mitropoulos also maintains the link to the Kindertotenlieder song already noted and the whole movement is taken "in one" with just the merest assistance to the melodies from Mitropoulos. The central climax of the movement is absolutely overwhelming in its power but by virtue of its nobility. Then the scherzo is remarkable at the start for, as with the first movements opening, great forward momentum matched with weight. The crucial trios find Mitropoulos aware of the various changes in meter that are there, bringing out that impression of children playing on the beach Alma Mahler has left us with. I also liked the perky woodwinds of the New York Philharmonic. All in all, Mitropoulos conveys the ugliness of this music without playing it in an ugly fashion.

It cannot be said enough just how remarkable it is to find that in 1955 an orchestra could give such a performance as this of Mahlers then least played and most difficult work. The opening pages of the last movement under Mitropoulos show he has appreciated their importance but he never lingers over them, showing they must be seen as prelude of the titanic drama to come. Ill say straight away that, for me, this is the finest performance of the last movement I know. Mitropoulos keeps such a firm grip on the symphonic structure, such a single-minded concentration on pressing ahead, that the drama the movement delivers seems to hit us head on, rather like the blows of fate the hammer delivers. Note the passage 237-270 which, in more than any other version, recalls the corresponding passage in the first movement and so knits the symphony together across the movements. Then, soon after, the astonishing contribution of the trumpeters as the first hammer approaches with the latter a real blow of fate - heroic ambition emphatically stopped in its tracks. Then the "whipped" passage between the first two blows also has to be heard to be believed. So towering, so thrillingly conceived and delivered, with the orchestra playing like things possessed. Likewise in the final assault leading to the place where the third hammer blow used to be there is the same feeling as with Sanderling of the works "hero" going for one final throw before utter disaster. Too often we hear described the three blows of fate that fell the "hero". We never hear anywhere near enough of that which is felled, that which the hero loses and Mitropoulos seems aware of that. As I have said before, how are we to appreciate the devastating nature of what fate delivers unless we appreciate what it is that will be lost ? A man "in full leaf and flower", as Alma described Mahler at this time, must be depicted in this movement. Right up until the last note the orchestra never flags. In a studio recording this would be remarkable enough but in a "live" performance this has to be one of the great public recordings of anything, up there with Furtwnglers Beethoven Ninth from 1942. If there is any justice this recording will become available singly at some point. If you cannot get the NYPO version by Mitropoulos but still want to experience this mans special view of the work look out for a Cologne performance on Living Stage (LS4035155). Not quite as compelling as in New York but still formidable in its own way and a Mitropoulos Mahler Sixth to treasure. This Cologne recording is the same one to be found in EMI's "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" series that featured Mitropoulos as well as the Music & Arts boxed set containing other Mahler symphonies conducted by him. (CD1021). To the surprise of some I think Bernard Haitink a leading interpreter of this symphony and he has made two studio recordings of it for Philips and a "live"

one in Paris for Nave although this latter recording finds him below par. His second Philips version with the Berlin Philharmonic is very fine, but the presence of the Concertgebouw Orchestra on the earlier Philips and their much greater sense of Mahlerian tradition is even better. But, good though that is, I believe its trumped by an even earlier recording with the Concertgebouw from a 1968 concert performance in a Philips commemorative birthday set available from Holland. As with the Mitropoulos recording its a pity this is only available as part of a set so a single release, maybe at bargain price, would be very welcome. The first movement fulfils all my criteria for strict symphonic organisation and urgency matched to weight. I was also especially impressed by the wonderful playing of the orchestra "live" in their own hall, woodwinds particularly. In the second movement the younger Haitink also pays attention to the meter changes in the Trios that others miss and he matches them to the main material where the virtuoso playing means his quick tempo never loses touch with the musics energetic power. In the Andante the sound of the solo trumpet against the return of the pastoral cowbells brings a perfect Mahler moment and makes me wonder why other conductors cannot realise this must be what Mahler had in mind here. Since Haitinks delivery of the first two movements was quite brisk this means his Andante tempo makes this movements poetry tell better in context. In the last movement excellent space is given to exploring many of the odd sonorities that Mahler experiments with. When allied to his energetic, "man of action" passages this brings us more than a hint of Mitropouloss special drama. A splendid performance, then, well worth searching out and well worth Philips considering issuing alone. A case of a conductor not really adding anything more subsequent remakes, I think. Let me draw your attention to another "live" recording much easier to find. This is by George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra on Sony (SBK 47 654 or 88697008132) and at medium price on a single disc is a good recommendation for those on a limited budget. Szell conducts a bleak, unforgiving first movement followed by an equally trenchant scherzo where, perhaps more than most, he finds true menace and grotesques. Szells Andante is quickest of all and some may find this a problem. Admirable though I find Szell in taking Mahlers marking literally, I feel he just misses the depth of feeling buried in this music. His finale finds the Cleveland Orchestra on top form and there is much drama and an unerring sense of inevitability to be heard. There are one or two oddities in the dynamic range over the performance as what was issued

was the result of knitting together two "live" performances. The Andante especially needs to be played back at a higher level and even then sounds curiously different from the rest. However, for those on a limited budget and for those wanting an alternative, buy with confidence. Also worthy of strong recommendation is Benjamin Zander with the Boston Philharmonic on IMP (DMCD 93). In the first movement there is exactly the same kind of single-mindedness as Sanderling. As if Zander has worked out that what matters here is a drama symphonically based and sharply argued, one that would be blunted by too much romantic indulgence. Note, for example, the splendid crunch on the opening double basses. Conveyed against a relatively brisk underlying tempo, this delivery of the march that will dominate this movement takes care of Mahlers apparently contradictory tempo marking. There is weight, but there is also forward movement so when the fate motif on timpani crashes in it can stand the slightly held back nature Zander imparts to it. As too can the second subject "Alma Theme", beautifully coloured by the high woodwind shrieking from the texture. Zander is a fine example of the "less is more" philosophy that can bring such dividends. The development section finds some really sinister percussion in the close recorded balance which suits Zanders detached treatment for the pastoral interlude with cowbells which has a really modern feel to it, as if Schoenberg is looking over Mahlers shoulder. The whole movement is superbly held on course as also is the second movement Scherzo where, again, the lower strings really dig into their material trenchantly but keep the momentum going even through the "Altvaterisch" (literally "Old-Fatherish") trios which Zander pays the compliment of playing straight, without the kind of disfiguring jerks some conductors indulge in. Notice the presence of the tam-tam and also the various "wood-of-the-bow" effects the closer recorded balance allows you to hear. The descent at the close might not have quite the poison of Sanderling but its mixture of elegance and character pays dividend again. I think Zander more than many, sees the crucial relationship between the third movement and the Kindertotenlieder song roughly contemporary with it. (Something, surprisingly, other conductors often miss or dont mark quite as much.) To get it right, as here, is to influence the whole mood and delivery of the movement down to a simpler utterance and one that, in the end, makes its particular sound much more moving. Theres no "fat" on the music which is again placed the firmly in the twentieth century leading to the central climax clean and very pure. To overload this music with too much sentiment would

be to spoil its vulnerability, a vulnerability swept away cruelly by the "return to business" ushered in at the start of the fourth movement. The excellent liner notes to this recording make the point that the opening passage of the last movement is amongst the most remarkable music Mahler ever wrote and Zander certainly seems to reflect that, again seeming to have thought very deeply about what is going on. The emphasis is on expectation that something important is going to happen, a feeling that must have been added to by the fact that this is a recording of a "live performance". The buildup to the first hammer blow is carefully prepared and the arrival of the first blow itself allows us our first opportunity to hear what are, for me, the finest realisations in any available recording of these "percussion events" which are achieved here by a length of pipe being struck on a timpani case. As if to show off how good they are Zander is one of the few conductors who restores the third blow along with the original orchestration. Though I do wish he had followed Mahlers intention for each blow to diminish in volume, a dramatic effect Richard Strauss was never able to understand but which surely makes wonderful psychological sense. With all three blows played this is something of an opportunity missed. Zanders Boston Philharmonic play very well. They are made up of professionals, semi-professionals and students, so dont have quite the deep corporate lan of the great international ensembles and this might rule it out for you. But here is a case of a lesser orchestra playing beyond themselves and what they might lose in sheer "heft" they more than make up for in commitment and I never complain when I hear that and so it squeezes in this time. I do prefer this first Zander version to his second one made in London with the Philharmonia on Telarc. Yet again, a remake, even with a better orchestra and with better engineering, fails to improve on the first attempt. In the Boston version Zander balances head and heart well. In London he cannot resist tinkering. If you fancy a wild card, try Zander but go for Boston. A recording currently out of the catalogue is the one by Claudio Abbado and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on DG. There was a time when I actually admired this very much but, over the years, Ive found it less satisfying. It was almost as if, for me, it had a "shelf life" and I had used it beyond the "sell-by" date. Nevertheless, its a pity its not easily available as Abbado does have a wonderful way with Mahlers denser textures as well as being more than in tune with the general approach that I prefer. More than many conductors, he manages to organise even the heavier-scored parts of the work, the last

movement especially, in a way that never leaves your ears tired. You may see the Galleria version (423 928-2) of Abbados recording in the bargain bins, so dont ignore it if you do. Abbado recorded the work again for DG, this time with the Berlin Philharmonic. As so often is the case the remake is nowhere near as good as the first attempt. The Berlin Philharmonic gives what sounds like a more than competent run-through which is what they often do in a composer that has usually eluded them and Abbado seems to have refined and refined the music and so robbed it of a great deal of its power. He should have left well alone too. Ivan Fischer, in a very recent recording made in Budapest for Channel Classics, has tendency to refinement like Abbado in Berlin but his orchestra seems far more at home with Mahler and this is a version that I really think might be a "sleeper" which in a subsequent revision of this survey might take a more prominent role. Too early to say at the moment.. One conductor who could always be relied on to deliver the most uncompromising of visions in Mahler when appropriate was Jascha Horenstein. At the time of the first version of this survey he was represented in the Sixth discography by a "live" recording with the Stockholm Philharmonic from 1966 never meant for release. (Music and Arts CD 785 coupled with Bruckners Eighth and Mahlers Ninth; or Unicorn UKCD 2024/5 on its own). But this symphony above all illustrates my long-held belief that no composer exposes the second-rate in orchestras more than Mahler and it was, with regret, that I had to report this was the case with the Stockholm Philharmonic. Time and again one could certainly discern the greatness of Horensteins conception. But time and again he was let down by the orchestra from whom he asks just too much. Its not just a question of a few fluffed notes or lapses in ensemble - these can be tolerated. Its a general feeling of marginal slackness and lack of subtlety that gets in the way. I asserted that Horensteins conception of this work should be in the top choices for recordings of this work because I knew of a recording made by him "live" with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 1968 that was in the BBCs archives. Happily that recording has now been issued for the first time by BBC Legends (BBCL4191-2) and at last Horenstein can take his place in this survey. Like all the greats, Horenstein had to dare to fail to succeed and he sometimes did simply fail, but the failures were more than outweighed by the successes which his growing recorded legacy testifies to. Not ever easy music-making.

Horenstein was never an easy conductor to get to know. His was music making that was always challenging of the audience and the reaper of rewards only for those with more than half an ear to hearrather than just listen. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra of 1969 was a fine and versatile band. So when Horenstein stepped on to the podium of the, now demolished, Winter Gardens in Bournemouth (an indoor concert hall in case anyone not familiar with British musical life is wondering) he had before him an ensemble who were more than capable of delivering exactly what he meant in this work and the difference over the Stockholm version is stunning. You need to know that this is a mono recording. The BBC had not stretched to stereo in the English regions by early 1969 but this is well-balanced, firm and undistorted sound that will only displease the seriously audiophile listener and bothers me not one jot. What you will hear is all the details of this score in excellent, conductors balance perspective, the screaming upper line thrillingly revealed, the depths of low brass sound malevolently present and every point in between in sharp relief. Horenstein was the ultimate nihilist conductor. No one could project bleak despair across the drama of a work like he could, as can be judged by his recorded performances of Mahlers Ninth. So it is with the Sixth. What is so remarkable about this performance is Horensteins absolute determination to allow nothing in that detracts from the unswerving belief that this is a work about hope snuffed out. When you get to the very end, where the final statement of the cruel march rhythm first heard near the beginning and repeated throughout the work sends the hero to oblivion, you are aware this is what Horenstein was aiming at from the start, because he believes this is what Mahler was aiming for at the start too. In this way this is the most focused and distilled performances of this work I have ever heard and I doubt many conductors have the intellectual rigour matching great musicianship to both take this on board and deliver it so convincingly. Horenstein always had the ability to take in a work in its entirety and this is no better evinced as here. A brave thing to do, of course. Remember what I said about daring to fail to succeed. Take those passages where the mood seems to lift and there is light, lyricism and air to contrast all too briefly with the struggle, tragedy and mechanistic driving energy of this Kruppsinfonie. I am thinking of the "Alma Theme" second subject of the first movement, the pastoral cowbells and shimmering strings passages in the same movement recalled in the last, the brief celesta-accompanied tone painting towards the end of the first movement, the peculiar Trios of the Scherzo and the whole of the Andante. The overwhelming impression from the way he treats these passages is that

Horenstein doesnt want them to have too much of an effect on us. He holds them at arms length by seeming to push them along at all costs. It isnt a case of his rushing these passages. There is a pressing-on, but not enough for you to be unaware of them. It is more that you are not going to be allowed to make any kind of emotional attachment to them. This way Horenstein seems to dangle them in front of us, to tell us we will never achieve the repose or comfort they promise, that our doom is already decreed by fate and so we may as well submit to it. Its a remarkable aspect, moving and unnerving in its extraordinary honesty, and one he never forgets to mark when ever the need arises. This makes this performance so dark that you may only want to experience it on a few occasions. More than any other Mahler symphony the Sixth is built rigorously around repeated use of particular rhythmic figures, thematic groups and chord clusters held together in a tight four movement symphonic form. The first movement is a strict sonata form but the last movement also has the most careful and easily discernable structural pillars. This is all gift to Horensteins familiar ability to forward-plan with modular tempo that make sure the architectonic plates that are the structure of the work never seem to shift. If ever his gift for picking a more or less single tempo for a whole movement was going to work it would be in this symphony. So it is that the first movement manages a thunderous, heavy and dogged march that still keeps grinding away in our mind as Almas second subject group sweeps in and out at around the same basic tempo, keeping that sense of creative detachment already mentioned. Likewise the coda to the first movement. There can be performances where the end of the movement seems to yell out a sense of triumph, albeit premature. Indeed this is often an aspect that is used to justify the placing of the Andante after the first movement rather than, as here, the Scherzo. Horenstein, by not playing for any triumph at all at this point, justifies triumphantly the edition of the work he is using: the 1963 Critical Edition by Erwin Ratz that bravely restored the inner movement order to Mahlers original conception - Scherzo followed by Andante. After the kind of desperation coda Horenstein delivers, the assault of the Scherzo after the first movement sounds dramatically effective. The Scherzo itself is remarkable for some whip crack string playing that slices and slashes across the texture adding to a poisonous brew that not even the balm of the Andante will get rid of. The Andante itself is, as I suggested earlier, cool and clinical. It is also all of one minute faster than the Stockholm performance so Horensteins aim seemed to be towards ever more classical framing. Rest for us the music certainly is, but it is an uneasy rest which is absolutely appropriate with what

is to come. That is not to say that the simple presentation of the climax does not have the power to move. It moves because somehow Horenstein invests it again with the feeling that it is a transitory vision. Earlier in this review I mentioned Horenstein daring to fail to succeed and the last movement illustrates this well. At over 33 minutes this is one of the longest versions you will hear. Horenstein and his players pull it off, but only just. The upside is that you can hear instrumental details and textures as though the score were laid out before you like a musical equivalent of a blueprint. The downside is that there are some passages where I would forgive anyone for thinking that the tension drops. The long passage between the two hammer blows, for example, could do with a bit more kick. But, as I also said before, Horenstein never made it easy for himself, or us, so a bit of perseverance is called for. The reward is a truly cathartic experience which is what this symphony should be in the end. The hammer blows are superbly placed, the chase to hoped-for triumph truly desperate, the crush of fate that much more terrible for being so grandly and spaciously stated, the great coda a fearsome dead zone all masked faces at a funeral as the mourners gaze into the grave. This is a major release from BBC Legends containing a Horenstein Mahler Sixth to grace the discography of this work at last. You will be involved, you will be moved, you will be unnerved, you will not be disappointed. Let me draw your attention to another "live" recording this time by Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio Symphony on Audite (95480). This is a recording of the concert performance that preceded the DG studio sessions in 1966 that is now available in Kubeliks Mahler symphonies boxed set and is to be preferred. Kubelik's Sixth first movement has always raised eyebrows in that its very fast. Not as fast as Scherchens frantic, disfigured account on Tahra, but faster than most. Certainly it assists in stressing the classical nature of this most classically structured of Mahler first movements and therefore the nature of the Tragedy being enacted Greek rather than Jacobean. It also makes us see Mahlers "hero" prior to the tragedy that overwhelms him in the last movement "in full leaf and flower" and therefore corrective to those accounts that seem to want to condemn him from the start Melodrama rather than Tragedy. Boxes ticked emphatically, then. The Scherzo is placed second and Kubelik reinforces the energetic rigour of the

first movement admirably, as ever consistent and uncompromising to his own vision. So I find this account of the Sixth compelling and it ought to further remind us Kubelik was an exponent of 20th century music to a degree that is sometimes forgotten. The Andante is free flowing and unselfconscious and notice the nostalgic solo trumpet that is as echt Mahlerian as you could wish. Finally in the last movement few conductors suggest the menace and tension in the remarkable opening pages so well. The rest of the movement essentially a sonata form structure balances the first in being direct and sharp with the Tragedy not so much underplayed as integrated into the structure. As so often with these performances, it is only less impressive when compared with some other versions. In the final analysis, though, I think more space, more weight, is needed throughout and at particularly crucial nodal points to really move and impress. As before I dont want to end without considering at least one recording that allows for a more "hands-on" approach by the conductor. The one that still impresses me most is by Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on EMI (CDS 7 54047 2). From the start there is certainly greater darkness and more tragic weight than the versions so far considered. Note, for example, the way Rattle gets the basses to slightly drag their opening notes, even though Mahler marks them staccato. The slightly more measured pace allows an easy swing into the great Alma theme which, under Rattle, is more consciously moulded. Its a great sound from the engineers, however, which is one of the many distinguishing features of this recording. In the Development Rattle is saved from any feeling of "sag" that his more measured march might bring by the fine playing of his orchestra but I miss the sense of light and dark interplay that I get with Sanderling, Zander, Mitropoulos and others, and even the interlude with cowbells fails to lift the mood of despair which I do think it should. Again, surely, the need is to contrast and really sharp contrasts at that. But I fully accept this kind of view will be more than to the taste of many listeners whose view of this work differs from mine. I did admire the power contained in what I can only describe as a sense of "downforce" when the Recapitulation brings back the march, for example, hammering home what is, for all my reservations, a superb performance of the first movement - darkly tragic, weighty, dramatic. Rattle places the Andante second. Placed here his intense, highly emotional approach is heard to good advantage and many will admire this movement

even more than I do. Rattle intervenes a lot and this certainly fits with the rest of his performance. Theres some superb string playing to be heard as well, so this Andante emerges as one of Mahlers greatest slow movements. Not something I think it should, but impressive and moving all the same as it just stays in touch with its Andante roots. (Which is more than can be said of Sinopoli who delivers an Andante that seems to go on for ever, more the hothouse of Wagners Tristan than the simple song without words of Mahlers maturity.) The central climax under Rattle towers and even sees him speeding up in what sounds like a rush of blood to the head. Then the Scherzo brilliantly reverts to the mood of the first movement but in order to make Mahlers vision more uncompromising this really should have followed the first movement as the critical edition demands. Placed here I think it blunts things rather. But, again, theres nothing to stop us ignoring Rattles intentions and programming our CD players accordingly. I admire Rattles conducting of the Trios, let me add. Perhaps more than anyone else, he brings out the changes in meter that are in the score, reflecting Almas childrens games to a remarkable degree. With what has gone before Rattle has no choice but to try to deliver a last movement on a massive scale and he doesnt disappoint. This is certainly a far less symphonic approach than it might be, though. Far more the impression Im left with is of a huge tone poem: "Mahler Against The World", perhaps. Rattle does convey the sense of struggle superbly right the way through. Hes telling us a story in music, so this is the depiction of a tragedy rather than an essay on the nature of Tragedy: we live the tragedy rather than see it being lived. Rattle also restores the third hammer blow which confirms to me that his mind is really on dramatic effect leading him to override the composers intention. But at least he observes Mahlers wishes by having each blow diminish in volume. In sum, Rattles is a superb example of a particular view of this work that doesnt topple into melodrama or self-indulgence. Still not one that I believe to be appropriate in the final analysis, but there if you want it The engineers certainly back him up superbly. Hear the wonderful sound of the basses plumbing the depths at the opening and the ease with which even the heaviest scored brass passages are contained. Right through the sound is rich, deep and detailed. One of the best sound pictures of this work I have heard. A leaner and closer sound - as with Sanderling, Zander and Jansons, for example - is, I think, even more appropriate, but there is no doubt Rattles sound suits Rattles performance which is also a fine example of his long relationship with the CBSO at its height. For me, this will always be my first alternative view performance of this work so I recommend it to you over that

of the recent Eschenbach version on Ondine, for example, which I looked forward to hearing having heard glowing reports of but, in the end, was left disappointed. With Rattle, even though I did not agree with his interventions, I could see more logic to them. With Eschenbach, superbly as the Philadelphia Orchestra play and are recorded, I was left not quite understanding what he was trying to convince me of. That Mahlers Sixth is a great work? Well, I think I knew that already. There are still two versions to go that I want to deal with in detail and both are special case recordings but for completely differing reasons. Should anyone think classical music has little or no relevance to todays world let them read the first page of the liner notes for the recording of Mahlers Sixth by Michael Tilson Thomas (Avie 82193600012 or SFS Media 8219360001-2). "This recording was made during the San Francisco Symphonys concerts of September 12-15, 2001 and captures a collective response to the events of September 11th. The performance of this music, planned long before that day, helped all involved gather their thoughts and emotions as they attempted to come to grips with chaos." Later the same writer says: " though moments of transcendent beauty unfold at its centre, this symphony offers no simple answers". Well it certainly offers no easy answers, that much is true. But the end-message of this work is quite unequivocal, leaving us nothing but disaster and loss of hope. "Lifes a bitch, then you die," as Mahlerian Deryk Barker summed it up. So of all the symphonies to find yourself conducting and playing in America on September 12th 2001 Mahlers Sixth must be the one you would have wanted least, or so you would think. At the end no balm, no comfort, no consolation, just tragedy. There even seems a particularly malevolent force at work in the world of coincidence to have allowed this to happen. If it had been possible would there have been a temptation to change the programme for something easier on the emotions, I wonder? I think it says much for the courage of Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and their audience that they opted to go into the abyss anyway, four times in fact, when turning away from it must have been what they really wanted to do most of all. It also says much for the integrity of Tilson Thomas that in no way does he seek to lighten or assuage the appalling message this symphony imparts. Alma Mahler tells us that Mahler himself was so terrified by the meaning of this work that at the first performance he conducted it badly. Tilson Thomas does not follow Mahler.

He conducts it superbly and gives us a Sixth to compare with the very best on the market. Yet maybe there was something that the audiences at those performances last year took away that was relevant to what was uppermost in their minds on those four nights. Something that did indeed help them "come to grips with chaos". It lies in the nature of tragedy itself. This is Mahlers "Tragic" Symphony and Classical Tragedy, as mounted by the Greeks, depicts the struggle by characters on stage against uncaring, unforgiving fate that in the end destroys them and in the audience produces identification and, so the theory goes, a purgation of the emotions engendered. It is this catharsis, this emotional bloodletting, that is the central aim of classical tragedy and Im sure the aim of Mahler in his Sixth and it is surely that which can be relevant to times of great trial. Rather than turn away and seek short-term comfort it is more worthwhile to face someone elses tragedy "one step removed" so that you come to accept the inevitability of lifes darkest side and so become stronger. As with a play on a stage, so with a symphony on a platform. It would be interesting to know if this feeling of having been emotionally purged was the feeling of members of the audiences in San Francisco last September after these performances. If that were so they would certainly have been helped to come to grips with chaos and in one of the oldest ways known to creative art and human history. This is why I maintain that the greatest performances of the Sixth are the ones where the conductor seems to stand a step back from the action. Where the listener hardly notices an interpretation is taking place. Where interpretation is, as one great pianist recently put it, no more noticeable than the salt and the pepper should be in a great dish. Not intervening too much, not forcing the music into a radically different shape from the one that presents itself on the page and thereby almost mimicking the idea of watching something that isnt real, a drama being enacted. Tragedy, not Melodrama. I certainly believe this is what lies behind Mahlers stricter use of the old classical symphonic form in this his first four movement, one key symphony, complete with exposition repeat. His way of telling conductor and audience he has something much subtler in his mind: a helping hand to enable the drama to be framed like classical tragedy frames the actions of the mortals on stage buffeted by fate. But I think it also demands the conductor doesnt overlook the extraordinary energy and vigour that is as much a part of this work as the black hand of fate that wipes our hero out at the end. This must be a symphony that seems to touch every base. How else can we appreciate the magnitude of our heros fall if we are not first

shown where he has fallen from? How else can we appreciate his loss if we are not shown first what he had to lose? With some conductors you know they are waiting for those hammers. With others you feel the catastrophe has already happened before the opening bar of the first movement. But with the best ones - Sanderling, Zander, Mitropoulos to name three - you get the broader picture, the light as well as the dark, life as well as death. In all, Mahlers Sixth should enhance life as well as deny it and by so doing enrich our sense of what it is to live before denial comes. "Live every day as though it was your last," Mahler seems to tell us here. Does Tilson Thomas deliver such a view? Overall I think he does. Lets consider the slow movement first. In this recording its placed third in order, as it is in the critical edition. Tilson Thomas is spacious here, two minutes slower than Thomas Sanderling or Michael Gielen, for example, and there is about his delivery of the music a real sense of nostalgic elegy, a looking back to a better time. Thomas Sanderling opts for a cooler, more poised "song without words" which, in the wider context of the whole work, is probably more appropriate as it is closer to what Mahler asks for in his Andante marking. But there is no doubting Tilson Thomas is convincing in his own way. This is the one major part of the performance where I felt that he was responding to contemporary events as there is a very deep and melancholy feel to the withdrawn, intimate passages especially that is very moving. The emotional climax of the movement shows another side altogether, however. It has great stoicism, great dignity and a surprisingly optimistic tone. The impression I have is that this has now become music of light not dark, so making the arrival of the last movement that much more terrible. It would be possible to use this movement to wallow in self pity but whilst Tilson Thomas does seem to want to touch our feelings he still maintains a discernible balance between head and heart that is impressive both in itself and in the wider context. Energy and weight combine in the opening march passage of the first movement. A tempo approach to suit Mahlers marking that both carries forward thrust and downward force. Reconciling apparently conflicting demands of tempo will always be a problem for conductors in this movement but Tilson Thomas seems on top of the case. There is also a bitter taste to the woodwinds sour contributions even in the short interlude prior to the Alma Theme second subject and right the way through the superbly balanced sound allows these fine players to really cut through the texture. The Alma theme itself broadens, but since the basic momentum has been forward moving it sits

perfectly in what is a near conventional sonata form exposition with repeat. Indeed Tilson Thomas seems more than aware of the importance of this symphonic imperative in the movement. The development shows his grasp of the marchs true importance. Notice the real stress on the percussion, precise and placed and with some arrogant swagger. Then in the cowbell interlude the change in mood is well achieved but never stops the action completely. Though he takes things to the limit. We have only turned our backs on the press of events, you see, they havent stopped altogether; our attention has just been deflected. There is some lovely detail here in woodwind and the high tremolo violin daubs that the natural recording allows us to hear clearly. The recapitulation then has a fierce inevitability, driving home the message with the Alma theme recall prior to the coda really sung out. It is hard to imagine a better first movement than this. In the second movement notice the cracks of the timpani, superbly balanced into the texture so that the uneven gait of the music the player has to indicate from the first bar is with us all the time. From the first movement we have inherited that bitter taste in the sour woodwind too. Then in the first trio it is clear again Tilson Thomas has studied the texture with a microscope so that he can render the fearsomely complex rhythmic turns with stunning confidence that his orchestra seems to revel in. It is this awareness of the rhythmic topology of the movement that so impresses here as it does with Sanderling even though the latter is a touch more sinister and bitter. The SFSO shows concentration of the highest order and a fine counterpart to the first movement. I suspect that the fact of this being taken from "live" performances has helped in some of the more daring effects. There is a raw brutality to the timps crashing out the fate rhythm in the opening bars of the last movement and throughout Tilson Thomas is back in symphonic mode, the immense drama delivered with stunning immediacy and impressive reach, but with a real sense of the greater picture again. At no time does Tilson Thomass grip on where the music has been and where it is going falter and his orchestra seem prepared to follow him into hell. In the final bars the timps just fail to quite penetrate and the last pizzicato note is just too emphatic, but these are small quibbles in a presentation of this extraordinary music to round off a performance that immediately goes into the top flight. The two hammer blows themselves are certainly distinctive but they appear to be just cracks on a large bass drum thus, I think, somewhat short-changing Mahlers intentions, but Tilson Thomas is hardly alone in that. In fact he seems to have gone for musical effect rather than sound effect.

I listened to it this new recording in standard CD stereo sound so I cannot comment on what it sounds like in "Surround Sound" or two channel stereo, both of which are also available on this SACD pressing. What I heard is rich and detailed with plenty of impact. There is air around the instruments also but not so much that you lose them in it. The feeling is of a good seat in the middle of the hall, on the front row of the first balcony. A Mahler Sixth Symphony with contemporary resonance superbly played and recorded that competes with the best. Since first hearing this when it came out it has grown on me over time. I still have reservations about the Andante but as an enthusiast for the concert hall as theatre the circumstances of its performance must carry weight for me and the performance is superb. Which brings me finally to Sir John Barbirolli and the New Philharmonia on EMI. (CZS5 69349-2 coupled with Strausss Ein Heldenleben; or CZS7 67816-2 coupled with Strausss Metamorphosen) just as it did in my first version of this survey. Theres still no doubt in my mind that this recording is utterly unique: a one-off, mould-breaking account that should be on every Mahlerites shelf whatever other version they have. Ive owned every version since it was released and cannot conceive of being without it. And yet I still think that it ultimately fails as a guide to this great work but as its such a noble failure by a conductor of the highest integrity that it insists itself into any list. If you are going to orbit the moon then maybe the dark side of it has to be encountered at least once. The very expansive tempo for the first movement, with opening basses playing marcato rather than staccato, is a fatal flaw because it weighs down the music with too much tragedy at the point in the developing drama where it should retain liberal amounts of energy and fire and yet what a sound it makes. It also ignores completely Mahlers express marking and yet what a sound it makes. The pastoral music with cowbells also sounds fatally earthbound. Its all impressive on its own terms, though. Especially the way Barbirolli hangs on to it all like grim death, bringing out instrumental details other recordings only hint at. But still the effect is rather like that of an Edwardian actor manager "hamming" Shakespeare. As if Barbirolli is shouting at us all the time. There really needs to be some light let in here or the unremitting horror that Barbirolli seems determined to visit on us just becomes gratuitous. In the second movement there is another expansive tempo that goes with what has just gone and this, as in parts of the first movement, allows us to hear some more details usually missed: inner string harmonies, for example. Again, though, the effect too heavy-footed. The

Andante works better, with Barbirollis humanity and feeling showing through. The last movement at last takes fire but there is still not enough of the hero before the fall with which to compare the hero at or after the fall. As, to a lesser extent, with Rattle this is a long way from the symphonic argument I believe is demanded and which you will hear under Sanderling and others, and which makes Mahlers tragic point much better. If Bernstein and Tennstedt turn a Tragedy into a Melodrama, Barbirolli takes a Greek Tragedy and makes it Jacobean. But hear other versions first, read up on the work, and then hear Barbirolli for yourselves. This EMI version is much to be preferred to the "live" Berlin version on Testament which is in mono sound, suffers from a Berlin Philharmonic whose interest in Mahler is always sketchy and is cursed with metallic hammer blows in the last movement. What was Sir John thinking of here? There are many other recorded versions of this symphony available and from some great and renowned names. The Mahler Recording Factory Inc. (Shed No.6) has turned out a vast number of units, but only the ones "fit for purpose" need to be mentioned in detail. The rest must stay in the marshalling yard and take their chances with the elements. Solti is too machine-tooled and then hyper-charged to allow for darker shades to emerge. Maazel, Jrvi and Von Dohnanyi deliver the notes but are largely empty vessels, all wheels and cogs but little worthwhile movement. Chailly, as so often in Mahler, is beautifully finished on the outside, but is all style and less substance. Karajan is chromium plated as usual, and thats it. Leave them all under their tarpaulins. Long thought has convinced me that I have given you a profile of the recordings that will enable you to approach this grand and terrible work with confidence and hear it in the way that I think it should be heard to best advantage. In my end is my beginning and I could just as easily close this revision with the same words I closed the first version and which I opened with here. The absorption of this symphony carries on. The best approach I believe still lies in its classical frame and its 20th century sensibility. Thomas Sanderling, Mariss Jansons, Yoel Levi and Michael Gielen are my main recommendations for performance and sound combined that unites all relevant elements. But do look out for Horenstein and Barbirolli for their particular, darker viewpoints. Try also to hear Mitropoulos and Tilson Thomas for the different concert hall experiences that are hotwired into interpretations still within my preferred musical parameters. Hans Zender and Boulez pin the work firmly in the 20th century. Go for Rattle for something more personally involved if you

want that. Think Herbig for your reserve version. Try to resist the fatal embraces of Tennstedt and Bernstein for fear of the works ultimate suffocation before your very ears. This last is not a view that many will agree with, I know, but it is the one that I retain and I will stick to it. As before, Thomas Sanderling is still the version that I personally reach for first. For now. Tony Duggan APPENDIX Not yet available

Recommended Recordings Thomas Sanderling with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic (RS 953-0186) Amazon UK Amazon US Gunther Herbig with the Saarbrcken Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin Classics (0094612BC) Amazon UK Amazon US Mariss Jansons with the London Symphony Orchestra LSO Live (LSO0038). Amazon UK Amazon US Michael Gielen with the SWR Symphony Orchestra Hnssler (CD 93.029) Amazon UK Amazon US Yoel Levi with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Telarc (CD80444) Amazon UK Amazon US George Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra Sony (SBK 47 654) Amazon UK Amazon US Benjamin Zander with the Boston Philharmonic IMP (DMCD 93) Amazon UK Amazon US Jascha Horenstein with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra BBC Legends (BBCL4191-2) Amazon UK Amazon US Rafael Kubelik with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Audite (95480) Amazon UK Amazon US Simon Rattle with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra EMI (CDS 7 54047 2) Amazon UK Amazon US

Michael Tilson Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony (Avie 82193600012 or SFS Media 821936-0001-2).Amazon UK Amazon US Sir John Barbirolli with the New Philharmonia EMI. (Either CZS5 69349-2 coupled with Strauss's Ein Heldenleben Amazon UK Amazon US or CZS7 67816-2 coupled with Strauss's Metamorphosen)

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Symphony No.7 The Seventh Symphony is often talked of as Mahler's least popular work, the one even some die-hard supporters have problems with. But it needn't be like that. Indeed it shouldn't be like that. You can't take Mahler la carte, and to those who say this is the Mahler symphony they pass on I say they're missing an important chapter in his musical life story and, most important of all, the experience of one of the most extraordinary pieces of music he ever wrote. It was composed "out of sequence" in two important ways. Symphonies 3-6 were written in two year cycles, mostly in Summer. The 3rd in 1895 & 6, the 4th in 1899 & 1900, the 5th in 1901 & 2 and the 6h in 1903 & 4. But the Seventh broke that sequence as the two Nachtmusik ("Nightmusic") movements (the second and fourth) were written in the Summer of 1904 immediately after finishing the Sixth Symphony. In other words, Mahler didn't wait a year before beginning the new work. So the first music he wrote straight after finishing the deeply tragic and grandly sinister Sixth was the second movement of the Seventh. Seen like this the movement emerges as a kind of therapy for all the terror, pain and catastrophe in the former and, I think, gives vital clues to the latter. Not only that, since movements 2 and 4 were composed first, it was movements 1, 3 and 5 that had to wait another year before being completed, and Donald Mitchell even brings forward evidence that the first movement may have been written last of all. So I believe the fact of the two Nachtmusik movements "in search of a symphony" for a whole year clinches it that it's THEIR mood that must be taken as paramount here, along with the Scherzo third movement which is another Nachtmusik in all but name. So, to the extent that any work of Mahler's middle period is "about" anything, this is a symphony about Night and responses to it. But this is too often taken to mean "Night" for Mahler means emotional darkness: night as metaphor for tragedy and despair. This is not necessarily so. Night is also Evening when we relax and turn off from the day, Night is when we sleep for refreshment, Night is when we dream, and most dreams are not nightmares. There is also one more important aspect to Night and that's the promise of the return of Day followed by the Day itself. The two outer movements, the first and fifth, set this frame for the pattern of "Night and the return of Day" and the three central movements depict what Night can hold: convivial evenings with friends,

walks at dusk, telegrams from Vienna, news of loved ones far away, and (in the 4th movement) nights of love. Also that all-important promise that a new day will finally come. I may be being more descriptive and programmatic than Mahler would want me to be, but I don't think a little imagination here can do any harm and even I can be persuaded, under the right circumstances, that another approach is valid. People often cite the scherzo third movement as proof that Mahler is, in fact, still in nightmare territory. Maybe he is and maybe they have a point, but don't you find the spooks and ghosts in the scherzo rather stylised, not meant to be taken too seriously, especially when framed by their counterparts ? It's a view not universally accepted, but it's one I'm prepared to defend, even though I can be persuaded otherwise in the presence of one particular approach to the work and by one particular conductor. But that is often the way when cracking the Mahlerian "code" and more of that later. The riotous pageant of the last movement is a problem for many. There are plenty of explanations as to what Mahler was aiming for in a movement that can seem out of place, but success in performance certainly depends on making the movement emerge naturally out of what has gone before and by playing it for all it's worth: no apologies for its weaknesses, whatever the philosophy behind the conductor's conception of the rest. It's a collage of colour, energy and celebration. It's "the return of Day" into which you can read what you wish. As with the scherzo, there is another explanation which can underpin the most exuberant of performances, but I will deal with that when the time comes. There are links to other works and composers here too. There's a near quote from Lehar's "The Merry Widow" which premiered in December 1905 and which Mahler and his wife enjoyed. There is also, I think, a reference to Mozart's Il Seraglio. And, of course, there is Wagner's Mastersingers of Nuremberg with its celebratory major chord optimism. In early performances Mahler actually preceded the symphony with the Overture, perhaps as a kind of balance with the last movement. Try playing Wagner's overture and then Mahler's symphony and see how the Wagner sets up what you are going to be aiming at by the time Mahler's work ends. A fact Mahler surely meant us to understand. Since I believe Mahler is in more relaxed mood in the Seventh he can also take time to experiment. Hence the wonderful orchestration, the exotic instrumental plumage, the feeling of the orchestra pushed to some kind of limit and quite often, as a result, broken down into unusual groupings. So let

the wonderful sounds wash over you, pick out the colours and textures that you like and have a good wallow. Mahler is showing off but in so doing is showing himself attached to the new trends bubbling around him which would usher in the worlds of Schoenberg and his associates. No surprise that this is the work that convinced Schoenberg of Mahler's greatness. One other aspect of the special orchestration as a sidelight is that a lot of it is very detailed and "thick". I think this becomes almost an unconscious metaphor for the times. Webern is around the corner and his use of extreme formal compression, the antidote to what Mahler represented, is about to impinge. So Mahler's Seventh is the old Viennese style at its limit, the textures almost sickly, like the sickly society they came from and, like them, pregnant with change. Leonard Bernstein was a great exponent of this work. Though he recorded it twice with the New York Philharmonic it's his first recording from 1966 on Sony (SMK 60564), that I prefer. There's a real sense of discovery about the playing that I think is missing in the DG remake, fine though that is, and goes to make it one the great Mahler recordings that should be in every collection. It also has the attraction of being on a single disc at medium price. Bernstein steers his way through Mahler's notoriously ambiguous tempo changes during the exposition particularly well. I especially like his clear-sighted vision during the first return of the opening march with its reprise of the oar strokes that unlocked Mahler's creative block when he came to write this first movement last of all. Here, and at the very start, the famous tenor horn solo ("Here nature roars", Mahler tells us), one of the most distinctive sounds in this most distinctive of works, has a very "open-air" quality to it which is surely right. The second subject (bars 118-133) is marked to be played with great a sweep but it's refreshing to hear Bernstein holding back a little, allowing the idea to develop a bit before he allows release. This is indicative of Bernstein's care for Mahler's detailed markings in this work which he doesn't, as so often, cover up with too many of his own. At the close of the exposition note the swagger in the march, percussion to the fore. The development section is one of Mahler's greatest imaginative creations, one of those passages that see him "shedding a skin" to quote Cardus, forging a new paths and with what finesse Bernstein unfolds the huge vistas Mahler sets out before us. I also admire the element of innocent wonderment he shows. The recapitulation, with its growling trombone solo reminiscent of the Third Symphony, finds Bernstein striking just the right contrast with what has gone as if to say we are back to earthly things, earthly night, and he mixes all the

elements of what has gone before with the most superb sense of structure married to great imagination. The open quality of the recording, allied to the close balances, really help delineate the myriad colours of the opening of the second movement (Nachtmusik I) too with its solo horns calling each other and the woodwind trills interspersed. As the movement gets under way I like the rather portly gait Bernstein adopts to what is, after all, another march, albeit one taking place in the dark. To contrast with this, the first Trio has an engaging warmth and a lightness of touch and the second a welcome close balance to the harp. All in all, this is a great recording to follow with a score, so sharp is each detail recorded - ideal for domestic listening in spite of its age. This applies just as much to the third movement scherzo with its shrieks and bumps and "off-beat" gait. I like the way Bernstein suggests the dance is never far away: haunted ballrooms indeed. As I have said before, I maintain this to be a portrait of a nightmare rather that a nightmare itself and I believe Bernstein sees it like that also since he doesn't go in for too many startling effects. Though there are some porky blasts from his tuba to unsettle us. Throughout, the playing of the NYPO is exemplary, a model of poise and controlled virtuosity where you have the impression the soloists are all listening to each other. In the fourth movement (Nachtmusik II), Bernstein relaxes into the warmth of the movement with more than a touch of the Siegfried Idylls and maybe here he does indulge himself just a little more. I think this movement should go a little quicker to prepare for the finale, but that is a personal view. He certainly maps every section superbly with the guitar and mandolin, two sounds that make this movement so distinctive, balanced well to the fore as they should be. Finally, can Bernstein crown his fine performance with a last movement tingling with energy and verve ? Of course he can and in so doing pulls together the threads of the piece towards the end with the surest of touches, especially in the recall of the main theme from the first movement which is one of the elements that really rounds of this symphony in triumph. Bernstein never doubts this music, or its place in the whole, for one second, and makes his players deliver it as though it is the most important music ever written. No mean feat. One of Bernstein's leading American disciples is Michael Tilson Thomas and his recent recording with the London Symphony Orchestra on RCA (09026 63510 2) is a real prospect for the library. Like Bernstein's, it's a near-perfect balance between inner detail and outward form. This latter point can be heard most strongly in the first movement where an unerring grasp of those difficult

tempo relationships between each section never reduces things to the rag-bag of episodes they can sometimes sound. Tilson Thomas does give himself enough space for us to hear the remarkable instrumental detailing, however. So I love the ripe tenor horn of Ian Bousfield "roaring", the translucent texturing of woodwind against strings in so many parts of the movement, and the way Tilson Thomas achieves a welcome, and unusually dark-grained, quality to the development section where Mahler's transfigured nightscape really gets under the skin. Don't get the idea that the first movement in this recording is all limpid beauty and dark contemplation, however. When he needs to, Tilson Thomas can be tough, driving on with more emphasis on the snap of the marches that cross and re-cross this movement than we are sometimes used to. These marches never sound rushed when played like this and that's another tribute to the grasp of this movement shown by a conductor who really can deliver weight and propulsion at the same time. Towards the end of the movement the march brings passion, hammered home by the wellcaught percussion rounding out an interpretation that stays in the mind long after the music has stopped. The poised, refined playing of a beautifully prepared LSO and the rich recording, just enough air around the instruments, are allies in all this as they will remain right the way through the rest of the work. You can admire the feeling of the march's tread in the second movement but, as before, this is not the whole story and the way Tilson Thomas identifies a Wunderhorn link in some of the accompaniments is impressive. This is a very spacious conception of the movement but one never lacking in interest through Tilson Thomas's fine ear for detail, his imagination and his ability to really take us into the heart of music. This is especially evident in the idiomatic quality to the interludes that emerge with a really tawdry tone, slinky and feline. The third movement has the right amount of menace balanced by a veil of fantasy and I also thought Tilson Thomas showed a rare understanding of the profound difference in the Trios of this movement, islands of uneasy calm in the dreamy maelstrom. In the fourth movement, the second Nachtmusik, the emphasis, as with Bernstein, is on warmth and noble ardour assisted greatly by emphatic portamenti from the strings which inject just the right amount of tension and also the impression that this is music out of an essentially sick society. It's good to report that under Tilson Thomas the last movement is grand, warm, affirmative and essentially ceremonial. It also shows that he knows when to smile - not always the case with Mahler conductors, and this is a real plus. In the last analysis I don't think Tilson Thomas quite reaches the level of greatness achieved by his mentor, but he does come very close.

With orchestral virtuosity in mind for the last movement we should consider a recording of the Seventh by that prince among virtuoso orchestras, the Chicago Symphony. However, the one I have in mind is under a conductor more renowned for the cerebral, hands-off approach so we are faced with a fascinating contrast in pairing that throws important light on this work. Claudio Abbado's recording on DG (445 513-2) is available on a single disc at medium price and is certainly one of the finest played and recorded versions on the market which I much prefer to Sir Georg Solti's Chicago version on Decca. As ever for me, Solti drives too hard and brutalises too much music that, even when submitted to a more Modernist approach, needs some breathing space to let subtle shades of light play on what we hear. Under Abbado the opening of the first movement is significantly darker tinted than our previous two versions with a striking stress on mystery. Then, when the tenor horn takes up the familiar lament, there's real sense of nature's majesty - a deep red sun in a leaden winter sky - and it must be said that of all the recordings I have heard the Chicago Symphony boasts the best tenor horn player of all. Abbado is as fine as Bernstein in his judgement of the tempo changes at the outset, but his engineers and orchestra deliver us much more sonority and depth. I do admire the clarity of the Bernstein but there is much to be said for this more upholstered palette. Abbado is certainly more luxuriant than Bernstein in the delicious second subject but less impetuous at the climax which he tempers with a more withdrawn quality to the transition into the development that follows. Abbado does mark some wonderful contrasts in this movement without getting in the way of the symphonic ebb and flow. The development section gains from the splendid depth of the recorded sound and the subtle nuances of shade that the Chicago players can bring in response to Abbado's ear for detail. Note too that extra emphasis on darker tones which comes to the fore again in the recapitulation where the lower registers really tell like no other before us. The emphasis in Nachtmusik I is to refinement which means Abbado misses a little of the march's trenchancy to be found with Bernstein which I prefer here for the greater sense of definition. Don't misunderstand me, however. Abbado is as effective in his own way and so the first Trio is classical in its restraint and poise. I did wonder whether the cowbells section sounded a little too oriental, but that's a small point. Then in the spooky third movement Abbado confounds expectations by being more diabolical than Bernstein. He also observes Mahler's marking Schattenhaft ("Shadow-like") to a greater extent than most. Maybe the opacity of the recording robs Abbado of some of the diabolism he is aiming for later on and Bernstein, with his closer and more

clipped sound, remains in the memory longer. The second Nachtmusik is delicate and withdrawn under Abbado and again I prefer Bernstein's more direct approach, but even he, as I said above, may be a little too affectionate here. For me, other conductors react more appropriately to this movement, but we shall come to them soon. There is no doubt Abbado coaxes some lovely playing in this movement, seeing this as something more than a Mediterranean serenade, as you can hear by the way the guitar strummings seem to betoken the sick Viennese society I mentioned at the start. And does the famed virtuosity of the Chicago Symphony carry all before it in the last movement ? The answer, I feel, is "not quite" because Abbado is determined to view this movement in a more neo-classical sense with a degree of detachment. This is cast by Mahler, after all, as a Rondo and last movements don't come more classical than that. This does have one major additional benefit in that the Chicago brass section gets reined back a bit proving that, under the right conductor, they can be made to play with real humanity to match the power. It would be very hard to choose between Abbado and Bernstein because both have much to recommend them. Abbado's is the richer experience with more colour and variety than Bernstein and he is better recorded. But Bernstein is more dramatic, more aware of the contrasts that abound, and his sound recording has virtues for home listening over the longer period that Abbado may lack, notably in detail. This has been something of a signature work for Sir Simon Rattle. I myself possess at least three "off-air" tapes of him "live", of which more later. When the time came for him to record the work he and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra went into a studio and taped it in the usual way. But Rattle was dissatisfied with the result and persuaded EMI to set aside what they had in favour of recording it again "live" in concert. So, in 1992, microphones were set up at the Maltings, Snape and the resulting performance that took place can now be heard on CDC 7 54344 2. I have seen this recommended as a first choice on a number of occasions but, though I regard Rattle as one of the leading exponents of this work, I can't find myself quite in agreement. It's a fine performance with many virtues, one that deserves to be considered among the best, but there are drawbacks which need to be addressed. Though his introduction to the first movement is slower than some, I thought Rattle smoothes out the tempo changes Mahler asks for in this passage and makes less of the sweep others observe in the second subject. He seems to want to steer a too clear line through the opening which I don't think

is the appropriate thing to do. What appears to be more stress on symphonic rigour is reinforced in the development where Rattle sifts the textures very clearly though without the sense of wonder Bernstein brings and likewise in the recapitulation. So this is a very coherent and focussed reading of the first movement, not what you might expect from Rattle whose Mahler performances tend to be remarkable for the teasing out of every detail in the score. In its own way it's a good rendition of the first movement but it exposes the major criticism I have of the sound recording. I don't know why The Maltings was chosen but this smaller hall restricts the sound of the orchestra quite considerably. The strings especially sound undernourished which they don't in other Mahler recordings they have made with Rattle. Of course, if the performance itself had been touched with greatness this would not have mattered so much. However, it would be interesting to hear what the abandoned studio recording sounded like because I have to say I cannot discern much that may have been gained by taking it "live". The tempo of the second movement is slightly quicker than other versions, two minutes quicker than Abbado's for example, and this allows Rattle, like Horenstein before him, to explore more of the ironies in the music rather than just the shadows which is often the case. In fact Rattle saves his darkness for the Scherzo. Overall he is slower than most in that movement and seems, as you would expect, concerned to bring out every detail, every twist and turn, of the score. He is also brilliant at the "Shadow-like" marking so all of his effects seem to come off superbly, complete with a fine "winding down" at the close. His Nachtmusik II has achieved controversy in being a lot quicker than we are used to, but I would defend Rattle here. As with Horenstein, there are dividends in not indulging this music in that a more free-flowing performance can throw a bridge into the last movement making the latter cohere more into the work's structure. True, there are some moments when Rattle appears to border on the perfunctory, but it's close and I think he is to be congratulated for making such a statement as he is also for making sure the mandolin and guitar really tell. An exuberant finale follows and I think you can now hear the benefits of recording "live" because there are at last passages where risks are clearly taken, even though in sheer virtuoso dash they may not be up to the standard of Chicago, New York or Amsterdam. So this is a fine performance which I wouldn't want to rule out of consideration. However, Rattle is capable of much better than this. In fact, he's capable of a performance of this work where every aspect of his particular flair for Mahler can be heard to shattering effect. How do I know this ? I know it because I possess an "off-air" tape of a performance he gave with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1999 which is simply one of the most remarkable Mahler recordings I have heard in over thirty

years and which, if it was to be released commercially (which EMI should do now if they have any sense) would immediately go to the top of any list and stay there. No wonder it was this performance that many believe clinched his appointment as the Berlin Philharmonic's next Chief Conductor. This is the performance I feel Rattle was aiming for in 1992 and it really should be more widely available and the ball is therefore in EMI's court. They have already released an Austrian Radio tape of Rattle's Mahler Ninth "live" so they can do so now with this Seventh from Berlin. There is another "live" recording which, in my opinion, approaches that of Rattle's in Berlin and fortunately is available on CD. In 1969 Jascha Horenstein performed the work at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London with the New Philharmonia and a tape of the BBC broadcast has found its way on to a number of issues since then. (Music and Arts CD-4727, Descant 02 - available from Berkshire Record Outlets). The opening of the work is deeply imposing with a real funereal tread in the strings, straight out of the Fifth Symphony - a remarkable effect. Notice also the high woodwind squealing out of the texture. As ever, Horenstein shows himself to be the master of the total sound. What he also achieves in the exposition is what Rattle tried to do but failed and that is relate the tempo changes to each other, knitting the exposition together with a sure grip. He also manages tenderness and real sweep in the second subject. Then in the wonderful development section there's a palpable inner tension that Horenstein somehow seems to carry over from the start and which will distinguish this reading of the first movement to the end. Evidence again of Horenstein's ability to "read" an entire movement and then deliver it almost in one "breath". At the recapitulation note the slight pause before it starts, like a "pause for breath", then beneath the earthy trombone solo the presence of a lower string cushion that I think is unique. His delivery of this passage is not pretty, though. It's more reminiscent of the trombone solo passages in the first movement of the Third than many I have heard and shows a true natural grandeur. So complete is Horenstein's grasp of every aspect of this first movement that the end is genuinely triumphant, the feeling that you have lived through something important. The second movement's opening has about it an analytical quality but this then gives way to a freer treatment of the main material and the Trios. Horenstein seems to see these as much lighter passages in tone than many of his colleagues, recognising the need for contrasts in this work. Overall he is a full two minutes quicker than Abbado and Bernstein, for example, but the music never sounds rushed. Indeed, it sounds perfectly natural with wit and

irony that's a joy to hear. The second Trio then slows a little, allowing Horenstein to explore the possibilities of the music. In the Scherzo, contrasting again, Horenstein favours a slightly slower tempo with the shadows taken care of in his care for lower registers helped by the large acoustic. Mood rather than effect seems to be Horenstein's philosophy where the temptation must be to go for the latter. But he wasn't that kind of conductor. He always looked beyond the obvious and since this "one off" concert performance is available to us we can appreciate how the benefits of this kind of approach accrue over time. It's such a pity he never recorded it commercially, of course. There are rough patches to the playing here and also the way the recording was made means the sound you hear is not ideal. However, it's hard to believe a studio recording would have bettered this in anything other than those areas. His secondNachtmusik, like Rattle's, is quite quick, more andante, which I think is right in that it suits the concept of a serenade far better. I would also make the suggestion that since this music doesn't represent Mahler at his best it might be better if it doesn't detain us too long. To those who like their Mahler indulgent I would point to this movement needing to provide a bridge to the finale, which under Horenstein it does, making his last movement sound a natural conclusion to this work, marking the end of our journey out of Night and into Day more successfully than most. The fact that he and his orchestra play it for all it's worth just adds the cherry to the icing on the cake with the momentum kept up to a degree other conductors only dream of. At the close the threads are pulled together and the very end, horns blazing like a great shout of joy, means you will want to join in the applause of the audience. Those strange, haunted, benighted souls for whom perfection of sound and playing come before everything will moan that this version falls short of their definition of the acceptable. But I believe this to be one of the greatest Mahler Sevenths on the market. Don't miss it while it remains available and pray that the BBC do the decent thing and put out an official release on BBC Legends soon. For those on the most limited budgets the Naxos super-bargain version with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted byMichael Halsz (8.550531) is worth considering. I have been unimpressed with most of the company's Mahler cycle but the Seventh is a cut above the rest with a nicely poised, straightforward account which only fails to convince completely because of the orchestra's less than sure grasp of the Mahler idiom. Mahler exposes the second rate in orchestras like no other composer and this

is never more true than in the last movement on this version. However, if you can afford no more than this you will have in your collection an account that will serve you well. But Bernstein doesn't cost much more and the extra outlay is well worth it. Bernard Haitink has the distinction of recording this work more times than anyone. He has been into the studio no less than three times with it: twice with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and once with the Berlin Philharmonic. Of the three it's his second version with the Concertgebouw I prefer. You can find this as a Philips "Dutch Masters" release (4629462) and it's worth looking for even though I wouldn't myself place it ahead of the others I have dealt with in detail. Haitink's approach is exemplary and solid, straightforward and with the stress on beauty of tone and line. He is also blessed with orchestral playing that is truly second to none. But I think there is just a little more to this work than Haitink delivers, though there's no doubt his is a persuasive account. Performances of the Seventh which accentuate the extreme multiplicity of sounds contained in this work are those which can be said to represent the more contemporary approach. There are a number of these on the market by such luminaries of 20th Century music as Pierre Boulez, Hans Rosbaud, Michael Gielen and, most remarkable of all, Hermann Scherchen. There are two recordings available conducted by Hans Rosbaud but it's his second on Wergo (WER 64062) from 1957 that I prefer. Textures are chillingly clear and sharply delineated. No fat at all on the trombone solos in the first movement, for example. His account of the first movement's recapitulation is superbly argued, symphonically aware to a quite stunning degree, and in keeping with his approach right through where the key words I kept writing down in my notes were "concentration" and "grip". This is not a conductor to go in for effects or to luxuriate in sheer sound. His orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of South West German Radio, is a few steps short of the top flight but their concentration and intelligence in playing a work which in 1957 was by no stretch of the imagination familiar repertoire is remarkable. In the Scherzo Rosbaud excels in the grotesques and though the tempo is kept up manages a remarkable feeling of "tread", bringing out points of detail that seem to elude many subsequent interpreters completely. I think Rosbaud illustrates how it's possible to make every detail tell without too much accentuation and in this offers something fascinating and very rewarding instructive too. There is absolutely no warmth in the second Nachtmusik and this might bother some, but I think it's well in keeping with the rest of his

performance and pays great dividends. No question from Rosbaud that this is a 20th Century work through and through. Also, as with Horenstein and Rattle, Rosbaud's more "hands-off" approach in the fourth movement prepares the ground for the finale. This strains the orchestra a little but sheer virtuosity for virtuosity's sake could not be further from the mind of Hans Rosbaud. In the last analysis I believe this is an essential recording for the Mahler enthusiast interested in seeing a full profile of possible approaches to this work from different periods. The mono sound is rather limited and yet its sheer starkness only adds to the virtues of the performance and I think the engineers have made a superb job of the transfer. Consider this recording very seriously. It will reveal itself over time and serve you well as a fascinating alternative. Much better in terms of sound and playing and very much within the same contemporary tradition as Rosbaud is Michael Gielen on Intercord (860.924) [Now re-released and more readily available]. Gielen conducts Rosbaud's old orchestra, albeit in 1993, and is recorded appropriately in The Hans Rosbaud Studio in Baden-Baden. So what better pedigree could there be than that ? So well played and recorded is this version that I believe it must be considered in the front rank of recordings available, making the fact that it's quite hard to find rather a pity. In the opening of the first movement notice how clearly Gielen articulates the strings at the start, each individual note clear, and the care he gives those various gradations of tempo. This is as good as it gets. The whole of the exposition is remarkable for its superb balance between space and movement with the clearest presentation of the myriad parts. Then in the glorious development Gielen's astringency allows for a wonderful sense of repose and space, grandeur too, all of which contrasts well with the latter part of the movement where the return of the march finds Gielen pressing forward. His place among those conductors who bring a more contemporary approach to this work, as defined above, finds particular expression in the second movement where all the sounds which were new to Mahler's music are given vivid expression. This Gielen version, both here and elsewhere, really can be looked on as a lexicon of this work's sounds - notice the woodwind trills, for example, and also the splendid rasp of the muted horn. Tension creeps in at times and this is more of a night piece under Gielen than it is with others. He is also alive to the idea of seeing passages of this work as near chamber music, revelling in the unusual instrumental combinations. The Scherzo exploits the spooky effects in the score giving a great sense of disjunction than is often the case. Very similar to Rosbaud again here. Gielen's second Nachtmusik is tense but he manages a degree more warmth with

mandolin and guitar to the fore than Rosbaud does and some remarkable string slides and horn rasps. Does Gielen crown this recording with a great last movement ? His delivery of it certainly doesn't have quite the inevitability of Horenstein but he's close. He doesn't have Bernstein's virtuoso abandon either, but makes up for a great deal with a very wide-eyed and superbly toned performance. But if we are to find the best, the most remarkable, performance from that list of conductors whose 20th century credentials mark them out it's to Hermann Scherchen we must turn to experience something which is, I believe, absolutely unique. I have known Hermann Scherchen's 1953 Vienna Symphony Orchestra recording of the Seventh, now on Millennium Classics (MCD 80082), longer than any other. I used to borrow the Westminster LPs from the local library in the 1960s before I got my hands on Bernstein's. It's an interesting recording with some fine, though not always secure, playing conducted by one of the great conductors of the 20th century who played in the viola section in the work's first performance in Berlin under Oskar Fried. Were it the only recording of the work by Scherchen I would recommend it to you as an interesting addition to the discography by one of the great pioneers of 20th century music and Mahlerian interpretation. One that also seems to show him on his "best behaviour" which, when you consider the positive gains to be had from Scherchen sometimes taking a less familiar path, is something of a disappointment. But this isn't the only recording of the work by him that we have in front of us. There is another, recorded in 1965 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Music and Arts (CD-695), that insists itself into any profile of this remarkable work in spite of a second rate orchestra with second rate transcription disc sound to go with it.

As I indicated at the start I have usually viewed this work in one particular way. Hearing the Toronto recording by Scherchen didn't make me change my mind so much as illustrated another view I have come across but have been doubtful about. Maybe in time I will come to accept this as definitive. More likely, like in all great art, there are various ways of making sense of what a creator is saying. What I think this Toronto recording does, far more than any other, is fix the work firmly in the 20th Century rather than the turn of the 19th. Not for Scherchen the idea of Mahler "in holiday mood" or "off duty" following the rigours of the Sixth. What we have is the Seventh seeming to carry on from where the Sixth left off. Where tensions that were about to overwhelm the wider world, almost certainly suggested by Mahler in the Sixth, can be found in this work too. Overall, Scherchen's tempi in Toronto are quicker than they were in Vienna: nine minutes, and that's a lot. The tempo relationships, however, seem just as carefully managed but the effect is more challenging with less opportunity to linger and admire the view. This has a twofold effect. First, there is even more of a symphonic "line" through the work which knits together the disparate elements in a more rigorous fashion, stresses structural integrity and adds to the analytical quality whilst still providing coherence to hold Scherchen's undoubted waywardness in check. Second, the passages meant to be taken quicker, like the Allegro of the first movement, have a more dissonant air, an astringency that stresses harder edges to the sonorities. This is not the comfortable ride the Seventh can sometimes be and there's no better illustration of this than in how Scherchen takes the first movement. Even in the translucent passages, where Mahler's extraordinary liquid counterpoint caresses the ear, Scherchen seems by his challenging tempi, his directness, his willingness to accentuate the grotesque and the ugly in the intervening sections, to be stressing their ultimate fragility. I feel he shows them to us only in order to snatch them away and for us to feel their loss. They become "islands of promise" within "the march of change" that, at the end of the whole symphony, takes them away in the most awful way imaginable, in the way catastrophe overwhelmed Europe not many years after Mahler's death, in fact, and in the way music coming from that time mirrored these changes. March rhythms are to the fore in the second movement under Scherchen. Those that are unique to the movement but also Mahler's self-quotation of the rhythm from that most militaristic of the Wunderhorn songs, Revelge, is made the most of too. (As also is a reminiscence of the "people's march" from the first movement of the Third Symphony.) The tempo is kept well up so, when the opening horn figures return after the first Trio, the link is seamless. Into

this march-influenced night music (as if the march rhythms of the first movement have not been shaken off and so accentuate the modernist complexes of this work again) there is another aspect of night I had only been dimly aware of but which Scherchen brings out superbly - a whiff of 1920s Berlin cabaret: sleazy and sick but very compelling. As I have said before, I usually view the Scherzo as a stylised nightmare, what a clever composer is telling us a nightmare should be like. Somehow Scherchen makes a case that Mahler was serious and that this isn't a piece of artifice but the real thing. The tempo encourages a tense and nervy impression with the grotesques to the fore and with no lyricism in the, usually nostalgic, Trios. A pity Scherchen doesn't observe the famous explosive snap pizzicato, though. Always the man to do the unexpected, he observes it in his Vienna recording where things are much more comfortable. Under Scherchen I was reminded that this movement occupies the same place in the Seventh that the Purgatorio does in the Tenth. In the fourth movement an edge is added by the prominence Scherchen gives to the mandolin and guitar where they sour this music even more than we are used to and stress the darker side again. It is also very much chamber music in texture, but this is a very cloying, sick society being depicted. Marches, sleazy cabaret, the workers on the rise, dissonance, decadent sounds from a sick society, sudden change, the mutability of the beguiling, all seen through the perspective of night is what we have had so far from Scherchen. A sick society on the verge of destruction ? That sickness the symptom of the malaise ? Night and the return of day as metaphor for something ? For Scherchen the answer comes in the last movement. I usually think of the last movement as a celebration, plain and simple. Night is over, day has come, we need fear no more because what can hurt us in daylight ? I still find this a valid way of looking at the movement, but I see it can depend on how it's interpreted and, more particularly, how that interpretation fits with the rest of the work and the way that has been interpreted. The whole of Scherchen's Toronto performance is unusually coherent so his view of the last movement is that much more shattering in its effect. Whatever one's view of the work, as I said before, the last movement must seem to come naturally out of the others rather than be something tacked on to it. An unambiguously joyful interpretation of the last movement works if the other four have been played in a more relaxed, romantic way. But Scherchen doesn't play them like that so what is his solution ? It's to take the side of those who see the last movement as a parody of what I have just said and this fits with what has gone before

admirably. Day has dawned, night is over, but that isn't the end of our problems, it's only the beginning. There seems to be manic desperation injected into the music now and this is the paramount engine for what is conveyed. Each time the opening comes round again, each time the cymbals start crashing out, each time a dance is unleashed, Scherchen seems to inject more and yet more desperation so that, by the end, you want it all to stop. The best analogy I can think of are those infamous dance marathons from the 1930s. In those "events" what should be a joyous and enjoyable thing is corrupted into torture. That's the feeling I have with Scherchen. All these fanfares and dances, the cymbals and popular songs, the operetta allusions, the pageantry, should make us smile and be happy. Instead we are being ORDERED to be happy. It's an empty vessel Mahler is offering us in his new day as interpreted by Scherchen. I mentioned how in the first movement under Scherchen the "islands of promise" get swept away by "the march of change" and how this, for me, stresses this symphony as a 20th century work prefiguring the massive changes that would come to civilisation in 1914 and knock it down. The last movement in this recording links back to that idea and becomes the coup de grace. There are no "islands of promise" in this last movement under Scherchen, it's all "the march of change". But now the march has itself been changed and swept into a parody of a party, a grimacing dance marathon at the end of which is only disaster, made more terrifying because it's disaster with a smile on its face. It has been said that up to 1914 Europe danced its way to Armageddon. In Mahler's Seventh, as conducted by Scherchen in Toronto, I think in the last movement he takes us on to the dance floor and dances us to death. Selected Recordings Leonard Bernstein New York Philharmonic Sony SMK 60564 Crotchet Amazon UK Michael Tilson Thomas London Symphony Orchestra on RCA 09026 63510 2 Crotchet Claudio Abbado Chicago Symphony Orchestra DG 445 513 2 Amazon UK Crotchet Sir Simon Rattle City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra EMI CDC 7 54344 2 Crotchet Amazon UK Jascha Horenstein New Philharmonia Orchestra Music and Arts CD-4727, ( and Descant 02 available from Berkshire Record Outlets) Michael Halsz Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Naxos 8.550531 Amazon UK Crotchet

Bernard Haitink Concertgebouw Orchestra Philips "Dutch Masters" 4629462 Hans Rosbaud Symphony Orchestra of South West German Radio Wergo WER 64062 Crotchet Amazon UK Michael Gielen Symphony Orchestra of South West German Radio Intercord 860.924 Amazon US Hermann Scherchen Vienna Symphony Orchestra Millennium Classics MCD 80082 Hermann Scherchen Toronto Symphony Orchestra Music and Arts CD695 See subsequent review Symphony No.7 in E minor Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrcken Conducted by Hans Zender CPO 999 478-2 [78.40] The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Symphony No.8 In the Summer of 1906 Mahler was troubled by thoughts of failing powers. He decided to rest but on the first day of his holiday, whilst walking down to his composing hut , "On the threshold of my old workshop, the Spiritus Creator took hold of me and shook me and drove me on for the next eight weeks until my greatest work was done." This was the Eighth Symphony. Though ideas must have been germinating for longer, the actual composition took him about six weeks. At its legendary Munich premier, which didn't take place until four years later in 1910, the Eighth proved to be the triumph of his life. This was the most immediately accepted of all Mahler's works and, as he himself predicted to Willem Mengelberg, also the most easily understandable. Though even he may have underestimated the depths of meaning the work carries. Today many people have problems with the Eighth. For some who enjoy everything else Mahler wrote, the Eighth is a "symphony too far". More used to Mahler's other works, some of today's listeners perhaps find its directness puzzling. It does seem to defy its place in Mahler's output, a feeling the audience of 1910, much less used to Mahler's other works, would not have had. If we're going to come to terms with it we should start by seeing it as the culmination of a particular genre in his output that began with "Das Klagende Lied" and continued in the later parts of the Second and Third Symphonies.

Here he diverges radically from even his idea of basic symphonic scheme and we must see this strand of his work as representative of a specific "anthology technique" in which dramatic cantata, orchestral song, opera, passion and sacred oratorio become gathered together under the broadest of umbrellas. Also, since this is Mahler, that trait in his work of "significant recall" from his own works must also become part of the technique of which the Eighth is culmination. It's scored for huge a orchestra (including quadruple winds with eight horns, as well as mandolin and harmonium), off-stage brass of four trumpets and three trombones, eight soloists, a double choir, a boys choir and concert organ. In fact, at its first performance, the impresario who mounted Mahler's "Barnum and Bailey" work (Mahler's epithet) advertised it as "The Symphony of A Thousand" owing to the fact that one thousand performers took part. Do note, however, that Mahler himself never sanctioned the title you often see on record covers and concert programmes. The Eighth is at base a statement of Mahler's personal aspirations: a belief in the ability of the inspired spirit to lift mankind to the highest plain of achievement through Love in all its aspects and embodied specifically in "The Eternal Feminine" which, for Mahler, meant his wife Alma to whom the work is dedicated. Within that scheme there are a whole cluster of other interconnecting ideas to do with faith, belief and theology which find resonance in the texts chosen and the way they compare and contrast. Any serious study of this work must therefore also include a close examination of these. Part I is a tight symphonic setting of the Latin Hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus". Part II a more rhapsodic setting of the final part of Goethe's "Faust". These two texts fuse religion and humanism together, with Faust symbolising mankind redeemed from wrongdoing through Love. In that sense Part II answers Part I both philosophically and also musically since there are thematic links to be found. The Eighth is also Mahler in "public mode" in the same way as Britten in the War Requiem. As such, the Eighth is also like the Second in that it benefits from being heard "live" or in "live" recordings and this has certainly been my experience in listening to so many versions for this survey. When recordings of Mahler's symphonies were still a novelty, those of the Eighth were the rarest of all. With its vast forces it was too big and expensive to record in the studio, so the faithful had to rely on a handful of recordings taken from "live" performances. The earliest commercial recording generally available came from a performance at Ahoy Hall in Rotterdam for the Holland Festival of 1955. It was conducted by a Mahler pioneer, Eduard Flipse, who came from the Dutch Mahler tradition. This recording was much beloved of a

previous generation of Mahlerites (not least for the unforgettable sound of the boys choruses - like a parliament of street urchins straight out of Fagin's kitchen) since it was, for some time, the only recording you could get and still has much to tell us. I am pleased to say that it has now been reissued in a coupling with the world premier recording of the second Deryck Cooke version of the Tenth Symphony conducted by Wyn Morris. Scribendum (SC010) Let me also draw your attention to a recording contained in the expensive multi-disc box released by the New York Philharmonic entitled "The Mahler Broadcasts". To represent the Eighth a 1950 account from Carnegie Hall conducted by Leopold Stokowski, who had conducted the work's American premier in 1916, was chosen. I think this glowing performance can claim to be the earliest commercially available recording of all since a "pirate" version on two five-inch "floppy" gramophone discs was in circulation soon after. It can be heard singly in a slightly inferior transfer on Music and Arts, but the "Mahler Broadcast" box version is so superior in sound it demands separate release. I must also mention a recording of a performance from the year after Stokowski's, this time from Vienna, where the conductor of the massed forces of the Vienna Festival of 1951 is that great characterHermann Scherchen. This was never released at the time and lay in an archive until the late 1980s so doesn't fit into the recording history like the others, but its place in the performing history must be secure. However, it's one for the connoisseurs since the recorded sound is difficult, the performance eccentric (as ever from this conductor), and the performance is laced with fluffs. For students of Mahler performing history, though, and for admirers of Scherchen, it should be snapped up, especially since it manages to sit on one CD even though the running time exceeds eighty minutes. These three recordings take us back to a past era and a time when Mahler's music was still a novelty for many, but also to a time when performing practices still carried with them an echo of what they must have sounded like under the composer at that glittering, celebrity-littered Munich premier in the Summer of 1910. Surely one of the first "last hurrahs" of pre World War One Europe. In early 1959 Londoners were treated to a performance of the Eighth at the Royal Albert Hall that went into legend. This was conducted by Jascha Horenstein, featured the London Symphony Orchestra, most of the choirs in

London, and was mounted by the BBC. It's been said that this was the event, the remarkable background to which is related in the liner notes, that began the Mahler boom in Britain. There's plenty of atmosphere conveyed by the recording, now at last officially and splendidly restored on BBC Legends (BBCL 4001-7), with a general sound picture with no distortion that allows for a surprising amount of hall acoustic and the feeling you have a good seat back in the hall. Only one stereo microphone was used high in the roof so, though there is a feeling of stereo spread, there is little in the way of precise directional characteristics except in the off-stage brass which appear to come from high up and to the extreme right. I find the balance near ideal for this work. The impression of "going for it" is apparent right through the performance. The orchestra is inspired and the choirs sing their hearts out. In Part I Horenstein is broader than Bernstein seven years later with many of the same musicians but his choice of tempo is balanced within his philosophy of what it is to conduct a work like this. One of Horenstein's most striking fingerprints was an ability to pick one overall tempo to suit an entire piece which also allows for the right degree of expression in those parts that need them. As if he has the span in his head before it starts. For me his less "impetuous" account of Part I creates a unique excitement and power because it's built inexorably as the piece progresses. A tidal wave by the end that stays in the mind because it starts from the depths and is only varied to extents within the tolerance of the whole. A big test is midway through Part I at bar 262, "Accende lumen sensibus". It's clear from what few notes Mahler left that this huge central section is of crucial importance to the entire work. The arrival of the chorus is ushered in by the horns "bells up" and roaring out one of the crucial opening ideas. First, this creates a theatrical entry for the choir's shout of "Ah.....CENde". Second, this theme on horns will recur through the whole symphony and therefore form a link between "Veni Creator" and "Accende lumen" in Part I as principal engine for Aspiration. Then, later, in its appearances in Part II, for Redemption and so linking the two Parts of the work. Therefore the arrival and execution of "Accende lumen sensibus" must be one of the highlights of the work and under Horenstein it certainly is. With his choice of overall tempo he doesn't need to slam on the breaks for the preparatory horns as there is by then enough forward momentum built up to lift the chorus and push it forwards. Mahler then helps soon after. Notice how at the second statement of "Accende lumen sensibus" Mahler leaves out any reprise of the horn introduction and the result is an inner dynamic built into the music that pitches us forward with no need for extra emphasis by the conductor. All Horenstein has to do is hang on to his established tempo and he inherits what Mahler has given him. It makes this moment even more telling

because the power comes out of the music and isn't imposed upon it. When the chorus finally unwinds to land on the recapitulation of "Veni creator spiritus" at figure 63 there's still no need for Horenstein to slow down and conductors like Bernstein and Tennstedt do. He has managed to give us grandeur and excitement and allowed each crucial theme to have its effect. The arrival of the recapitulation has an inevitability rather than a sense of shock which Mahler surely intended it to have. I must also say the volume of sound this recording produces at this moment is overwhelming. Often the coda is spoiled by the conductor increasing his tempo and rushing the end with the result you lose the sense of all the themes being gathered together. This is not the case here. Horenstein sees the orchestral prelude to Part II not as a "slow movement" but a Prelude to the "drama of the mind" to follow. I'm sure this influenced his choice of tempi, quicker than some, and the sheer passion he invests the more animated sections of this music. There is tremendous yearning here too, especially from the horns, when the music bursts out of its inner ruminations. I also like the way the woodwind cut through the texture when the chorus enter like malevolent birds squatted in trees overlooking the wild landscape where Goethe's drama is played out. When the score calls for it the recording allows too for the most whispered of pianissimo which contrasts wonderfully with the massive sound of Part I which is still in our minds. At bar 219 Pater Ecstaticus begins the first solo, singing of the power in the rapture that Love, the ultimate determinant in Faust's redemption, brings. I felt with Horenstein a sense that we had moved from one mood to another, confirming his awareness of the anthology technique Mahler is employing: from sacred to secular in one bound. Alfred Orda is backwardly placed but he sings with the passion Mahler asks for and underlies that this is Mahler in public style. Mahler let slip a remark to Richard Specht that he regarded the Eighth as "a gift to the whole Nation". So is it any surprise that sometimes such immediately accessible techniques are employed ? At 266, Pater Profundus is next up. He describes the scene of rocks, woods, forests and the elements that play around them. Horenstein and his soloist Arnold Van Mill rightly see this as a tiny symphonic poem with voice, even more Wunderhorn-like. Note too the use of trombones to indicate primal nature, acknowledged by Horenstein as a recall of the same instrument's place in the Third and Seventh Symphonies. The entry of the Angels carrying the immortal part of Faust, and also the Blessed Boys who seem to worship the miracle of immortal survival, is another natural development under Horenstein and so are the apparently different sounds he manages to invest into each of the children's choirs. The feeling is that they're

coming from high up and way back, yet every word can be made out. The special attention Horenstein brings to the children shows me that he is aware of their importance in the scheme of the work. Where the Blessed Boys sing: Freudig empfangen wir Diesen in Puppenstand: (Joyfully we welcome him in his chrysalis state) there are clear links to be made from this cluster of ideas to the Third Symphony's fifth movement with the children singing of Morning Bells, and to the Fourth Symphony's last movement of the child's view of heaven. There is a whole network of ideas buried within this remarkable passage that tells us so much of what Mahler is trying to do in this work. Far too many to go into here but which demand closer attention. At bar 639, Doctor Marianus's praise of Mater Gloriosa (the Eternal Feminine who represents the Love by which Faust will be redeemed) is the "Prize Song" of the work and is suitably enraptured, holding no fears for Kenneth Neate. And what a build-up he gives Mater Gloriosa. Note the wonderful string accompaniment. Anyone who thinks Horenstein a "sober" conductor should listen to this as Mater Gloriosa's arrival at bar 758 can too often sound sugary. The sound Mahler asks for - strings with harmonium and harp - is unique and saved from bathos by Horenstein's simple and direct treatment of it. "Very flowing, almost hurried. Like a whisper" is Mahler's marking for the trio of three women in deep sin and Horenstein observes this impressively. In fact, I was reminded of the Three Boys in The Magic Flute and this passage shows Horenstein's light touch, carried forward to the entry of the mandolin at bar 1093 and the song of The Penitent (Gretchen) where Horenstein gets his player to point the rhythm beautifully. There is a dance-like quality to many these passages, in fact. I recall an interview with Horenstein when he spoke of hearing as a young man "Das Lied Von der Erde" for the first time and being more fascinated by the presence of a mandolin on the platform than of anything else that he heard that night. By the arrival of "Blicket Auf" at bar 1277 (Kenneth Neate again magnificent) I feel I'm in the hall with these players, feeling with them the strain of presenting this extraordinary work in what must have been a test of endurance. The balancing of the parts in the remarkable section leading to the slow transition with harmonium, celeste, piano and harps to usher in the Chorus

Mysticus is masterly. By now it's almost as if the performance has moved into an even higher sphere. So to the Chorus Mysticus and we are almost home. In the course of this chorus, and the work's postlude, Mahler ties together the "Accende Lumen", "Veni Creator" and "Mater Gloriosa" themes to signify journey's end and so does Horenstein. But to say he does only that is to sell the Chorus Mysticus in this recording short. The astonishing crescendo of the final chorus, as conducted by Horenstein, from whispered quiet at the beginning to astounding mass at the close, has always been the greatest glory of this performance, apparent even on the inferior versions we had to put up with in the past. The way he holds on to his very slow tempo, building inexorably as the music rises, is beyond belief. When the final orchestral postlude arrives, with the "Veni Creator" theme from the first part exultant, the power is almost visceral and the recording copes with everything without strain: cymbals, tam-tam, organ and off-stage brass raining down on us. The eruption of cheering as soon as the work ends signifies a whole lot more than just the end of a concert. Here was an experience which I'm sure everyone present would not have missed living through and it's one which I earnestly advise all of you not to miss either. Dimitri Mitropoulos was a Mahler pioneer too. He gave the first American performance of the Sixth Symphony as late as 1947, shared the centenary cycle in New York with Bernstein and Walter, and left a string of radio archive recordings across the world that are only now receiving official release. The "live" Salzburg Festival version from 1960 sat with the Flipse for some years as all Mahlerites could get of the Eighth to take home on LP. Now it's available officially on Orfeo (C 519 992 B). Mitropoulos's Mahler was expressive, dramatic and based on a formidable knowledge of the scores. It was also always heard best in the concert hall, as we found with his magnificent Sixth Symphony from New York. There are downsides. Imperfections in playing have to be tolerated and, as in the case of all those pioneering recordings of the Eighth, deficiencies in sound too. But these are sacrifices I'm willing to accept insofar as they don't stand in the way of quality music making. But be warned, this mono recording may try the patience of those for whom perfection of sound is a necessity. Everything is clear but there is some distortion at certain higher frequencies and a slight "fizz" on the violins. There are also one or two odd balances and an uncredited

appearance by an aeroplane over the Felsenreitschule during the soft chorus passage at the start of Part II. The puny organ you hear first is not a promising start either. Neither is Mitropoulos's chosen tempo, some way from the "Allegro Impetuoso" Mahler asks for. The whole approach through the setting of "Veni Creator Spiritus" is to grandeur and solidity. An approach Horenstein triumphantly justified by driving on a touch more and Mitropoulos's performance illustrates what can be lost if some heavy-footedness is allowed to drag proceedings back. One benefit is that passages like the short orchestral interlude prior to "Infirma nostri corporis" emerge with good detailing and those where the soloists are singing together also allow us to hear every vocal line. At the key passage midway through Part I, "Accende lumin sensibus", Mahler's instruction to the horns to lift their bells for the great blast heralding the choir's double fugue indicates a thrilling of the blood in the score, but there are performances that do that more than Mitropoulos's. However, as the double fugue progresses, a sense of cumulative momentum is built up. The chorus is not as large as it might be but these are excellent singers. By the arrival of the closing passage Mitropoulos's steadiness has so much become the norm I at least had become adjusted and found the coda as thrilling as ever, even though the timpani thumping out one of the movement's main themes were a trifle stodgy. Good to hear Mitropoulos doesn't rush the ending either, hanging on to the juggernaut until the final note. Not a great reading of Part I, but a distinguished one for all that. If I had reservations in Part I these are made up for by the performance of Part II which alone justifies this release's importance. Here Mitropoulos's ability to bend with the music delivers a deeply moving experience, a contrast to the first part which may be what Mitropoulos was aiming for. The "Poco adagio" is warm and expressive with passionate outbursts at key moments crowned by the horns of the Vienna Philharmonic which will be such a feature. Then, as each soloist appears, the impressive quality of all of them is confirmed. Hermann Prey as Pater Ecstaticus is lyrical and reflective, Otto Edelmann as Pater Profundus overcomes intonation problems to emerge tough, powerful and commanding, and Giuseppe Zampieri's heroic tenor flies above his two key contributions with heart-stopping emotion even at the tempo Mitropoulos demands for Doctor Marianus's praise of the Queen of Heaven. This passage is superbly prepared for by the choruses who give the impression of coming from higher spheres. The heralded appearance of the Mater Gloriosa is serenaded by the strings of Vienna Philharmonic with phrasing which only they could produce - portamenti like a great singer would deliver. "Blicket Auf" penetrates to the core of Mahler's setting of "Faust" sending shivers

down the spine as the end is in sight. As so often in this performance of Part II, there's no hint of episodic structure. The women soloists are no less impressive and I was particularly taken with the trio at "Die du grosen Sunderinnen" where Mitropoulos's reining back of the tempo and the forward balance of the soprano and two contraltos allows us to hear every vocal line. The closing pages of the maintain the long line Mitropoulos established as far back as Part I and in some ways justify by balancing his steady approach there. The sheer power built up carries all before it, crowning this great performance with a rare feeling of joy and release. Leonard Bernstein's first recording is now on Sony (SM2K61837) could be said to be the first of the "modern era" Mahler Eighths on record. It was studio-made at Walthamstow Town Hall in London following two fraught "live" performances at the Royal Albert Hall during 1966. The LSO are the orchestra, along with a host of British choirs, professional and amateur. Firstly it has to be said that the sound is showing its age. It was never "demonstration" in the first place and, with the huge forces involved, a certain standard of sound is needed. There's a tendency here, especially in the thicklyscored sections, for the sound to become pinched and distorted. A really great performance can override these but Bernstein's is some way short of that. He is ever the "edge-of-the-seat" but expressive and subjective Mahlerian in this work and he seems to be trying to recapture in the studio the excitement and drama of the "live" experience. I praise him for that even though I find the results variable. What he does in Part I is take the music by the scruff of its neck and shake it rigorously. The opening is marked "Allegro impetuoso" and Bernstein certainly manages to give that impression, but his subsequent changes of tempi, certainly allowed for in the score, always come over too extreme so this is a "stop-go" affair where the joins show. The first passage for soloists, "Imple superna gratia" is too slow, as is the early short orchestral passage. This feeling persists right the way through Part I and, for me, seriously gets in the way of the developing drama, spoiling momentum that must be built up as the piece progresses. The great central double fugue, beginning with the choral shout at "Accende lumen sensibius", is too rushed for us to hear everything clearly. Also the choruses aren't given enough opportunity to get all the words across which, with this recorded balance, is never going to be easy anyway. The visceral power this passage has needs more than just a high speed to make its effect. In fact, "hysterical" is more the word that comes to mind in Bernstein's superficially exciting, but ultimately unsatisfying, account. The reprise of the opening "Veni creator spiritus" certainly needs to be broadened, as Bernstein does, but the effect is just

bombastic and crude. Not the grandeur this passage can deliver, and the close of the movement, like the central double fugue, is simply rushed. The more episodic Part II suits Bernstein's general approach much better. In fact, there's something of the operatic to the way Bernstein interprets Mahler's setting of Goethe's Faust Part II. The orchestral Prelude finds the LSO on fine form, though there are times where I find Bernstein's warmth innocuous in music meant to depict "Mountainous ravines, forest, great crags and wilderness." But he certainly finds the drama in it. The first choral entry of the Anchorites has the right degree of raptness, however, especially at the end prior to the entry of Pater Ecstaticus and Pater Profundis, whose contributions are urgent. That is until Pater Profundis describes the storms where Bernstein pushes too much. There's a fine team of soloists on this recording, though I feel the women sound too much alike, especially unfortunate in the long passage where three of them sing together. The choruses have their sticky moments, though. Not least the Angels at "Gerettet is das edle Glied", where some more rehearsal or a retake might have helped with ensemble. Bernstein tries for "lift" here, but the chorus don't seem quite ready for take-off. Doctor Marianus is John Mitchinson and he's the best of the singers. His great entry praising the Queen of Heaven at "Hochste Herrscherin der Welt" is prepared for by some very child-like voices in the choir but I don't believe Bernstein does any more than skate over the surface of this crucial passage leading me to wonder how far he had delved into the words his singers are given. But no complaints at Mitchinson's central role in this section where he brings every ounce of his experience and is very moving - as he is also later in his other great solo "Blicket auf", parts of which he even manages to darken. A pity Bernstein again rushes at the end when the chorus joins. The arrival of the Mater Gloriosa, the lovely passage for strings, harp and harmonium, finds Bernstein at his most syrupy. How to play this passage must tax the minds of the best conductors. Bernstein's solution is at least unashamedly romantic, Mascagni-like, and does stay in the mind. He closes Part II with a performance of the "Chorus Mysticus" and subsequent peroration and coda that sums up his approach overall well. The recording lets him down in that the sheer volume of sound threatens to overload, but Bernstein maintains a fine sharpness of focus which only wants for the kind of inner grandeur missing from his account of the end of Part I. Bernstein's recording is a good example of the inspirational, "on the wing", "moment-to-moment" approach that can be made in this work. Parts of it come off, parts of it don't, and you can certainly cherish it for the former if you can overlook the latter. However,

I think something more consistent right through will satisfy over the longer period. This is, after all, what we buy recordings for. Another recording straight off the shelf marked "Visionary" (sub section "Interventionist") is by Klaus Tennstedt teamed with London Philharmonic forces. Aspects of Tennstedt's overall approach mirror Bernstein's and his studio recording on EMI sometimes comes out top in recommendations. However, the Tennstedt recording is ruled out for me because of what I consider a fatal flaw: the size of the chorus. Mahler specifies doublechorus and all other evidence, not least the first performance, suggests as many singers as possible should be involved, something most recordings take as given. Why then is Tennstedt's studio recording made with what is obviously a single choir, namely the London Philharmonic ? They sing well, but that isn't the point. There needs to be more of them to convey what Mahler wanted. More regrettably I have to exclude Giuseppe Sinopoli's studio recording on DG with Philharmonia forces for much the same reason. I regret this much more because Sinopoli's reading is a fine one: passionate and thrusting but without the fierceness that, for me, disfigures much of Solti's version dealt with below. Again only a single choir is used by Sinopoli and the effect is almost the same as with Tennstedt. In both cases, and especially with Sinopoli, the engineers try to minimise the lack of personnel by recessing the choir to make them seem bigger. The effect of this is to make the words they sing much less audible. In Sinopoli's recording, for example, the first "Ah" on "Accende lumen sensibus" during Part I is hardly audible. (If you really want to hear how this thrilling entry ought to sound, go back to the old Flipse recording which probably has more choristers than any other.) I feel strongly about the size of the choruses and the question I would ask those responsible for the Tennstedt especially is: Would it have occurred to you to record Mahler's Second Symphony with half the normal-sized choir ? Because recording the Eighth with the same sized choir as the Second is effectively to treat Mahler's wishes with the same apparent contempt. The reply might be that in the studio things are different. My reply would be that other studio recordings manage to reproduce the requisite size of choir with distinction. One of these is my next consideration, one of the most famous recordings of the work in the catalogue. Sir Georg Solti's 1971 recording on Decca has been a market leader since it first appeared. It is now available in Decca's latest "Legends" re-

mastering (4609722). For many this has always been the version to have, regularly topping the list of recommendations. It was recorded in the Sofiensaal in Vienna but the orchestra is the Chicago Symphony who were then on European tour and the sessions were crammed into what must have been a tight schedule. You would never know it from the excellence of the results, though you might argue the character of the performance might have been influenced by the need to get in and get on with things. But then again there is so much here that chimes in with the rest of Solti's Mahler. I've never been a particular admirer of him in this composer. But, in spite of the reservations I'm going to spell out, I reckon this his most successful Mahler recording. He delivers all the thrust and "impetuoso" you could possibly want from the first note on. Indeed, he delivers both right through Part I even when I don't think he should. There are passages where he relaxes a little, the early "Imple superna gratia" for example, but generally the undercurrent is to press onwards. The soloists are well balanced and it will very soon emerge that this recording boasts what I believe the best team of all. The choruses are excellent too, as can be heard in "Infirma nostri" which is matched by a real sense of tension and foreboding from Solti. The playing of the orchestra in the short orchestral passage before this choral passage also tells us we are in for a treat in that department, but I will come to have serious misgivings about the appropriateness of the orchestral timbre the Chicago orchestra offers overall. Right the way through, in spite of their matchless virtuosity and thrilling drive, there is a hard-edged quality to the brass and strings I find all too wrong in Mahler and which, for me, always disfigured Solti's recordings with them. In the Bernstein recording I found the great central double fugue at "Accende lumen sensibus" too fast. Solti is no slouch here either, but such is the excellence of his orchestra and choruses he pulls off this passage at this speed with distinction. This is a roller-coaster ride that will leave you breathless. Grandeur to be heard in Horenstein and Abbado in this passage is largely lost, but at least Solti takes a specific view and succeeds. As he does also in the close of Part I where the dynamism, a word that sums up Solti's whole approach to this symphony, rounds off an experience no lover of this work ought to miss, even though I'm still left, as I will be at the end of the whole work under Solti, feeling short-changed. But more of that later. The orchestra plays the prelude to Part II wonderfully. Though I remain in my belief that their sharp sound is more suited to Bartok than Mahler, brass especially. No doubting its technical brilliance, but the Vienna Philharmonic

should have been sitting where they were. I did like the way the whispered choral passage that steals in afterwards comes over so seamless and in such fine balance, though. An example, I suppose, of where studio recording can score over "live" recording. Especially when, as here, no attempt is made to replicate concert hall balance. I mentioned before how I believe this recording boasts the best solo team. Pater Ecstaticus is John Shirley-Quirk whose perfect enunciation and rapture are a pure joy. Pater Profundis is Martti Talvela who vividly paints the landscapes with Solti in splendid support, the orchestra recalling the first movement of the Third Symphony through vivid bass shudders and penetrating woodwind trills. (High voltage stuff at "Oh Gott ! beschwichtige die Gedanken".) Doctor Marianus, the work's star part, boasts Rene Kollo on top form, especially in "Blicket auf" which is a burst of pure ecstasy at what is to come. The women are no less fine and so sad to recall that three of them Helen Watts, Lucia Popp and Arleen Auger - are no longer with us. Listen to Heather Harper's top line at "Gloria patri Domini" in Part I for a moment of pure magic. The closing pages see the brass of the Chicago Symphony towering as always. In later performances I have heard Solti give of this symphony he drove the end far too much. But hear he's more alive to the grandeur of Mahler's vision and it sums up his whole approach well - dynamic, extravagant, technically rock solid. I did mention earlier about feeling "short changed" at the end. I don't refer to the performance itself, quite the opposite. It's the nature of the performance as described that always stays in my mind, so that what I miss is any lasting impression of the music of Gustav Mahler as represented in this symphony. Claudio Abbado's DG recording (445 843-2) was made "live" with the Berlin Philharmonic but, I suspect, contains some "patching" to cope with performance fluffs and any audience problems. Nevertheless, there's much about the finished result that gives the feel of a concert performance. In many ways Abbado is the opposite of Solti. Part I opens with a welcome broadness and a sense of epic reach without the Allegro momentum being impeded in any way.

A real middle course between Solti's dynamic charge and Mitropoulos's stately procession. Another aspect, noticeable even in the first few pages, is how clear and revealing the sound picture is with every strand audible but all in excellent perspective and allowing us to benefit from Abbado's stunning ear for detail. There is an especially nice balance for "Infirma nostri" where the orchestra with solo violin finds a strange, darker tinge to the music that is arresting. And have you ever heard such a low bell as this one ? The BPO percussionist must have hunted high and low (very !) for this one. I also admire the way, right through Part I, Abbado seems ready to explore other more reflective and lyrical aspects. But don't think for one moment Abbado doesn't deliver power and drive. "Accende lumen sensibus" and the closing pages satisfy completely and in the way they don't under Solti. The chorus is just large enough and they are balanced better than in the Sinopoli so they suffice. Here it's the music that stays in your mind rather than the performance and the Berlin Philharmonic can match the Chicago Symphony's power with a more substantial, idiomatic sound. Abbado's choirs are every bit as welldrilled and responsive as Solti's also. At the end of Part I, Abbado broadens slightly, again every strand clear and the extra brass are thrilling. The organ might be more in the background than some at this point but it's a small gripe. In the orchestral prelude to Part II there's the most withdrawn and "inner" playing at the very start than any I have heard. Later in this section, Abbado gets playing of wonderful depth from his players without for one moment forgetting what is being described in the music is a very unforgiving landscape into which the whispered Anchorites merge perfectly with the excellent balance. Distinguished among the choirs are the boys from whom we hear every word and notice also Abbado's ability to suggest a real playfulness in the passages with bells that lie at the heart of this work The soloists may not be as fine as Solti's, but they are a good and pleasing group all the same. Cheryl Studer is no match for Lucia Popp as Penitent, but who is ? But Bryn Terfel is in fine voice as Pater Ecstaticus and while Peter Seiffert has a slightly lighter voice than Rene Kollo, his Doctor Marianus is still memorable and moving. "Jungfrau, rein in schonsten Sinne", praising the Mater Gloriosa, is exalted with some lovely solo violin work accompanying and the women's choir coming as if from high up. When the Mater Gloriosa actually does fly into view it's interesting how Abbado seems to underplay the strings and harmonium passage itself. It proves that in this recording Abbado knows when to leave well alone: the concept of "less is more" never more appropriate since this passage can sound very saccharine in other hands where here it sounds unpretentious and thoroughly appropriate.

There are few recordings that manage to show so many aspects of this great work yet still deliver a coherent, symphonic experience as Abbado's and for that, and many other aspects, I rate this version very highly. In his recording of the Second Symphony I noted how Abbado keeps sharp focus for the "Auferstehn" hymn at the close. Interestingly for this work, he delivers one of the most exultant endings on record. There are certainly few recordings that allow you to hear everything so well. Though, again, the organ is a poor relation at the end and this must have been a specific decision and not one that will meet with universal approval. Apart from that, I think this recording is the modern one that comes closest to Horenstein's conception and must be counted a leading contender, particularly with such superb sound and playing. Integrity matched to genuine fantasy is what you take away from this. A fascinating and illuminating balance that I find very impressive. A recording currently unavailable is one made in 1971 by Wyn Morris with an orchestra made up the best London freelancers then available and some excellent choirs of the right number. The studio sessions followed two Royal Albert Hall performances and this is one of the few recordings of this work made in studio that does give the impression of "live" performance, probably due to the practice of recording in long takes. It first appeared on LPs bought by mail order, but there was a CD release on IMP Pickwick (DPCD 1019) where it was unaccountably divided equally over two necessitating a disc change half way through Part II. But I'm prepared to put up with this on account of a performance that defies classification. Wyn Morris is expansive, substantial, sonorous and, in the opening passages of Part II, downright perverse. And yet it works. The massed choruses in Part I have a fervent blaze that always carries me away, the interpretation has monumental grandeur like Donald Wolfit reciting Shakespeare, and though there are some lapses in ensemble, especially in Part II, there are also passages Morris does better than anyone. There are some good soloists too, including our old friend John Mitchinson. This is definitely not a recording for the everyday, but it's certainly one that deserves to be back in the catalogue, hopefully in a better transfer and with one Part per disc. Next another unique recording, one made "live" in Boulder, Colorado at the

Mahlerfest of 1995. This can be obtained from the Mahlerfest's own web site and is well worth investigating. The pro, semi-pro and amateur forces that gather in that city every year for one performance here give an account that, whilst lacking in the elan and polish the big professional ensembles can muster for big-name labels, makes up in sheer commitment and dedication. The sound is a "conductor's balance" in that you hear everything in proportion. Some may find the sound rather "boxy" at times, but you do soon adjust. I could imagine some disliking the forward projection of the brass also, but that didn't bother me too much and I noticed some details, especially in the lower brass, I hadn't noticed before. I also thought the organ was well balanced, not just when the instrument is going full out but when there is a satisfying, rockhard pedal underlying the texture. The soloists are well placed and that is often not the case. Mater Gloriosa in Part II, for example, is notable for sounding not just far away but also high up. I was disappointed with the balancing of the boys in Part II, though. They sing well but they fade from the texture. I have heard recordings where some of the "great" orchestras have sounded complacent but this is not a criticism that could be levelled at the Mahlerfest Orchestra even though they do have their "off" moments. Playing well also means communicating and they do that so well. The choruses are splendid too. I could make out every word in loud and soft passages and there are some thrilling entries, notably "Accende lumen sensibus". Robert Olson's pacing of Part I was splendid. He seems to have taken care to pick a tempo that gives sufficient thrust but also allows lyricism to come through. The "conductor's balance" helps in the first choral entry in Part II. Too often this can sound like a few grunts coming from behind the orchestra, but I could hear what they were singing this time. I liked the tempo for the orchestral introduction as well. Perhaps the orchestra sounded a little undernourished, but it hardly mattered. There's a fine logic behind Olson's vision of Part II and an antidote to the more operatic approach: focussed and clear-sighted, mind on the end at all times. Take the interlude of Mater Gloriosa rising - strings, harp and harmonium. The operatic approach, as with Bernstein, can turn this into something out of Mascagni. Olson's sharpness of focus fits this as a piece in the enfolding puzzle, leading us onward. In the conclusion Olson doesn't disappoint either. I was struck by its dignity. An odd word to use, but that's the word that comes to mind. Faust's redemption as enacted here is a matter of honour: by those who save him, honour by the triumph of his own basic goodness in spite of his fatal pact, the honour that is in the concept that goodness triumphs not by superior force but by the simple fact of being human. I have heard a performance where the conductor drags the brass

perorations out, turning the whole matter into one of superior force triumphing over lesser force. Olson shows restraint here and the result satisfies on a deeper level. The players might have "lost their lips" a bit by then but even that adds to the sense of achievement hard one and I applaud them all for it. This is a recording I advise you to investigate as a supplement to the mainstream versions. It has some virtues missing in others, not least the unmistakable quest of its performers to reach into themselves in order to go beyond themselves. For those on the most limited budgets let me draw attention to a single disc, bargain-priced recording by Michael Gielen recorded "live" in Frankfurt in 1981 on Sony (SBK 48 281). Gielen is always an interesting Mahlerian, stressing the more modern aspects of his work, "head" rather than "heart", which might not be the best approach to the Eighth when compared with other, more exalted readings. But it certainly has its place. All the same, if this is all you can afford you could do a lot worse than this. Bernard Haitink's version, for example, also at around the same price on Phillips, should be avoided as just dull which is no mean feat in this work. Gielen's version also has the benefit of being recorded "live" and there's a sense of occasion to be had from his quite brisk, direct, open-faced reading I rather like as a supplement to my main choices. There are other recordings available, of course. Lorin Maazel on Sony seems to be deprived of all sense of direction, as if he "phoned in" his contribution from his hotel bedroom whilst still in his silk pyjamas. Robert Shaw on Telarc seems out of his depth in Mahler, predictably well-trained though his choruses are. Leif Segerstam on Chandos is not quite as eccentric in terms of rubato and mannerism as he was in his, at times, grotesque recording of the Second Symphony. But after a few hearings any initial regard I had for his Eighth evaporated. Also I found, as in his Second Symphony, the large reverberation that surrounds the sound recording becomes tiring on the ear and I would love to hear his alibi for the tam-tam crescendi at the end. Rafael Kubelik's interesting DG reading should return to the catalogue as a single disc. At the moment you have to buy his entire cycle to get it and re-issued it would be an alternative bargain to Gielen. Kubelik was always one of the most rewarding of Mahlerians.

Summing up, in the modern digital recordings I have the highest regard for Claudio Abbado's DG version and this is my best general recommendation taking in the best modern sound, performance and interpretation. A pity about the organ but it's, for me, a small point. I'll always retain a place in my affections for Wyn Morris too. Not to everyone's taste, not ideally recorded or played, but I believe that at enough times his is a version touched with genius. Sir Georg Solti will continue to dominate for those who like their Mahler Eighths more high octane, and Leonard Bernstein for those who like their hearts on the sleeves. However it should be obvious that, for me, Jascha Horenstein's version on BBC Legends is out on its own. If I was faced with the destruction of all the rest leaving only one, this is the one I would be satisfied with. Tony Duggan Selected Recordings Approx Crotchet Abbado DG (445 843-2) 27 Amazon UK Amazon Crotchet UK Amazon Crotchet UK Amazon US Amazon $30 US Amazon $23 US Amazon $14.99 US Amazon $11.49 US Approx $20 7.00 Amazon UK $7.57 Mahlerfest Amazon US

Horenstein BBC 17 Legends (BBCL 4001-7) Mitropoulos Orfeo (C 519 12.50 Crotchet 992 B) Solti Decca (4609722) Olson ColoradoMahlerfest of 1995 Gielen Sony (SBK 48 281) 8.50 Crotchet

Amazon UK

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Symphony No 9 in D (1909)

STOP PRESS: Tony Duggan has recently declared his belief that the Rattle/BPO performance may well be the finest of them all ... see review As we saw with Das Lied Von Der Erde, Mahler's spirits underwent renewal in his last years in spite of all that life was throwing at him. The calamities of 1907 generated a determination that life's riches should be enjoyed, even though they might be taken away at any time. His last three works, though fatally imbued with themes of his own approaching death, speak again and again of farewells that are loving and fervent, and of admiration for that which is left behind. Bitterness is there in abundance. In the central two movements of the Ninth especially. But bitterness passes in the end. Like everything, bitterness is transitory too. Deryck Cooke wrote: "It is given to very few to face fate as boldly and go down fighting as courageously as Mahler." Cooke also called the Ninth Symphony Mahler's "dark night of the soul" (a perfect description of the first movement especially) even more moving in that there is no easy giving way to despair, a fact interpreters would do well to remember. The Mahlerian love of living should shine through, even beneath the noble heartache that the last movement depicts and the horrors and personal demons that the first three dramatise. The Ninth has been a very lucky symphony on record as it seems to bring out the best in all conductors and orchestras. That isn't to say every recording is beyond criticism, far from it, but, leaving aside personal preferences, it seems every recording I have heard (except one) is of a uniform standard of excellence I don't think can be found in other Mahler symphony recordings. Is the work "conductor proof" ? Not in the last analysis, but it certainly comes closer than the others if the many differing interpretations that are available is any evidence to go by. The first studio recording was made by Vox in 1953 with the Vienna

Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jascha Horenstein. This took advantage of the newly-arrived LP format so was the first time Mahlerites had been able to listen to the work without having to get up and change sides every four minutes. Until then the only commercial version had been the 1938 "live" recording by the Vienna Philharmonic under Bruno Walter on 78s. The Horenstein version is available today on Vox Box Legends (CDX2 5509) coupled with Kindertotenlieder sung by Norman Foster and is fully deserving of its place at the top table in spite of limited mono sound which, I think, actually has advantages at times. In the crucial opening pages, for example, the very close-in balance means every detail of Mahler's extraordinary late style is clearly heard, even if there's no question of a concert hall balance. You can also hear how Horenstein manages to blend each brief, crucial appearance of thematic fragment together. His tempo is about right also since "Andante comodo" suggests, to me, "walking pace", and that's the feeling here which carries forward to the first climactic arrival invested with a fine sense of release allied to the "Lebwohl" ("Farewell") theme that plays such a crucial role right through. The marking at the start of the development (at 108) is "....nicht schleppend" ("....not dragging") which Horenstein is more than aware of. But notice how he keeps forward movement up by some very emphatic playing from the orchestra, taking care especially to make us hear what the lower frequencies are doing. Indeed, his ability to deliver a "top-to-bottom" sound palette, every voice heard, is a familiar Horenstein trait. Impressive too are the first climatic collapse at 201-203 and then the passage at 211-266 which is marked "Leidenschaftlich" ("Passionate"). Both of these seem imbued with a grand stoicism which I find much more suited to the incredible journey this movement represents into Mahler's "Dark Night Of The Soul" than the, all too often, well-upholstered luxuriance some conductors give. It indicates an attitude towards what we are being led through, along with the presentation of the journey itself. This is surely at the core of Horenstein's view of this work and should stay in our minds to the end. For there is bitterness in much of this symphony, bitterness at the threat death poses and which, fully aware of, Horenstein is able to use to add to the drama. Notice, therefore, the emphatic quality to the muted trombone statement of one of the main themes at the core of the development and how the "Lebwohl" motive emerges from it almost chastened and quietly angry. Horenstein's complete grasp of this movement is even more in evidence in the way be picks up the threads and carries the rest of the central drama (267-318) in one great arc to the shattering clinching climax where the massed trombones blaze out the faltering arrhythmic motif from the start, effectively death itself naked an unadorned. Again the rather unsophisticated mono recording actually helps to

convey a greater feeling of terror than is sometimes the case, a mood continued in the ensuing section (319-346) marked "Wie ein schwerer Kondukt" ("Like a funeral procession") where Horenstein encourages those trombones to punch out the rhythm in an echo of what has just gone. It only remains to say that the way the recapitulation slips seamlessly in is again an example of Horenstein's structural integrity, momentum maintained. In the coda the recording balance may be too close for comfort but there are benefits in detailing and in the slightly slower tempo Horenstein seems able to adopt. A superbly delivered first movement, then. Hard to imagine it bettered. In the second movement Scherzo it usually takes a conductor of Horenstein's generation to appreciate the fact that this is awkward, ugly music that needs to be taken at a relatively measured tempo to bring out the remarkable things Mahler does with the dance rhythms - landler and waltz. Many more recent conductor seem rather frightened to get their hands dirty with it. What Horenstein also does is add a sense of world-weariness which I find impressive. It's a pity the orchestra isn't stronger in the lower strings, though, as Horenstein's empathic way with their contribution is sometimes a bit blunted. No complaints, however, with the way he appreciates the importance of the three different tempo markings Mahler is careful to make. It's extraordinary how some conductors don't really seem to grasp them, or choose not to, but the way Horenstein does it you really can keep track of the material presented to us. Evidence again of his care for detail within the structure that was always a hallmark of his work. As also is the winkling out of extra meaning in the passage 230-257, an interlude before the main material re-starts. The way Horenstein slows down imperceptibly here reveals layers of meaning beyond many and this also goes for the passage with the solo violin played like a coarse village fiddler and taking us into the poisonous descent at the close where, as Bruno Walter memorably remarked, "the dance is over". In the Rondo-Burlesque third movement never was the marking "Sehr trotzig" ("Very stubborn") better observed. When allied to an edgy menace we have a performance of the movement that has about it a cumulative momentum you only really become aware of at the end. It is as if, as so often, Horenstein has seen the entire movement in one span. He also seems to have solved the problem that bedevils many in this movement in that he makes the lyrical central section (Floros's "Music From Far Away") seem to be a natural part of the structure: neither too fast nor too slow, it makes the perfect effect and one

is aware right through of that menace and tension being held back ready to burst out again. Which it does, on cue, carrying us juggernaut-like to the riotous conclusion. The close mono recording again has its benefits in that you can hear every voice. Those for whom excellence of recorded sound is paramount will reject this version out of hand, but I maintain there is much to be gained here. Need for contrast in the arrival of last movement is taken care of by Horenstein in the nobility and simplicity of delivery. There's never any forcing of the great adagio theme which emerges song-like, paced beautifully, but with an underlying dark edge. In the second main section, where the return of the theme is led by the solo horn, you become aware Horenstein was doing something remarkable in the first section by holding back so this is now overwhelming in its power. My mind went back to the bitterness I noticed in the first movement because it is as if that has now vanished but the nervous energy it engendered has been transmuted into something positive. The music builds wave upon wave and here the sound on this old Vox war-horse is at its best with some rich and sonorous recording of the massed strings. When the extraordinary, withdrawn passage that precedes the final climax enters, Horenstein is able to draw us into a private world but still maintain the strong structural hand. The harp is too close in the balance but that is a small point. The climax of the whole movement - in fact the climax of the whole symphony - brings all the emotional power you could want and notice how Horenstein delivers the three violin sforzandos separately rather than running them together as most conductors do. The closing pages of the work must reflect Mahler's tempi requirements of getting slower and slower but must also not seem to become detached from the rest. Horenstein doesn't disappoint, though I do wish the recording again wasn't so close-in because mystery and desolation, which is so much a part of this music, is dissipated somewhat. You will gather I think highly of this recording. In terms of interpretation, I regard it as a benchmark. It's extraordinary that the first studio recording of a major work should get it so right the first time. For many collectors, however, the restricted sound will be a turn-off and I'd be failing if I did not draw this fact to your attention. The Vienna Symphony have their poor patches too and sound undernourished at times. I'm also aware of some unfamiliarity and under-rehearsal. There's another recording by Horenstein that I will deal with at the end of this survey which you may care to consider but, considerations of sound and playing apart, this earlier Vox recording must not be overlooked.

The first stereo recording of the Ninth was made in 1961. The conductor was the man who had given the first performance in 1912 a year after Mahler's death and who had also been responsible for that first "live" recording in Vienna in 1938: his friend and disciple Bruno Walter. In his Indian Summer in California, Walter recorded the Ninth with the orchestra of Californian players assembled by Columbia and this is the version most Mahlerians of my generation learned the work from. In its present remastered edition on Sony (SM2K 64452) it includes the wonderful rehearsal sequences that made up the third LP in the original three disc set and which had disappeared in all subsequent LP re-issues. Narrated by producer John McClure, this is a crucial document in the recorded history of Mahler's music and should not be missed. The same can also be said of the symphony recording for it's the same grand tradition represented by Horenstein's though, of course, much better recorded. Walter's conception of the first movement is on the same scale as Horenstein though he's more hesitant at the opening, elegiac, valedictory. Impressions that will persist throughout. This is a perfectly valid view for music that explores aspects of death and farewell and must have been somewhere in Walter's mind at the time since he was turned eighty when the recording was made. Often you hear him depicted as a "softer-grained" conductor than many colleagues. To an extent this is true, especially when considering later recordings, but in no sense should it be viewed as a pejorative attribute. Listening to recordings made earlier in his career will tell you that even this probably had more to do with the development of the serenity that sometimes comes with age since the younger Walter was capable of furious accounts of music that other colleagues would send you to sleep with. This was never more so than with his first recording of the Ninth, as we will find out. In this second recording there is nothing blunted about the way he sifts the strange sounds at the opening of the development. Indeed he seems all too concerned to bring out the peculiar quality of Mahler's late style: rasps from muted brass, ghostly taps from the timpani. Maybe there are times when the tempo drops below Andante, but it's quite marginal. His stress on elegy and valediction, as compared with Horenstein's greater drama, can be perceived in the treatment of the falling "Lebwohl" motive which seems to turn the key of the movement for Walter whereas with Horenstein it's one among others. Both take the long breath, both are unerringly aware of structure in the way men of that generation were,

but Walter brings out the more autumnal colouring, the softer shades, the mellower sound palette, where Horenstein seems more concerned with marking contrasts. For example, the muted trombones at the centre if the development don't "tell" as much as they do with Horenstein, they are more integrated into the texture. Likewise the cracks from the timpani at the climax of the movement, where death's annunciation on trombones blazes out in the opening arrhythmia, hit much harder under Horenstein. This is emphatically not a question of Walter softening the music then. Rather it's his way of shading what is there with greater stress on lyricism, mellower contrasts, maybe at the expense of some drama. The recapitulation resumes the mood of valediction and how moving is the long dialogue between the solo horn and flute that leads us into the coda where Walter's concentration never flags. Walter is splendid in the second movement also. In the rehearsal sequences we hear how John McClure had to plead with him not to stamp his foot in time with the landler and how, at the start of the movement in the finished recording, he wasn't successful. (Walter stamped his foot at exactly the same point in the Vienna performance twenty-three years earlier.) The attention to detail in this movement is wonderful, as is the attention to any music that shows kinship to the "dying fall" "Lebwohl" material in the first movement, notably in the Tempo III slower landler material. As would be expected, Walter also appreciates the need to delineate these three tempi one from another giving each dance a separate character that, when they combine, produce a mesmerising "dance-requiem". Not least the closing pages, so carefully rehearsed by Walter as you can hear in the rehearsal sequences, that simply breathe character from every pore. The Rondo-Burlesque third movement is a deal smoother than with Horenstein and others, so there's not as much "Sehr Trotzig" as might be hoped. I admire Walter's slightly more measured tempo, however. At this speed there's plenty of opportunity for the excellent woodwind players to chatter, giggle and unsettle in music that's more than just an empty showpiece. There is less of the cumulative build than with Horenstein, though. The "Music From Far Away" episode is pure and refined but, crucially, filled with nostalgia. Even if this does meant Horenstein's menace is missing it makes its effect. Walter was never a believer in stretching the fourth movement on the rack, sometimes to the music's detriment. In his 1938 "live" performance he delivered what is the quickest performance on record and even in 1961 the

emphasis is on fluidity with perhaps some loss of emotional power and the kind of Zen-like stasis that can be generated in certain parts by some conductors, not always with conspicuous success. With Walter this is the nobility of farewell, more reconciled with the inevitability of death and leave-taking, and I think it suits the rest of his conception for all my niggling reservations. There certainly is much to move and impress, not least the last climax which has more than enough weight and power. A pity, perhaps, that Walter didn't linger more over the closing pages, keeping instead a single-minded concentration to the end just as he did in 1938. What we have is a perfectly natural and satisfying conclusion. All in all, this is one the greatest recordings of the Ninth - lyrical, nostalgic, valedictory, autumnal, expressing the mood of the conductor, playing up one aspect of the composer's conception in this late work. Where Horenstein seemed to be constantly asking the music questions, Walter seemed to believe he had most of the answers already. The playing of the Columbia Symphony is exemplary even though these musicians don't perhaps have the feel for the idiom their Vienna colleagues of 1938 had. The recorded sound is a rich and detailed balance, if a little weak in the bass and prone to a slight fizz at the top. Only four double basses were used which rather surprised Bruno Walter but this, according to McClure, was enough for the acoustic of the hall used. The great Mahler dichotomy that existed between Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer ("He is a Moralist, I am an Immoralist," is how Klemperer put it) that we noted when comparing recordings of the Second Symphony and Das Lied Von Der Erde don't apply quite as much in the Ninth. But there are significant differences in their approach in terms of temperament and the aspects each chooses to bring out - or not bring out, as the case may be. Klemperer recorded the Ninth with the New Philharmonia in 1967, also late in his life, following two concert performances in London. This is now in EMI's "Klemperer Legacy" series (5 67036 2) keeping another great recording in the catalogue in excellent sound. At the start of the first movement Klemperer is as careful as Horenstein to make us hear every detail in this most important of openings, but notice the special sound of Klemperer's woodwind which will be a feature right through. Notice too that Klemperer's violins are divided left and right so we really register it's the Seconds who appear first. As the movement gets underway there is far less of the Autumnal feel so marked with Walter as Klemperer leans more towards Horenstein's approach, but is different again. Over and over it's Klemperer's particular way with balances and tone colours

that impress the ear. In the passage marked "Etwas Frischer" (bars 80-107), for example, he is anxious to reveal more of the wind lines and this leads to a tougher close to the exposition than under Walter. Klemperer is, as we noted with the Second Symphony, ever the more earthly narrator in Mahler. In the Development section the music takes an even darker cloak with, for example, the muted brass contributions, what you might call the "dirty" end of the music, accentuated. Klemperer is also inspired at what can best be described as the arguments and debates that are inherent. An attribute he also shares with Horenstein. So, the collapse at 201-203 emerges with a fierce inevitability and then the passage marked "Leidenshaftlich" ("Passionate") at 211-266 is more brittle and febrile than under Walter. All familiar Klemperer approaches making this a more uneasy listen than is sometimes the case. Klemperer is again master of the dark tone in his treatment of the muted trombones at 243-246, so pronounced under Horenstein, and then in the way the return of the "Lebwohl" motive is knitted into the structure rather than, as with Walter, made to drive it. Less nostalgia from Klemperer overall, I think this confirms. The clinching climax at 314-318 is built with an unerring structural control and power. Klemperer's legendary grasp of the architecture never more in evidence. At its pinnacle we hear truly awesome trombones ("Micht hochster Gewalt" - "With greatest force" indeed !) as black as doom and punctuated by fierce timpani cracks which lead splendidly into the "Like a funeral procession" section where again Klemperer's distinctive sound palette impresses where the music seems cloaked with slate greys and funeral purples. In overall terms Klemperer is almost as spacious as Horenstein and Walter in this movement. Yet deep beneath the Klemperer performance you are aware of a slightly more urgent tread than with Walter who tends to relax just that little more into charged nostalgia. Klemperer's scherzo matches Walter's as one of the finest on record with, if anything, an even greater sense of "digging in" right down to a foot stamp from the conductor in exactly the same place. For these men this music was clearly "bred in the bone". Klemperer's woodwind are more folksy and ethnic providing the poisoned thread that runs through it, accentuating bitterness, achieved as much by the magnificent players at Klemperer's disposal. The tempo changes are well handled too with Tempo III's slower landler especially unsettling and showing Klemperer exploring every nook and cranny with an eagle eye, culminating in as poisonous and deadly a close as you could want. Likewise the Rondo-Burlesque which, under Klemperer, is slower and more

determined and gives the opportunity for every last detail to register. There's a price to be paid in that there's less the feeling of disintegration, of imminent collapse, that can sound so devastating in this movement under others. Hear Walter in his 1938 "live" concert recording from Vienna where he tears into the music in an almost unhinged frenzy. Klemperer, ever "Honest Otto", doesn't attempt to prettify the nostalgic interlude, the "Music From Far Away", of course. In fact he makes it knit better into what has just gone and what is to come by again marking the darker tones, playing it for nobility and febrile strength. No praise can be too high for his Principal Clarinet who, in the lead back to the main material, squeals like Till Eulenspiegel throttling on his gibbet. In the return of the main material Klemperer equals Horenstein in anger and bitterness, made more memorable by the control he exercises on the tempo. I described Klemperer's sound palette in the funeral procession episode of the first movement as "slate-grey" and that's the feeling I have with the last movement. In terms of emotional approach "stoic" is the word that springs to mind. In fact, anything but the self-indulgent approach some conductors give us here, pulling the music out, hamming it up like hack tragedians. It's a broad account but it's remarkable for its determination and dignity. The strings indulge in no sweet tricks and notice the way the bassoon climbs up the scale near the start to accentuate a "crustier" style than that of Walter, then how the solo horn's contribution is reined back almost as if to let him have his head would show Klemperer allowing emotion to get the better of him. Then in the interlude between the two great statements of the main material notice again Klemperer exploring nooks and crannies, searching out sounds and combinations of sounds that elude many others - high strings against low strings especially helped by the rich but clear recording. So Klemperer was never the man to wear his heart on his sleeve and if we are moved by the return of the main material at bar 49 it's for what can only be described as an unwillingness to give in - the admiration we have for those who endure pain, perhaps. The final climax emerges clean and triumphant and note how the trombones dominate the texture recalling, for me, their appearance at the climax of the first movement where they were death in musical form. Is Klemperer here musically paraphrasing "O death, where is thy sting ? O grave, where is thy victory" ? I think he is. And he withdraws us from the world in the closing pages unforgettably, exploring the music rather than seeking to put us to sleep with it. As with Walter and Horenstein before him, it remains part of what has gone before.

In 1963 Sir John Barbirolli made an appearance in Berlin with the Philharmonic that has gone into legend. He conducted them in Mahler's Ninth and virtually re-introduced a composer who was not greatly liked by the city or the orchestra. They immediately asked if they could record the work with him and, even though under contract to Deutsche Grammophon, were released to EMI for sessions in January 1964 (72435679252). I've always felt Sir John's conception of the first movement, in tempo terms at least, well-nigh definitive. There is yearning in the opening and yet all is carried along in an Andante Comodo that emerges at the real "walking pace" Mahler surely meant. Note the unfashionable portamenti in the strings too. Not too much, but enough for this surely to have been what reminded many there of Furtwangler. ("Not since Furtwangler have we heard such human warmth and soul combined with such superb musicianship," one critic wrote.) At once Barbirolli is more passionate than his colleagues, more involved personally, yet tempers this with clarity of focus that's a living example of a quotation of Bertrand Russell that Michael Kennedy found in Sir John's papers after his death: "Nothing great is achieved without passion, but underneath the passion there should always be that large impersonal survey which sets limits to actions that our passions inspire." Passion with limits is what you get here, no more so than in the long and varied Development which is remarkable here in how naturally expressive and dramatic it sounds even at a tempo that seems quicker than many. The "collapse climax" at 201-203, for example, arrives with fierce inevitability and then the "Leidenschaftlich" ("Passionate") passage that follows really is just that, with superb balancing of the magnificent Berlin strings. Note also the really depressed, tired, deadened quality to the remarkable passage that follows soon after where the muted trombones usher in a return of the "Lebwohl" motive prior to the final, clinching climax which is driven home by the blackest of trombones, roaring out the fatal arrhythmia with no holds barred. ("With the greatest violence" is Mahler's marking here, after all.) As if all this wasn't enough, listen to how Barbirolli conducts the passage following it marked "Like a solemn funeral procession", holding back his tempo for each step to make its effect. Finally, in a crucial passage in the Recapitulation, where flute and horn form unlikely alliance, Barbirolli recalls for me some of the innocence of the First Symphony, a touch I have never heard under other conductors and this could not be more appropriate as Mahler sprinkled his sketches with references to vanished days and scattered loves. Nostalgia, farewell, memories.... Barbirolli

was fifty-six before he touched a Mahler symphony. An example to the young blades who seem to want to record an entire cycle before they are thirty. I maintain only a passionate man who has seen life could conduct the Ninth like Barbirolli does and that the first movement in his recording is so great because it seems utterly complete, a cross section of everything the music contains. Others may scale heights and depths with more reach but no one, I believe, holds everything in such near-perfect balance. The second movement is as trenchant and awkward as you could want. There is good forward movement allied to great playing and notice with what relish Barbirolli swings into the Tempo II waltz. He was a great Viennese waltz conductor, after all. His Lehar "Gold and Silver" changed lives. When the Landler material gains the ascendancy later on you also cannot miss the real swagger in the playing. Yet again I'm reminded how much the conductors of Barbirolli's generation had to tell us about music which, under some of today's maestri, can sound colourless by comparison. Perhaps only Walter "live" in 1938 gets to the black heart of the Rondo-Burlesque but Barbirolli is closer than most to the unhinged frenzy we hear there. We are certainly light years away from the passion and nostalgia of the first movement in the main material. Under Barbirolli this third movement is full of pain and sharpness, abrasive, with again superb string playing from this great orchestra. True to his concern for "that impersonal survey" Barbirolli doesn't "give in" to the "Music from far away" interlude at the heart. In fact there's even a brighteyed, optimistic quality to it that is most impressive. Then, as you listen further, deeper and more often you realise a world of great feeling in the string phrasing which only he could bring. When the main material finally bursts back in Barbirolli then shows that it's been changed by what we have just heard. Almost as if the music now is commenting upon itself. It seems to go for broke, accentuating the Burlesque quality at last. At the sessions Barbirolli insisted on recording the last movement first so "they would know what they were aiming at ." It was also recorded at night because "such music should not be played in the daylight". If Sir John had been holding back some emotion until now, in the fourth movement he lets it all come out at last. But such is his instinct that even here it never gets the better of him, which under a lesser experienced hand it might have done. There's a rare nobility in the first presentation of the great adagio theme and listen to how the strings dig into their bows, and their traditions. The passage beginning at bar 49, in effect the second presentation of the main adagio material, ushers in a long passage which under Barbirolli is of such

overwhelming intensity that, even after over thirty years of living with this great recording, it always leaves me shattered. The final climax to the movement and entire work has an almost desperate, questing quality to it and it only remains to say the coda, that long dying away, contains phrasing by Barbirolli that will linger in your mind for hours afterwards. Others play the closing pages slower. Others stretch them on the rack with varying success. Barbirolli chooses, like Walter before him, to let his eloquence of phrasing carry the day. And it does, as it has from the first bar of the whole work which is all recorded here with a natural conductor's balance ideal for home listening. In a review in "Gramophone" in 1970, the great Mahlerian Deryck Cooke declared he had just heard the greatest Mahler Ninth on record. He was reviewing the, then new, recording by Bernard Haitink and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips. I well remember that review and the influence it had on me as a young Mahler enthusiast finding his way through the record catalogues and the anticipation I felt after I had persuaded my local library to buy a copy. Cooke concluded his review by saying that in the Haitink recording he felt he wasn't faced with Barbirolli's, Walter's or Klemperer's Mahler Ninth, but with MAHLER'S Mahler Ninth, which is perhaps the highest praise any critic can give. There is no question in my mind that, after all these years, this still is one of the greatest recordings of the work and that it should be considered alongside those dealt with so far. It's available on Philips (4622992) coupled with Haitink's fine version of Das Lied Von Der Erde with Janet Baker and James King. Haitink takes great care with the opening material, a particular care with the rhythms of the motivic fragments especially, and one of the finest of all ears to the balancing of the various parts. This is all helped by a superb analogue recording, very much the kind of sound coming from the Concertgebouw in those days with less hall acoustic allowed for than we have become used to recently. All this means that, among other things, Mahler's screaming upper line is superbly apparent at every climax, all of which arrive with splendid dynamic surges. Time after time Haitink is in Barbirolli's class at the balancing of the various elements in this movement. Characteristically,

though, he is less passionate but makes up for this in attention to the subtle shades of debate that characterise this movement. There is no part of this immense statement of Mahler's state of mind at that time when Haitink doesn't have something important to say. Take, for example, the "Leidenschaftlich" passage following the "collapse climax" at 201-203 where there is an almost Klemperer-like trenchancy in the music. Following this passage the wisps of theme that play around the muted trombones prior to the "Lebwohl" lead-back sound especially desolate and remote, giving lie to thoughts you occasionally encounter that Haitink is too safe a conductor in Mahler. At the main climactic passage listen to the wonderful Concertgebouw strings tumbling all over the music, pitching us into a superbly dramatic resolution, as fine as Barbirolli's, Horenstein's or Klemperer's. I must also pay tribute to the deepest of bells Haitink's percussionist makes use of here. I assure you, once you hear these in this recording you never want to hear any other kind. The coda of the movement finds Haitink in a surprisingly dreamy mood with Mahler's unique orchestration coming to us as though through the very veil of memory itself. A very interesting presentation indeed with the horns especially evocative. The second movement Landler find the massed strings all country dance and rough-hewn with those crucial tempo changes marked. Notice also how the woodwind seem to be really mocking us in a way few recordings manage and one of the characteristic sounds you will take away. This is so much the cruel parody of the Landler I think Mahler wanted and which so many just miss. In many ways I find Haitink to be giving the same kind of performance of this movement as that we will hear from Michael Gielen later: cutting and deeply rebarbative. The crucial difference is that Haitink injects that little bit more humanity into it; that little bit more sense of humour you feel Gielen misses. Haitink certainly has the finer orchestra and it should go without saying that hearing one of the greatest Mahler ensembles playing this music at the height of their powers is an experience in itself. The coda is masterly - ironic, poisonous, unsettling and it sets us up for the Rondo Burlesque splendidly. Here too Haitink is in the same neck of the woods as Gielen but, again, with that little bit more humanity. Again the orchestra's contribution cannot be praised too highly and this allows us to hear echoes from Das Lied Von Der Erde in the maelstrom. By some wonderful alchemy Haitink also manages to achieve what few others do and that is a delivery of the central interlude that seems to fit perfectly. It's neither too fast in that it loses its power to move us, nor too slow that it impedes the structural integrity of the whole. Following this the anarchic frenzy of the Rondo's return concludes this movement unforgettably.

Haitink crowns his recording with a performance of the last movement of rich eloquence, more than worthy to stand beside Klemperer, Barbirolli and Walter. Like them, he succeeds in spite of never having to pull the music around, letting it speak for itself and relying on the great playing of his orchestra, not least in the second presentation of the main material (bars 49107), which has a superb cohesion that is like a microcosm of the whole movement. Notice especially at the start of this passage how Haitink keeps the principal horn under strict control where many will give the player his head. It's an example of Haitink's care and means that when more heft is needed, as at the movements great horn-led peroration at the main climax, the sheer power of the moment lands even more weightily on us. A case of keeping your powder dry until you need it. Examples of which can be found right the way through this recording. In the closing pages the sense of desolation is remarkable but the thread is maintained, even though Mahler's slower and slower markings tell. It would be possible to end my survey here as I believe the five recordings dealt with so far are the best before us. Choose any one, or two, or all five, and you will have Mahler's Ninth in your collection in performance(s) that will last a lifetime. Each one has a different perspective but each has a perspective that is equally valid in such a protean work. Only the Horenstein on Vox falls down in terms of recording and playing but I bring special pleading forward for that and will have something to add at the end about a conductor whose work in Mahler I rate higher than most. But there are many other recordings available and I would be doing too many people a disservice if I didn't deal with some that come close to the first five in their representation of this great work. You will undoubtedly come across them if you are out considering which recording to buy. As I have said, the Ninth has been very lucky on record. I can think of just one recording I have ever heard that I would actively counsel anyone against buying. But I do believe all others must stand or fall by how they measure up to the achievements of the five above. With that flag nailed to the mast, I shall continue. In terms of tempo and pacing Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon (289 457 581-2) is exemplary in his overview of the first movement. He's in the lower limits of Andante Comodo but avoids losing the sense of unfolding story while permitting himself to attend to details of tempo, dynamics and expression admirably. This latter

point may strike detractors of Boulez as surprising. It's not the expression of a conductor whose agenda is to place himself between us and the music, but one anxious to do the composer justice by stressing the expressive qualities already there. What he brings to this movement is the eye of the lawyer matched to the mind of the alchemist. Though it has to be said his timing for this movement sets a conundrum he just fails to solve later on in the work. In the opening pages I was struck by the clarity in the initial statements of the movement's "building bricks", doubly remarkable for the extremes of pianissimo he coaxes from the orchestra. Few bands could manage to be so clear yet so quiet. Clarity is often used pejoratively when discussing Boulez and Mahler but I see no conflict between clarity and expression. Boulez understands that for this vast structure to survive in our minds and mean something the key is for us to be made aware of the different possibilities that exist within its span and the way to do that is to establish the profound differences between the basic ideas on which the movement is founded as it's only as these are changed by Mahler, in ways vast and extraordinary, that those possibilities are made plain. Without profound knowledge of where these ideas came from and how they started life can we appreciate the changes they go through. Of these ideas, all first presented in the first few bars prefiguring the concision of Webern, (and remember Boulez is on record that his approach to Mahler came via the Second Viennese School), it's the "Lebwohl" theme that Boulez stresses, throwing a shadow over the whole each time it recurs. I'm in no doubt that, like Bruno Walter, it is "leave-taking" Boulez wants to stress. In the Exposition as a whole our awareness of the differences between the main ideas then becomes consanguineous with the careful marking of the subtle tempo changes, the ebb and flow passage to passage, as the music's vistas open out. Note the strict observation at bars 80107 of Mahler's "Etwas frischer" ("A little brisker"), hurrying into the development as if Mahler is anxious to get on with the main business. Only by carefully preparing the ground beforehand do such changes register. It's a perfect example not just of Boulez's attention to the detail of the score but also the important next stage of what these details mean and how they fit with the whole. Another example can be found in the Development at 267 where we really are aware of the tempo picking up as indicated. Note also the fine contributions from the woodwind here. Finally at the crucial fatal climax (bars 314-315), where the trombones roar out the opening notes of the whole work taking us to the very depths of this movement's world of feeling and knitting the movement together in its simplest deep structures, I had never been quite so aware before of the difference in dynamics between the two statements by

the trombones. So, a remarkable reading of the first movement. In my opinion one of the finest ever recorded. The same care for the letter and its bearing on the spirit of the score is to be found in Boulez's reading of the second movement. At the start I was a little disappointed Boulez doesn't get his strings to really dig into the landler. It sounds tame in comparison with old hands like Walter, Klemperer and Horenstein. But it turns out Boulez has a different agenda. He seems concerned with the contrasts between the three tempi markings which he observes particularly so you're left in no doubt when each one comes back. This becomes more absorbing when each episode starts to "swap" tempos around like old friends trying on each other's clothes. It's an unsettling ride and deserves to be heard as a real alternative. I started to have more doubts when the Rondo Burlesque began. Mahler writes "Very stubborn" and under Boulez it isn't really. A slightly slower tempo would have made a difference and a little more mania from the woodwinds also. We need more Burlesque to the Rondo. The arrival of the visionary interlude in the centre is a defining moment because Boulez appears to opt to maintain the structure by taking this passage at a tempo I think robs it of much of its beauty and nostalgic power. This clear-headedness serves as a warning for what is to come in the last movement. When dealing with the first movement I said Boulez's reading, though near ideal, sets a conundrum he fails to solve later. It's his performance of the last movement I have in mind. The Ninth Symphony is "top heavy". The scope and length of the first movement is such that, for the whole work to achieve balance, the last movement ought to appear to match it in weight and length. (The Tenth Symphony is a much better structured work in this instance.) If it doesn't, as here, the effect is to unbalance the work in favour of the first movement, not allowing the Adagio to crown the work and let it stay in our minds. There's a fastidiousness about Boulez's handling of the last movement, almost as if he doesn't want us to be too involved and the overall tempo is just too fast for it to really move us. It's slower than Walter in 1938, but that "live" performance is balanced by a quicker first movement as well as a different performing tradition. Barbirolli is at the faster end of Adagio also but his first movement is more "walking pace" too so he solves the "top heavy" problem. It's surprising that, so aware of such things elsewhere, he seems to fail to appreciate this. For that reason I can only believe this is not oversight but a deliberate attempt to achieve emotional distance. Don't misunderstand me, though. The last movement is a fine reading in many ways but fails to

compliment the first movement in the way many other interpreters do. The closing pages, for example, fail to leave you lost. A disappointment in a recording I do still recommend, especially to someone coming new to the work and wanting a superbly played and recorded performance with every detail of this massive score laid out. The playing of the Chicago Symphony is exemplary, not a note out of place, not an entry fluffed, secure, commanding, though not in the last analysis a Mahler sound. It sounds like damning such fabulous playing with faint praise but I prefer something a little more humane and fallible. The famous brass sound, whilst still very lean and powerful, is reined back more these days and only the trumpets full out have that cold, glassy tone alien in Mahler. The strings deliver nowhere near the portamenti Mahler frequently asks for either. When they do it's almost with a sense of apology. What the Chicago strings can do, however, is differentiate the gradations of dynamics with more accuracy than most. An ideal (almost Utopian) concert hall balance which is a touch artificial but with every detail registering equally. I grieve for that last movement. But for that, this Boulez recording might have made it into my hall of fame. With Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia on Telarc (3CD-80527) for the cost of one full-priced CD you get two containing the "live" performance and a third containing a fascinating seventy-six minute illustrated talk by Zander himself entitled "Conducting and Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony". Along with a long liner essay there's a single sheet containing a reproduction of the first two pages of the score, complete with the conductor's notations so you can follow the major part of his talk on how to conduct the piece, a plan of the orchestra, two "beat charts", engravings of Mahler conducting and a note from a small girl thanking Zander for his performances. As well as a conductor, Benjamin Zander is also a teacher. His work with the Boston Philharmonic gives evidence of his virtues in this role. He is also in demand in another direction, called in by organisations to put lead into corporate pencils, never failing to use music and experiences performing it as part of his creed. So, perhaps, it's the teacher in Zander that led to the unusual presentation. In his essay Zander sees the first movement representing a dichotomy at the heart of the symphony. "There seems to be two kinds of music....gentle, harmonious, sublimely beautiful, and resolved; and music that is complex, dissonant, full of tension, and unresolved. And the structure of the movement seems to set these two kinds of music against each other." For Zander this

dichotomy represents the duality in Mahler and the time in which he lived, looking back to the romantic, unified past and forward to the dissonant, fragmented future. There is much to be gained from seeing the work in these terms and Zander certainly manages to illustrate the two poles of this dichotomy in his performance of the first movement very well. But there are other performances which do it as well and which also recognise that any dichotomy is the sum of its poles and also the area between them and I don't feel Zander attends to the latter to such an extent as he could. The quieter passages between the more animated ones are interpreted extremely slowly and withdrawn to the extent that I think they're in danger of becoming detached from the whole, with less definition or focus, holding up the momentum and any feeling of "line" that is so remarkable with Barbirolli and Haitink, to name two. The impression is of "marking time" between crises. It's marginal, but enough to bother me rather. When it comes to the Scherzo Zander again appears in his material to understand perfectly what Mahler is aiming for but seems he either misunderstands what he means the conductor should do with this or finds such a step beyond him. Referring to Mahler's use of his favourite landler, Zander writes: "This dance is a grim parody of the dance. Mahler's indication at the beginning of the movement, "Etwas tappisch und sehr derb" (somewhat clumsy and very rough), shows that the true Landler is here stiffened and chained, deprived of its characteristic lilt - a counterpart of the first movement's dissonance and rhythmic complexity." That the Landler is changed here, there's absolutely no doubt so Zander is spot-on in his talk. But I don't feel the change effected is either what Zander says it is or quite what he delivers. I think what Mahler is doing was well described by Neville Cardus when he said that the Landler is "ravished and made with child" or by Leonard Bernstein who wrote of a "bitter re-imaging of simplicity, naivet, the earth-pleasures we recall from adolescence." With Zander what we get is a little too precise and contained with little of the "clumsiness" and "roughness" Mahler asks for or the parody Zander himself seems to want. Never mind Bernstein's "re-imaging" or Cardus's "ravishing". For Zander the most remarkable aspect of the Rondo Burlesque is its contrapuntal mastery and he's dead right to draw attention to this. But when he writes "at first it may sound utterly chaotic, but gradually we realise that it is a tour de force of controlled contrapuntal writing" I disagree and believe he may be elevating this aspect above others with the result that too much control is exercised where more abandon is what is demanded. If anything, any sense of chaos at the beginning should be added to until the whole movement is in danger of breaking up. But he certainly does achieve what he sets out in his

essay. His need for control also seems behind the fact that he is marginally too slow, but that isn't the whole story. Klemperer is even slower and yet conveys a world of impending chaos. Bernstein knew what this music meant: "....a farewell to the world of action, the urban, the cosmopolitan life - the cocktail party, the marketplace, the raucous careers and careenings of success, of loud, hollow laughter." I would only add it's also the music of a world about to go smash. Listen to the Walter recording with the Vienna Philharmonic of 1938 (playing when the world was on the verge of going smash for a second time) and the manic, unhinged frenzy with which they tear into this movement not letting up until the end and making the blissful interlude in the centre even more moving. Zander almost spoils this latter passage a little for me by going too fast and then, almost as if he has realised what he has done, slowing up. The last movement from Zander balances the long first movement very well, something that isn't always the case when the symphony's "top-heaviness" can be accentuated. So I applaud Zander for maintaining structural integrity throughout. His and his players' powers of concentration are very much one of the plusses one takes away from this account also. But when Zander writes of the last movement: "....the textures are rich and full, the counterpoint astonishingly opulent" it's a pity to find the strings slightly spare in volume, though this could well be a fault of the recording and hall balance of which more in a moment. I'm also a bit worried by Zander encouraging the same emphatic lunges in the strings that, for me, disfigure the first movement a little and which I think have the effect of dissipating any opulence rather than aiding it, even though it does have the effect of linking the first and last movements in our minds very well. On this evidence, the Philharmonia cannot match the "saturation-quality" or nostalgic yearning of their counterparts in the old Vienna Philharmonic, even in a 1938 recording. Whether it's the gut strings, the old-world style of playing, or a trick of the sound balance, the sound of the old VPO riding every climax shows again what is missing in Zander's account of the same passages. Zander also writes: "....there are moments of extreme withdrawal - those bleak, passionless passages that Mahler marks to be played 'ohne Ausdruck' (without expression) and that are often scored for just a handful of instruments." Zander courageously takes Mahler at his word here and I admire him for that. The effect, as in the first movement, is to accentuate the divide between louder, animated passages and those of "extreme withdrawal" which are again so withdrawn they're almost in danger of detaching themselves. I just wonder if Zander is being too literal in interpreting what Mahler is asking. That when Mahler writes "without expression" he's writing in terms of what expression meant for him rather than

what it means for us and an adjustment is needed. I find it hard to believe Mahler meant the closing pages to come over quite as remote as they do here to the extent that the thread becomes almost indistinct. Zander writes of the ending: "It has none of the nihilism and cold sense of futility which is found in so much contemporary art. On the contrary, there is a deep attachment to joy. Despair and knowledge of suffering are turned into a discovering of the meaning of life." Indeed they are. So I'm puzzled rather than it seems played as though the opposite were the case. Horenstein stretches the music on the rack here, especially in his "live" 1966 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra. So does Bernstein with the Berlin Philharmonic also recorded "live". Though neither to quite the same extent as Zander. This becomes a major problem for me in these closing pages under Zander because they remind me more of the closing movement of Vaughan Williams's Sixth Symphony where a completely different effect is aimed at. Or maybe that's what Zander is aiming at. If so, another layer of the interpretative tradition has been added. In spite of my own preferences, it's good to be able to include a performance that tests Mahler's markings here to the limit. In all, Zander's recording is a relative disappointment, especially in comparison with other recordings of this work and with his own excellent recording of the Sixth. The sound is problematic too. It seems oddly detached at times and is recorded at a lower level so needs to be played back high. Zander makes great play of dividing his first and second violins, as Mahler did, and is to be congratulated for that, as are the engineers for letting us hear the divide. But the strings sound a bit under-powered, though this may be the fault of the balance. In spite of my reservations, you will gather that, by including this recording here over some others, I rate it all the same. In spite of everything it has too many interesting points of discussion for it to be left out. Next, two recordings I want to draw to your attention which you might easily miss. They are by Karel Ancerl and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra on Supraphon (SU 1954-2) and Michael Gielen and the South-West German Radio Symphony Orchestra on Intercord (860.913). Both offer what might best be described as a more "scrubbed" approach to the work with tempi quicker, edges sharper, lights and shades less marked, the kind of approach you might have expected from Boulez in looking more to the century that was to come rather than the one just gone, or the conflation of the two Benjamin Zander rightly told us to expect in this work. I admire both deeply and suggest them as alternatives to main recommendations.

The first movement under Karel Ancerl has more forward momentum and the first full climax emerges with more "head up" optimism than we are used to. Right the way through notice the sharp, clear textures the Czech Philharmonic bring to every aspect of Ancerl's conception which is bracing in parts. The death knoll climax to the movement arrives at the end of an almost hedonistic rush and so is more shocking than we are often used to. I found it memorable, as I did too the splendid crack of the timps and the carefully and correctly graded dynamics of the trombone enunciation. I think Ancerl then surpasses even Barbirolli in his treatment of the tread of the funeral procession passage coming after it and the sound of the exultant Prague trumpets in the Recapitulation will stay in your mind for some time. The Scherzo is fast but it's a tempo that carries well after Ancerl's first movement. I was especially fascinated by his treatment of the Tempo III material: the "sad landler", I suppose you could call it. Ancerl really does take this quite slowly which, in context with the speed of Tempo I, makes an unusual effect, like an island of calm which makes the resumption of the quicker material seem like the return of a bad dream. The Czech Philharmonic play magnificently here and throughout. Some might be troubled by the vibrato on the solo horn but this comes with the territory and you adjust. In the Rondo Burlesque emphasis is on Burlesque with the strings chattering as the fine balance of the analogue recording catches every detail of the woodwind choir. After the nostalgic interlude, where the principal trumpet's vibrato is most welcome, Ancerl really blows the world to bits in the main material's resumption. After this the opening of the last movement is sustained and surprisingly intense, real balm for aches. There is dignity and real nobility and a feeling of terraced grandeur as Ancerl builds to each climax with a sure hand. Investigate this cheaply priced single disc version. Michael Gielen is always an interesting Mahler conductor and his recording of the Ninth doesn't disappoint. Here at last we are face-to-face with "Mahler The Modernist", the man held in high esteem by Schoenberg and his circle whilst alive, and by Shostakovich and Britten to name but two in the generation after his death. This seems a more than appropriate way of treating Mahler's late style and I believe demands its place in any profile of recordings. Right from the start, with the superb rasp of the solo horn, you're in a different world of sound: exposed, edgy, harder, prone to accentuate uglier aspects of the music. At the start of the development that poisonous rasp of the solo horn is accompanied by a really emphatic statement on the timpani of the arrhythmic theme that could have come out of Alban Berg. Gielen is cool and austere,

even - sometimes especially - in passages where the natural pull is towards warmth and charm, so don't expect the usual nostalgia trip here. This is an immersion in cold water fascinating to hear, provoking and absorbing. The Scherzo is still full of sharp character showing that the astringent approach doesn't need to be anonymous. In fact, there's a feel of Klemperer here with woodwinds a special joy when given their head within such tight overall structure, sneering and snivelling in what is one of the most remarkable accounts of this movement proving that Klemperer was as aware as Gielen of the more astringent aspects. The Rondo Burlesque is also all sharp-edged tension with especially raucous brass: a real dash to destruction which approaches Bruno Walter's "live" 1938 recording. The interlude at the heart is a tiny piece of cold comfort which gets swept away very a powerful restatement. And how does Gielen approach the great last movement ? The answer is with a simplicity, a purity, and with no quarter given to overt emotion or thoughts of consolation. Many people will find it all too detached but it suits the way he approaches the rest of the work and, in its own way, communicates a stark humanity. I can imagine the kind of Mahlerite who will loathe Gielen's recording, or any other that treats Mahler's late masterpiece in any other way but as a Late Romantic "cry-fest". The sort of Mahlerite you come across from time to time who sees the music as their personal therapy room or counselling service: "Dr. Mahler will see you now. Lie on the couch". The opportunity for a primal scream or two, or a musical dose of Prozac. They are the kind who assure you Mahler's music is about emotional excess and that any performance that isn't itself excessively performed emotionally is not to be countenanced as it's in some way selling it all short. I believe neither to be the case and that this becomes even more relevant the later on in the canon you go. However, there are those who will always want to gouge their pound of blood, sweat and tearstained flesh from the Ninth, as they would with any other Mahler symphony, and there are recordings by conductors only too willing to oblige. Klaus Tennstedt and Wyn Morris are two, but I would point to Simon Rattle or Leonard Bernstein first for this kind of approach.

Bernstein recorded the work twice for commercial release but it's a "live" recording, one never meant for release, that I'm going to recommend as I think his way with this symphony, the alter ego of that by Gielen, communicates better as a "one off" piece of concert hall theatre. (I know his second recording with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw is flagged "live" but it was patched with takes from rehearsals so doesn't really qualify.) In 1979 Bernstein made his only appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic with the Ninth the chosen work. Years later Deutsche Grammophon obtained the tape from Berlin Radio and released it DG 435 387 2. Right through the first movement notice how he cajoles and caresses even the smallest details, how he inflates climaxes to huge dimensions, how he withdraws into a private world with every hushed passage. The main, death-crowned, climax is towering and, for me, almost grotesque in its breadth and volume - monstrous in many ways. The Recapitulation steals in eloquently after this and speeds up to an extraordinary degree. This is one of those "Lennies" you sometimes come across in Bernstein's performances which can sometimes shine a light into a part of a score that illuminates new ideas or, as is the case here, succeed only in obfuscating proceedings and leaving you puzzled as to why he did it. The second movement is vigorous in the Tempi I material which means that when the Tempo II material arrives it actually seems slower, which is the wrong way around completely. There are so many other performances of this movement that convince far better and I cannot find much, apart from some real character in the woodwind and brass, to tell me he has anything new to offer. By the way, there's also a missing trumpet figure at bar 440. A noticeable absence but nothing compared to what will happen later in the fourth movement. There is then a really characteristic agogic touch at the start of the Rondo Burlesque and as the movement gets under way it's clear Bernstein's main weapon is speed. It's certainly effective and were it not for the fact that the Berlin Philharmonic negotiate everything Bernstein throws at them superbly, the movement might be in danger of skating over the surface. He does rather beat his breast again in the blissful interlude where something more delicate is, I believe, needed but there will be many who, as I said before, will regard this as quintessential Mahler playing. For me it's a perfect example of what can go wrong with this passage. Played at this tempo with this amount of "heart-on-sleeve" against such a fast presentation of the main material and any idea of the movement as a structure is lost. There are those who tell me this is a perfect demonstration of what Mahler is trying to tell us is going on. I would disagree and say this movement demands to be the sum of its parts rather than the parts only. However, even I'm lost in admiration at

Bernstein's delivery of the final return of the main material. The fast tempo works this time and is an illustration of Bernstein's own thoughts about this movement when he once wrote: "....a farewell to the world of action, the urban, the cosmopolitan life - the cocktail party, the marketplace, the raucous careers and careenings of success, of loud, hollow laughter." Bernstein conducts a superb fourth movement. A red-hot, searing delivery of this wonderful music, fully in keeping with what has gone. The Berliners play with mind-numbing power, strings especially encouraged to greater and greater levels of emotion by Bernstein grunting and humming occasionally: Mahler with all the stops pulled out. At the assault of the final climax it sounds as though Bernstein has fallen off the podium but even this could not explain what happens between bars 118 and 122. Here, at the climax of the whole work, where maximum power is needed from everyone, the trombones simply stop playing. The whole trombone section should play right through that passage, underpinning everything, but they are nowhere to be heard. Down the years dark rumours have circulated about why one entire section of four players should all miss such an important cue and remain silent, but there has never been an explanation forthcoming. (They do rejoin proceedings right on cue next time they are needed, though.) Just one of those things that makes this recording memorable, I suppose. In the closing pages we are back to Bernstein caressing and cajoling again and, it has to be said, no one does it better. The fact that he can extract such depth of feeling in passages of eventually such spare scoring is a testament to the man's genius. He certainly takes Mahler at his word in the score and stretches out the ending as far as it will go but never loses the thread or fails to convey the moving quality of what we are hearing. If you like your Mahler like this you must have this recording. If you like your Bernstein "loud and proud", the same applies. If, like me, you are also a fan of concert hall events, buy with confidence also. Simon Rattle's version on EMI (5 56580 2) also records "live" a first

appearance with one of the great European orchestras, in this case the Vienna Philharmonic. It shares the same thought world and general approach as the Bernstein but doesn't, I think, quite convince in its own way. Another problem I have is the wide dynamic range of the recording. In order to hear the softest sections you have to endure the loud ones at a volume setting that could loosen the slates on your roof. This is especially grotesque at the climax to the first movement where the great statement by the trombones of the arrhythmic motive that so haunts this movement comes over like the fog horn of an ocean-going liner. It first caused this Mahlerite to burst out laughing, which is hardly what I expect at that moment. I wish Rattle had recorded this work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on home ground. They would not have played as well as the Vienna Philharmonic, but they would have been much more appropriately responsive to Rattle's vision of the work as I know from hearing "live" broadcasts. Earlier I mentioned one recording I would actively counsel against buying and I feel duty-bound to mention it lest someone who didn't know the work acquired it and came to believe this is how the work ought to be played. It's the recording by Hermann Scherchen with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on Orfeo (C 228 901 B). Scherchen was one of the most infuriating conductors of Mahler. He could be prone to acts of amazing eccentricity which could be brilliantly illuminating (as in the Seventh Symphony), never dull, always provoking. However, the price for this is that the opposite is also the case. No more so than in the Ninth where his tempi are fast right the way through and his general treatment of the music so apparently perfunctory I'm tempted to wonder whether something had upset him prior to the sessions. Either that or he just didn't think much of the symphony. I'm sorry to be so negative, but I feel it important to issue the warning that if you ever see this as you are flicking through the racks in a shop, carry on flicking. Scherchen enthusiasts will, of course, already have it. On the other hand, I must include a plea for one "live" recording to be given wider circulation. This is by Georg Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, recorded in Cleveland in 1969. This is an intense and dramatic performance that can be found in a large Cleveland Orchestra commemorative box and so is very expensive to acquire. I believe it deserves to be released separately and hope Sony can see their way to doing so. It has been available on a hard-tofind Stradivari issue (STR 10012) but in inferior sound recorded "off-air" by what sounds like one microphone positioned in front of a radio. The official

master tape in the Cleveland box reveals it to be of splendid quality to suit the orchestra's performance. Anyone interested in the history of this work should also have the "live" 1938 recording by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Bruno Walter. I have mentioned this many times in passing but now is the moment to go into detail. The performance is unique, unforgettable and charged with a very special quality. Tempo-wise the first movement seems near ideal with a singing line, as though it's taken in one breath. The strings of the old pre-war Vienna Philharmonic ache with potent nostalgia and seem to have the flexibility of the human voice as Walter moulds them. The second movement is a true rustic Landler, harsh and stomping, "cheap". Hear the bows dig into the strings like village fiddlers at some Upper Austrian hop. It isn't rushed, as it so often is, either. When we reach the Rondo Burlesque the strain's beginning to tell. The orchestra, who can't have played this all that often, hang on for dear life but this only adds to the tension. Are they going to make it ? Yes, but it's a closerun thing and perhaps you wouldn't want to hear this too often. The last movement is a bit of a disappointment. It is the quickest you'll hear in overall tempo. The coda especially seems to flash by when held against Bernstein, Haitink, Horenstein. It isn't disastrous, though. It seems to work in the context of the rest and the strings are just as glorious here as they were at the start. I have often wondered whether Walter sensed the audience were maybe losing concentration and hurried a little more than he might have done. Over and above the details of playing and interpretation this is a document of a unique occasion. Eight weeks afterwards Austria became part of the Hitler's Third Reich. Remember this when you sense the presence of the audience. Walter fled westward and many of the players would not be in their places when the orchestra resumed after the war. There is a moment in the first movement (27 bars from the end) when the whole orchestra is silent but for the solo flute descending and you can nearly touch the atmosphere in the hall. In sum, the whole recording couldn't be a reference version as the fluffs and imprecision can irritate and the recorded sound has limitations, but place it against some of the "squeaky clean" digital studio versions and it demands its place. You also soon forget the moments of imbalance in the sound level too. This was a "live" recording achieved by having two cutting styli run in relay with a member of the orchestra sitting next to the engineer with a score so the gain control could be taken up and down to guard against distortion. There are two versions available: EMI References (CDH 7 63029 2) and Dutton

Laboratories (CDEA5005). Overall, I found that whereas with the EMI my "seat" is in the gallery somewhere near the back, the Dutton has me in the stalls nearer the front. By that I mean the Dutton is closer and more detailed, the EMI more distant and less well defined. In the Dutton the strands of the score are more apparent and instruments are plainer, especially solos. Telling examples are the rasp of horns and the flutter of flutes. In the EMI these were less obvious. It has to do with the fact that in Dutton higher frequencies appear enhanced and lower frequencies decreased with greater definition right across. This may have to do with the Cedar process used on the Dutton. So, where in EMI the timpani seemed to underpin, in the Dutton they are much more contained and come from one part of the sound picture. So the Dutton is the one to have, you might think ?

Answering that is where it starts to get problematic. The gain in detail in the Dutton is welcome. One problem, though, is that you also get detail you don't want. The violins sound harsher in the Dutton and the lessening of the bass end makes them less resonant which is something I have always liked in the EMI. This lessening of resonance also marries to a lessening of reverberation. So, with the aural picture closer, the whole experience is less comfortable in Dutton. There is also more of the audience to be heard. They are not a bad audience but what few coughs there are come across with greater clarity (as does the foot stamp by Walter at the start of the scherzo and, what Dutton has now convinced me, a string breaking about three minutes into that same movement). If you have the EMI and are happy, my advice is to stay with it. If you do not have the EMI but want this important recording in one form or another, my advice is to sample both. In spite of the fact that the Dutton has all the virtues over the EMI I have outlined, I could easily imagine people preferring the EMI for its "easier on the ear" feel. Just two more recordings before I finish. Both are courtesy of the BBC, though in one case unofficially at the moment - a situation I hope will change in due course.

In July 1982 Kurt Sanderling and the BBC Philharmonic recorded the Ninth for broadcast in the BBC's Manchester Studio. A few years later this was issued on a single disc in the now defunct BBC Radio Classics series. It only stayed in the catalogue a short time but long enough for those who managed to get a copy to have in their collection another great performance of this work. I'm making an exception in including a deleted recording because I believe it possible this will re-appear in the BBC's new Classics Collection bargain series where former Radio Classics material has found a new lease. It certainly should, as it would not only be the premier recommendation at bargain price but also one that can stand alongside the finest. Kurt Sanderling is a first-class Mahlerian, especially in last period work. I rated his Das Lied Von Der Erde as one of the best on the market and there are many who believe his version of the Deryck Cooke edition of the Tenth worthy of that accolade too. He has recorded the Ninth a second time, with the Philharmonia for Erato, but it is this BBC Philharmonic recording that is the one to have. Sanderling keeps up a determined tempo for the first movement with great "line" and humanity. He even suggests this entire movement is like an immense, quasi-funeral march. He is also more than willing to contrast those passages of exhilaration and optimism with those that depict catastrophe and despair so that the latter become even more moving in context and present a rounded-out world of feeling. The whole "collapse climax" passage (148-210) is delivered with fearsome inevitability and notice in the subsequent "Leidenschaftlich" passage how good Sanderling is at the "dirty" end of the music, lower woodwinds poking out of the texture. The main climax itself, crowned with the "death rhythm" on trombones, is truly overwhelming. There is one great smash of the tam-tam that chills the blood, as also do the trumpets in the "funeral procession" that follows. There is a hedonistic feel to parts of the Recapitulation next, reminding us again how good Sanderling is at taking in all the mood changes of this work. So much so that I think he equals Barbirolli in his reading of this movement. In the Scherzo there is a lovely "swing" to the main Landler and he is aided by superb playing from the BBC Philharmonic. As the movement develops, his judgement of the three different tempi are masterful and one feels they really grow one out of the other, like skins being shed. The close of the second movement is as poisonous and futile as any of the top five I have reviewed. At the start of the Rondo-Burlesque, note the splendidly ugly trumpet, really snarling us underway and Sanderling is brilliant with the chattering woodwinds that ensue: gossips in the coffee houses of old Vienna, or the

detractors backstage at the Opera house ? No praise again is high enough for the orchestra who can stand comparison with the very best, at times approaching the old Vienna Philharmonic in unhinged abandon. In the heavenly interlude I couldn't help but notice an edge of sarcasm from the solo trumpet every now and then, almost as though it's trying to tell us even this consolation is illusory, as we will soon find out. Then the high clarinet does scream us back into the real world like a bad practical joke and the closing pages have a mesmerising, out-of-control quality: a fairground ride running too fast with the trumpets' rasps incredible at full stretch. Finally Sanderling proves once again, if proof were needed, that an essentially unadorned performance of the last movement can move us just as much as those that drag the piece out on the rack. You will gather I regard this recording highly. Indeed, were it easily available, I might have included it among my top recommendations making six instead of five "for the ages". As it is, I look forward to its reappearance and advise you to snap it up if you see it in the meantime. My final version is a "live" recording by Jascha Horenstein and the London Symphony Orchestra at the 1966 BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in London. You already know how highly I rate Horenstein in this work and this recording is, in many ways, superior to his 1953 studio version. It's certainly better played and recorded though, it must be said, even then it remains an "aircheck" in dubiously arrived at stereo. It's been available on Music and Arts (CD 4235) for some years but I think its days are now numbered there so I would hope the time isn't far off when it appears officially on BBC Legends. In the meantime you should be able to get a copy direct from Music and Arts.

In an interview Horenstein called this work his "war-horse" and he certainly performed it a great deal. His conception remained basically the same down the years, something we can judge from the four recordings of him extant. Comparing this "live" 1966 performance with the 1953 studio one I hear a much deeper dimension to the darker side of the work, especially in the first

movement. If, as Deryck Cooke maintains, this is Mahler's "dark night of the soul", under Horenstein in 1966 it is the "DARK dark night of the soul" absolutely no sense that there is anything in this landscape other than utter despair and utter calamity. As a view it's conveyed by Horenstein quite magnificently, without any kind of sentimentality or mannerism. I just worry that it is, nevertheless, a partial view where his 1953 account of the movement isn't quite so much. So all-pervasive is the tragedy in the first movement that it casts a pall over the rest. Again, Horenstein deepens and darkens his conception for the second and third movement compared to 1953, movingly so. Then in the last movement, by adding a whole three minutes to the length, he explores the very depths of despair with no suggestion, to these ears, that there is any consolation at the very end and I cannot believe this was Mahler's intention. Make no mistake, this is a recording of a very great performance indeed and should not be missed. It's the kind of performance that is needed in any profile of the work. I regard it as "hors concours" in that it stands in the pantheon of Mahler Ninths rather like Furtwangler's 1942 performance of Beethoven's Ninth stands for that work: a special, one-off, never-to-berepeated experience that deserves hearing from time to time but which is maybe just too painful, just too truthful, to stand many repetitions. Every Mahlerian and potential Mahlerian should hear it at least once, though. I think it tells us what we don't want to hear. We have travelled a long way - from Horenstein to Horenstein, in fact. I hope I have illustrated at least some of the ways that are possible into this incredible work and given you some ideas as to those recordings which I think represent them best. This is, as always, not an exhaustive list. It is, as always, a personal list. No serious collector of Mahler's music can have only one version of the Ninth in their collection. All of the recordings listed here (except one) would grace yours. Decide how you think the piece should go and choose. Selected Discography Horenstein Vienna Symphony Vox Box Legends CDX2 5509 Crotchet 9.99 Amazon US $9.49 Bruno Walter Columbia Symphony Orchstra Sony SM2K 64452 Amazon UK 11.99 Amazon US$21.57 Otto Klemperer New Philharmonia EMI 5 67036 2 Crotchet 17 Amazon US $21.57 John Barbirolli Berlin Philharmonic EMI 72435679252 Crotchet 8.50 Amazon US $11.49

Bernard Haitink Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra Philips 4622992 Crotchet 11.50 Amazon US$15.49 Pierre Boulez Chicago Symphony Orchestra DG 289 457 5812 Crotchet 12.50 Amazon US $14.99 Benjamin Zander Philharmonia Telarc (3CD-80527) Crotchet 13.99 Amazon US $14.99 Karel Ancerl Czech Philharmonic Supraphon SU 1954-2 Amazon UK 8.99 Michael Gielen South-West German Radio Symphony Orchestra Intercord 860.913 (now on EMI)Amazon UK 8.99 Leonard Bernstein Berlin Philharmonic DG 435 387 2 Crotchet 25.99 Simon Rattle Berlin Philharmonic EMI 5 56580 2 Crotchet 25 Jascha Horenstein London Symphony Orchestra Music and Arts (CD 4235) Crotchet 15 Bruno Walter Vienna Philharmonic EMI References CDH 7 63029 2 Crotchet 8.50 Amazon US$11.49 and Dutton Laboratories CDEA5005 Amazon UK 4.99 [See comparative review with Naxos issue] Prices correct Feb2000

Symphony No.10 Where would Mahler's music have gone had he lived longer than fifty years? A body of opinion has maintained he would have explored the same general routes as his younger contemporaries Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. But Mahler was such an important figure to these men one wonders if their paths would have been quite the same if had Mahler lived. That he would have remained a Mahler that we would all have recognised from previous work there is I believe no doubt. Creative artists are always themselves in the end, they can't change. But that Mahler would have changed with each subsequent work he produced to the same degree he did in previous works is also surely not in doubt either. There are passages in what he left us of the Tenth Symphony that he was working on when he died in 1911 that indicate "newout-of-old" paths which also fascinatingly seem to become born out in composers he did subsequently exert an influence over. Berg, Hindemith, Shostakovich and Britten spring to mind. Even though these composers would not have been aware of what the Tenth Symphony contained for much of their working lives. So the Tenth Symphony material left by Mahler is of crucial importance at the very least to our perception of where he was going after the Ninth Symphony and perhaps a little after that. Had Mahler lived longer it would also have been into a world that would have seen him witness immense social change. Had he survived into the late 1920s or early 1930s he would have come face to face with Nazism and who knows what effect that would have had on his music, let alone on his personal life. In the end, all speculation is futile and we must concentrate on what we have and know of his life and work as it exists. In the years when most of the Tenth Symphony material lay unheard any perception of it was incomplete. Nowadays with the material is before us in a number of forms we can reach our own impressions of this unfinished life's work. Of course, there was a time when opinions like the following were heard more often: "The author inclines to the view that precisely someone who senses the extraordinary scope of the conception of the Tenth ought to do without adaptations and performances. The case is similar with sketches of unfinished pictures by masters: anyone who understands them and can visualise how they might have been completed would prefer to file them away and contemplate them privately, rather than hang them all on the wall." Thus spake Theodor W. Adorno on Mahler's Tenth. I beg to differ. But those who are, like Adorno, against any attempts at producing "adaptations and

performances" out of the material left by Mahler will not be interested in the recordings I am going to deal with here and need read no further. Those who believe the material should have been left alone, accessible only to a small coterie of scholars, would long ago have had the chance to make up their minds about this matter at the time of the first appearance of Deryck Cooke's first performing edition in 1964 after Mahler's widow had lifted her ban on performances. For years the posthumous torso of the Tenth Symphony had been in Alma Mahler's hands. Many had come to believe it was in too fragmentary a state to make anything presentable to the public, let alone whether such a project was the right thing to do at all. In the 1920s the already fully scored first movement, along with the likewise-scored Purgatorio third movement, were published and performed. But hearing these two movements out of context, as you still do sometimes today, is a mistake since little sense can be made of where they fit. As Deryck Cooke said, imagine hearing only the first and Adagietto movements of the Fifth and realise how little you know of what else is contained in that work. Schoenberg was given a look and even Shostakovich was approached but nothing came of this. Much later Alma Mahler would allow publication of a facsimile of the whole material and then the cat was really out of the bag. It became possible, if not inevitable, for a number of people to try their hands at creating a score that could be performed in concert alongside all the other works in the Mahler canon. The late musicologist Deryck Cooke was the best known to produce a performing edition of these sketches, but there have been others. Joe Wheeler in England, Clinton Carpenter and Remo Mazzetti in the USA are also represented in the discography by recordings of versions of the Tenth they have produced and I will come to their versions later. But it's a version by Cooke you will hear most in the concert hall and see in the CD catalogues. Cooke's that has become and will, I believe, remain the "benchmark" edition. In 1960 Deryck Cooke was on the staff at the BBC and preparing a booklet to accompany Mahler Centenary concerts in 1960. Believing that not dealing in detail with the whole of what was left of the Tenth would be to sell Mahler short, Cooke immersed himself in the facsimile. After a long process of work he produced first a radio feature containing a partial version of the work and then a complete performing edition that was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in 1964.

Mahler composed the work itself in four staves from start to finish with no gaps at all. We know enough of his working techniques at that point in his life to know that, once he had set down that stage of a work, he never altered the basic structure. He then orchestrated the first movement and, to most intents and purposes, the tiny third movement. Only the beginning of the second movement was orchestrated and then the orchestration runs out. However, through the rest of the four staves there are indications, some more detailed than others, of his thoughts regarding possible orchestration, dynamics and tempi. It's these that have been worked on to arrive at what could be reckoned eighty-or-so percent of Mahler's wishes at that time. Deryck Cooke always pointed out that after arriving at the stage this "performing edition" partially represents Mahler would inevitably have further revised the work again and again - the form especially rather than the substance - and it is in those revisions that Mahler's own refinements would have come in and his unique sound emerged, a unique sound no one else would have got to. So Cooke never offered his work as a "completion" of the Tenth rather a performing version of the score as it stood at the point Mahler had reached. So no version can be called a "completion" and it is very important to bear this in mind. Only Mahler would have been able to complete the work and we know from Mahler's lifelong working practice that it would have sounded different from all the various versions we have before us in a thousand ways. However, so long as we keep in our minds that what we have is a presentation of "work in progress" we ought to be able to keep a sense of perspective and gain a greater insight into Mahler's life and music than we would if we had rejected any realisation out of hand. As the American Mahler scholar Jack Diether put it: "It is much more important that what Mahler wrote should be heard than that which he did not write should not be heard." In this case, I prefer Diether's view to Adorno's. Cast in five movements the Tenth Symphony, even in the state it was left by Mahler, emerges with an extraordinary sense of structural balance. More so than that of the Ninth. Two Adagios frame two Scherzos, which themselves frame a strange, tiny, achingly descriptive intermezzo marked "Purgatorio" at the very centre. We walk with death-haunted nostalgia in the first movement. Then through rather forced happiness in the second movement. On to Purgatorial unease in the third and tragic bitterness in the Fourth movement. At last we arrive at a series of "death knell" drum strokes ushering in the remarkable last movement. Here the work's darker elements are reviewed and explored until terror from the first movement is recalled before serenity and

heart's ease is won at last. Deryck Cooke had this to say about the work in general and why it is vitally important we consider it in the form it was left: "It shows clearly that Mahler, far from plunging further into preoccupation with death, was moving towards a more vitally creative attitude... there was still plenty of life in him when death claimed him... the Ninth Symphony had been a phase, like the Sixth, which he had faced and overcome." So the Tenth Symphony gives us a further chapter in the autobiographical "novel" in music that was Mahler' life's work. What is being mapped in this work is Mahler's own state of mind. Especially under the pressure in 1910 from his tempestuous marriage which, at that particular time, was under the greatest strain of its short life. Exclamations of his torments litter the score's pages. Most conductors of Mahler's music at the time of the first publication and performances of Cooke's version and subsequently, have disapproved of the score and any others like it. Walter, Kubelik, Horenstein, Barbirolli, Solti, Haitink, Abbado - the list of those who have had nothing to do with a Tenth performing edition is large. Leonard Bernstein even ventured some cock-eyed rubbish about Mahler never being able to complete the Tentheven if he had lived! According to him he "had said it all in the Ninth". Yet some of the above conductors have been perfectly happy to perform the Adagio first movement on its own, which is surely giving Mahler's intentions even less consideration. The eventual conductor of the first performance of Cooke's score in London in 1964 was the composer Berthold Goldschmidt who was also a collaborator in the project and would have a part to play in the years that followed. Eugene Ormandy then conducted the first performance in the USA with the Philadelphia Orchestra, at Alma Mahler's insistence, and their subsequent 1964 studio recording can still be heard on Sony. Ormandy's recording uses the score Deryck Cooke first published in 1964. In the years that followed, Cooke would submit his score to an important revision. Indeed, even his own revision would itself have one more slight re-working following his death by his later assistants Colin and David Matthews, and also Berthold Goldschmidt bringing some final thoughts. But more of that later. For now, the fact that Ormandy's 1964 recording on Sony (which may currently be out of the catalogue) represents the first complete Cooke edition rather than the second for me largely rules it out of consideration. But let us deal with it as it does have many virtues as it stands. The point is that it both suffers and benefits from the fact that it is very nearly a first performance. It suffers because there is no performing tradition to call on and the conductor and orchestra must feel their way. It benefits from the fact that feeling their way they does bring a

sense of wonder and discovery and I think you really can sense their missionary zeal in this recording. It must also be said that the playing of the Philadelphia orchestra is superb in every department. Ormandy adopts a very challenging tempo for Adagio material and I think, in the last analysis, he therefore misses a lot of the "searching" quality other conductors really plug into. There is no denying the superlative string playing which sears into the mind, though. Notice how the cellos really dig into the strings in the way no other version does and the wonderful woodwind choir in the Development too. Then in the subsequent Recapitulation Ormandy's determined line brings an astringency to the music I am not sure is entirely appropriate. The movement's central crisis is where a searing brass chorale is followed by a shattering dissonance crowned by the long note on the solo trumpet that pierces the symphony like a hypodermic full of poison. From then on the symphony's world-view is never the same again. Here Mahler is almost mapping his own and Europe's psychic landscape at one and the same time. Under Ormandy this doesn't have the really hysterical power it can have, but the clean and cultured brass outburst that initiates it is impressively delivered. Even though I do find Ormandy's overall tempo in this movement too quick, it must be added that the relationships between the different tempi work well. The orchestra negotiates the metrical changes in the difficult second movement Scherzo with supreme ease. Again this is one of the best-played recordings before us. I also think that, whether by design or accident, Ormandy does bring out the lighter, happier quality in this movement that Mahler once referred to. However, when you subsequently here the revision Deryck Cooke brought to this movement in his second edition you realise Ormandy's version sounds rather "thin" at times. The same applies to an even greater extent in the third movement's second Scherzo. The sense of particular Mahlerian colouring that is more apparent in other versions is rather lacking. However, Ormandy and the orchestra do give their best in the "new" music but cannot get anywhere near the "earthiness" that infests this music as it winds down to the extraordinary close because here we reach perhaps the most famous passage in any realised Mahler Tenth. It is when the composer recalls for us the moment that the funeral of a serving fireman paused beneath his hotel window in New York in 1910 and a drum was struck in commemoration. It's the moment in this work when you know that the horrors have at last taken over the house. There is some dispute as to what exactly Mahler heard that day in 1910 and therefore what he would have intended us to here in the symphony. Was it a single stroke on a drum, or was it, as has recently been researched by Jerry Bruck, a short tattoo? Should it be a bass drum as in Joe

Wheeler's edition, or a muffled military drum as in Cooke's? There is further dispute as to how hard it should be struck. For myself I believe the more recent trend of getting the percussionist to hit his drum as hard as possible is quite mistaken. These drum strokes sound well in Ormandy's recording, however. Again in this movement, Cooke's first version is itself an example of "work in progress" so once you get the chance to compare this version of Cooke's score with his own revision you see the subtle qualities Cooke was later to bring out. The wonderful passage between bars 3071, with the famous flute solo climbing out the depth of despair, emerges cool and chaste but a steadier tempo on Ormandy's part would have been more moving. There is no questioning the stunning power of the Philadelphia strings in the closing pages of the work but there is something missing, something that has to do with personal involvement by the conductor. Ormandy was never a great Mahlerian but he was a great conductor and this version of the Tenth is a fine example of his art. The differences between Cooke's original version of 1964 and then his revision of 1972 affect the second, fourth and fifth movements and a desire for greater clarity and a more Mahlerian sound palette. Triple woodwinds become quadruple and so remove the need for un-Mahlerian doubling of woodwind and strings by dividing off the "harder-sounding" woodwind instruments. In the second movement "filling out" elements that Cooke had thought were needed to make a proper texture went also. In came some retouching to get rid of what Cooke called "the effect of a rehearsal for violins and brass alone". In the fourth movement Cooke also reduced the dynamic levels in places to allow climaxes to stand out better and the same applies in the last movement. There are other changes that add to the greater vividness and greater Mahlerness of the score. The first performance of this second version by Cooke was given in London by the New Philharmonia Orchestra under Wyn Morris in 1972 and recorded by them for Philips the same year. Apart from the fact that this is an important document in the history of this work it is also, in my opinion, a superbly played and recorded interpretation and it is good to see that it has been reissued on CD in a coupling with the classic Eduard Flipse "live" recording of the Eighth Symphony. Scribendum (SC010) One of the first conductors to take up the second Cooke version after Wyn

Morris, perhaps the most distinguished conductor to adopt a "performing edition" of the Tenth at all, was Kurt Sanderling. He made a recording of the work in the old East Berlin in 1979 with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra that is hard to find but well worth the effort if you can. It appeared on the Ars Vivendi label and also in Japan on Deutsche Schallplatten but what we really need is an easily available re-issue and I have hopes Berlin Classics will come up with one to go with his excellent Das Lied Von Der Erde. Interestingly, Sanderling makes changes of his own to Cooke's revised score and it could be argued that, with the original material itself in such an "unfinished" state, conductors can be allowed some freedom. Whether one agrees with some of those changes Sanderling makes is another matter. His changes did have consequences I will come to below, but let me deal with this recording since I do admire it and you may be able to obtain it if you look hard enough. [I believe this to be the disc on the HMV Japanwebsite - LM] In the first movement note the expressive quality of the string playing and what appears a well nigh perfect judgement of tempi. The main Adagio contrasts beautifully with that of the opening Andante, for example. I also admire the way Sanderling brings a real emotional peak into what is very nearly a repeat of the Exposition material. In the Development he is acutely aware of Mahler's late style with its chamber-like textures and brings with it an undeniable "grieving" quality that is most affecting. The movement's central climax seems embedded into the structure with every fragment carefully attended to by Sanderling as crucially part of what is around us. Then in the coda he maintains a sharpness of vision that too slow and languid a performance can take us back to the days when this movement was performed alone. In the second movement Mahler takes the ideas of the shifting, changing metres encountered in the Sixth Symphony's scherzo to an extreme and I think Sanderling sets an admirable "framework" to cope with this. His approach also brings reminders of the Ninth's Scherzo and he shows himself the master of all its demands and encourages his orchestra to playing of great character. The change of mood that comes in the "Trio" sections see some of the slight re-touchings made to the orchestration by Sanderling himself and, to me, they sound discreet and natural. More importantly here, Sanderling conveys genuine world-weariness. This might not have been what Mahler had in mind but it's impressive for all that. This is also a good movement in which to admire the natural analogue recording that presents few problems whilst not being the equal of Rattle's, for example.

Sanderling's account of the short Purgatorio fourth movement shows that he fully realises the importance of this in the scheme. Then in the fourth movement's Scherzo II the key to what Sanderling seems to be doing is to home in on the juxtaposition of "Danse Macabre" with merry waltz. Here as ever Mahler treats his material like shuffling a pack of cards and Sanderling is clearly aware of that in the way the kaleidoscope this movement is seems to go past us. As in the second movement, Sanderling's own adjustments sound right again and in the winding down towards the drum strokes he is good at the creepy end of the music, the muted brass especially memorable. As with other recordings, I found Sanderling's drum strokes at the start of the last movement too loud for what they are meant to depict. But he is unquestioningly trying to convey desolation and despair and does succeed. This means the noble adagio music that climbs out from this pit of despair, led by the solo flute, is more moving and consoling than ever. Indeed I was reminded of the arrival of the Shepherd's Thanksgiving after the storm in Beethoven's Pastoral. The quicker conflict material in the centre of the movement where the work finds resolution can catch out the best orchestras but these Berlin players have clearly been well prepared. Sanderling also adds some extra percussion at the return of the first movement's central climax here in the last. You can argue that the whole point of such a return of this crisis material is that it is and should sound the same. But Mahler seldom repeated himself and might he have added such an extra weight to the sound had he lived? There is a lot to the Tenth that is a clutch of "might have beens" so there must be some latitude allowed for, I suppose. On the whole, I prefer the passage without the extra percussion, but make up your own minds. In fact, Sanderling appears to add more percussion here than Simon Rattle (who is on the record as taking his cue from Sanderling) subsequently did in both his recordings. There is under Sanderling the hint of the scaffold from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Then in the closing pages there is sweetness and serenity, but depth of feeling too and a rare lifeaffirming quality: elegy turned into deliverance. Make no mistake, Sanderling's recording is a magnificent one and really deserves to be better available. I have mentioned Simon Rattle in connection with Sanderling's recording. Rattle has performed this work more times than any other conductor. In

many ways it's become his signature work. So it's appropriate it turned out to be this he conducted with the Berlin Philharmonic in his first appearance with them after being named Chief Conductor and also for EMI to record both performances from last year's Berlin Festival to use for CD issue (CDC5 569 72 2). I will declare now that I believe this Berlin recording by Rattle to be the first choice among the available recordings of the Cooke score by quite a long way. No other conductor matches Rattle and even those that come close are hard or impossible to buy. As I have said, Rattle was much influenced by Sanderling. But he was also influenced by his contact with Berthold Goldschmidt, Cooke's first conductor and someone Cooke counted as collaborator. When Rattle came to make his first recording of the Cooke second edition with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for EMI in 1980 (CDC 7 54406 2) he incorporated some of the changes Sanderling made and some suggested by Goldschmidt and the Matthews brothers. In 1989, thirteen years after the death of Deryck Cooke, Colin and David Matthews brought out a final revision of Cooke's score which incorporates some of those changes that are included in Rattle's Bournemouth recording and it this third and final version of Deryck Cooke's score that is available to conductors now and which is used by Rattle in Berlin. Rattle sees the first movement Adagio in one breath. An arch-like structure and evidence of his familiarity and conviction. The opening figure on violas is very spare sounding and then the adagio proper presents us with a cultured string tone. This is something of a disappointment, let me say. Comparison with the earlier Bournemouth recording shows more bloom and rapture in their strings in a recording which, in sound terms, is generally more atmospheric. In the Development section, however, the excellence of the Berliners' playing is clear to all. The woodwind contributions, for example, are especially fine in music where Mahler's chamber-like textures are explored in detail and where only the best players will do. What we hear then is an excellent delivery of an aspect of Mahler's later style and the Berliners respond. In the movement's central crisis notice the organ-like quality of the massed brass and then the refining fire Rattle charges into the music with the high violins throwing an arc over the landscape. In the aftermath Rattle then splendidly conveys the feeling of stoically carrying on in spite of the terror

just experienced. Nowhere does Rattle really let the music rest. Always there is the undercurrent that the holding on is fingertip thin. One of the most striking aspects of the second movement, the first of the work's two scherzos, is, as we have seen, the frequent metrical changes that carry to a logical extreme similar metrical changes in the Sixth Symphony's scherzo. In this music Mahler places himself among the new music of the century exploding all around him but here allowing it to illustrate his troubled state of mind. This music holds no fears for the Berliners and Rattle seems to revel in throwing every challenge at them and hearing them respond with sure precision. He strides forward too, pressing on in a way I don't think he quite did in Bournemouth. The sharp, analytical recording means we hear everything as well. The tiny Purgatorio third movement that follows is light and exposes the lighter bass end of this sound picture. I mention this because I notice it, but don't let it be a determining factor in whether you buy this excellent recording or not. In the second Scherzo Rattle understands perfectly that this is conflict music, once again a map of Mahler's state of mind, contrasting demonic scherzo material with a happy waltz, pulling one way, then another, setting up an inner dynamic. Notice the volatility Rattle causes to come over the music as the dark coda approaches and the drum strokes beckon. In Rattle's Bournemouth recording this "percussion event" and its subsequent repetition in the last movement was too loud: a cannonade against which the listener had to steal himself and surely not what Mahler had in mind. Here in Berlin Rattle has reined back the sound and what we hear is much more a part of the texture and for that change I praise him. Another stroke on the drum should open the last movement but Rattle always cuts this so as not to make any break between the last two movements and I think this is correct. Indeed, some people who have examined the manuscript believe Mahler was thinking that way also. Rattle then climbs out from the pit of despair to a delivery of the melody on the solo flute that moves and impresses with each subsequent hearing. There is also some superb string playing, the Berliners delivering rapt pianissimi. As I indicated when dealing with the Sanderling recording, in the movement's central crisis, a reprise of the central crisis from the first movement, Rattle reinforces with extra percussion to ram home climactic power. A practice he inherits from Sanderling but which is not carried in any of the Cooke editions. The sentiments I expressed about this when dealing with Sanderling apply here.

The coda is one of the most consoling and profound passages in all Mahler. All of the editors of the symphony rise to the occasion perhaps compelled by the shade of Mahler himself to deliver what he surely meant us to hear. The playing of the Berlin orchestra under Rattle is a model of poise. The Bournemouth Orchestra played well but the Berliners have a greater, more complete grasp on the music in the end and Rattle too has moved on. He is here, as always, the most compelling guide to this work of any conductor who has recorded it and the Berliners are now clearly his to command. His total identification with this score is remarkable and this new recording must be the first choice of the score that itself must remain first choice. The third Cooke version is also the one used on a superb "live" recording by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Mark Wigglesworth and given away "free" as a cover disc on an edition of "BBC Music Magazine". Sometimes you can pick this up on its own and I advise you to do so if you ever see it. Better still would be a new recording of this work by Mark Wigglesworth since he really penetrates deeply into this work as few others do. [ Back copies: BBC Music Magazine, PO Box 279, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8DF, UK (+44) 01795 414555 4.95- LM] The differences between Cooke's second and third editions are quite slight, by the way. Nowhere near as profound as between Cooke's first and second editions, in fact. To tell the difference between Cooke II and Cooke III use the following guide: 1) Just before the end of the 2nd movement (bar 521) there is a cymbal crash in Cooke III whereas Cooke II does not have this. (To be strictly accurate, Wigglesworth's "live" concert recording already referred to doesn't do so either. Conducting Mahler's Tenth is never an exact science, I'm afraid.) 2) The snare drum and xylophone parts were deleted in Cooke III, but are used in Cooke II. Snare drum references in the 4th movement are bars 1, 111, 170, 380 etc. 3) At bars 451-62 Cooke II has the melody given to Violas, while Cooke III gives it to the Cor anglais.

So there is and always will be significant areas of doubt. Often these seem to centre on too often trying to hear or present what is on all the recordings in this survey as though it was "Mahler's Tenth Symphony". What we have, not just from Deryck Cooke but from all the editors, is not that. To give them their due none of the editors of the performing editions themselves claim it to be so. Deryck Cooke puts it best in the Foreword to the published version of his second edition: "Mahler himself, in bringing it to its final form, would have revised the draft - elaborated, refined and perfected it in a thousand ways; he would also, no doubt, have expanded, contracted, redisposed, added, or cancelled a passage here and there (especially in the second movement); and he would finally, of course, have embodied the result in his own incomparable orchestration. Obviously, he alone could have done all this: the idea that someone else can now reconstruct the process is pure illusion." I'm content to listen and gain from what I hear and find. If I keep a part of my mind on those words of Cooke's, far from having my enjoyment spoilt it is enhanced. I sometimes try to imagine what I'm not hearing rather than paying all attention to what I am hearing. Trying to bring to mind the "pure illusion" Deryck Cooke speaks of. It is the case that, when the mind becomes exercised on a specific point, it leads it deeper into the work. I like to think of the various editions of the Tenth that have been produced down the years as exhibitions of "work in progress" and that caveat leads me to welcome the fact that Remo Mazzetti entered the field in the 1980s. This material can only be enhanced when different sensibilities, opinions, skills and outlooks are brought to bear. But I also think it was high time there was an edition of the material of Mahler's Tenth for performance from the generation that has absorbed Mahler's music in the light of more recent years. I think also that the evidence in the recording by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on BMG/RCA (09026 68190-2) of Mazzetti's skills, allied to his obvious love of Mahler's music, convinces me we are fortunate he has decided to do so. I hope this puts what follows into perspective because I want Remo Mazzetti to succeed in bringing his edition of the material to the point at which he is satisfied with it. This leads me to point out that the Mazzetti version, as represented in the recording by Slatkin, is Mazzetti's first and that he has since published a new version which has been recorded and awaits release later in 2000 and which I have been unable to deal with here. When it is published no doubt another layer of debate will be added. Until then I can deal only with Mazzetti's first version since it remains current and available to CD collectors.

In the first movement I like the timpani parts added by Mazzetti at key points. These are in keeping with what I believe Mahler would have done once he got the piece into the concert hall since they underpin moments of emotional power. I do feel when we get to the second movement, though, that the timpani at 163 where the music falls into the first landler is distracting and blunts the sudden arrival of this late expression of Mahler's favourite dance. However, I do like the cymbals between about 253-279 as they bring to mind the Scherzo of the Ninth and that seems appropriate. I disagree in part with Remo Mazzetti's scoring of the Purgatorio third movement. There's too much going on for what should surely be a nagging, troubled, insidious little movement. With instruments "handing" themes one to another and back again like this the attention gets distracted where it should be held. This is one part of the symphony where Mahler did leave behind more for the editor to know what he had in mind. I think, for example, that the "whoop" at 68 and the trills and upward "scoop" at 103-4 are too florid. In the latter case I'm reminded of the Scherzo of the Seventh where the effect Mahler is aiming at is entirely different. There is an aspect of Mazzetti's version of the Purgatorio I do agree with, though. This is the variegating of the orchestration after 126. At 126 the material left by Mahler runs out, he inserts "Da capo" and the staves go blank. Deryck Cooke writes of this: "It is highly unlikely that Mahler intended an exact repetition of bars 7-34 (he has already contracted and varied bars 1-6 and bars 122-125), but in the absence of sketch material for bars 126-153 a Performing Version can do no more than this. Different orchestration would be presumptuous, when Mahler's own orchestration of bars 7-28 is available for bars 126-147 and implicit in Mahler's Short Score bars 29-34 for bars 148153." I'm sure Cooke is right to say it is "unlikely" Mahler intended an exact repetition of orchestration. Mahler was, after all, a master of continuous variation. So I can't see why Cooke then goes on to say it would be "presumptuous" to make a difference in the orchestration from 126 and proceed to adhere to his own stricture in both his versions. So I think Mazzetti is justified in making the "presumption" and varying the orchestration even though, as I explained, I have problems with the orchestration decisions he reaches. In the fourth movement I think the percussion is used too much. The first flourish on the side drum at the start, for example, but also in other parts. Mahler never over-scored percussion and even had to take steps with the revision of the Fifth when he felt he did. At 73 in both Cooke versions I've always liked the prominent oboe. The "thicker" scoring Mazzetti adopts here has the effect of covering this and is indicative of other similar passages where

a solo effort may be blunted. However, at 100-105 there is a passage that has always troubled me in both Cooke versions to the extent that I've often wondered whether Mahler wouldn't have later excised it. It seems, to me, out of place. Interestingly, the most successful rendition of this moment is by Sanderling who adds some woodwind figuration to Cooke's solution. Here, in Mazzetti's version, the slightly more substantial attention paid to it also made me feel this passage is more part of the movement. I've always been uneasy at the use by Cooke of the bass tuba at the start of the fifth movement. It sounds too Wagnerian - as if Fafner has woken late - so I'm glad Mazzetti scored this in the way he did with a solo double bass. The effect of the string base seems right: a fine solution. I do think, though, that the flute alone should emerge out of the "darkness" and at 34 carry on unsupported. The counterpoint from Mazzetti is tasteful but I just think the flute alone with its purity is emotionally what Mahler had in mind and the facsimile seems to support that. When the Allegro gets underway following the return of the bass drum thwacks (too loud in Slatkin's recording) I feel, as in the fourth movement, Mazzetti has "over-egged the pudding" with orchestral detail once more. The brass is given too much to do, for example. Though the extra "dada-dah" at 183 didn't bother me too much. I also liked the chattering woodwinds before the onslaught of the recapitulation of the first movement crisis putting me in mind of the interlude in the Rondo Burleske of the Ninth. At 282 Mazzetti has decided to add the extra weight of percussion too. As I said when dealing with the Sanderling and Rattle recordings, it could be said the power of this passage lies in the fact that it's like the first movement crisis and nothing should be done to alter that. Following this final crisis there's much to admire in what Mazzetti has done, not least the string solos at 381394 where the effect is of an ebbing away, not unlike the end of the Ninth Symphony. However, I really don't like the timpani at 395 after the strings rear up for the last great statement in the movement before the long dying away. The effect is too grandiose and shifts the balance of the work's conclusion. We have had the clinching climax in the recapitulation of the first movement crisis at 282. To make this moment rival it not only undermines the former passage and gives this passage too much energy. That Mahler still retains "passion" at this point is undeniable, but all his energy has gone and the music, already winding down, should reflect this in being less powerful. Since Slatkin's is the only available recording of the first Mazzetti edition discussion of it as a performance of the symphony is less relevant. If you want this version of the score you have no choice but to buy this recording of it.

Since it is clear I would not in the final analysis recommend this version of the score over Cooke's second or third versions the fact that I find Slatkin's contribution to the performance somewhat lacking in character and depth is largely irrelevant. In fact, I would go further and say that were it not for the fact that this recording is the only recording of the first Mazzetti version I would not have included mention of it. Mazzetti's latest version, on the other hand, has been recorded by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Jesus Lopez-Cobos who has proved himself a Mahler conductor of considerable experience, so I look forward very much to hearing both his performance and Mazzetti's new thoughts and reserve judgement. This is the place to deal briefly with the version of the score prepared by the American scholar Clinton Carpenter. By beginning work on his version as early as 1946 Carpenter was, in fact, the first person in the field. It would be 1966 before he completed his work's first edition, 1983 before he received a first performance by Gordon Peters and Chicago Civic Orchestra, and 1995 before he received a recording by Harold Faberman and the Philharmonia Hungarica on a little-known label called Golden String. This recording is an intense disappointment and, as with the Slatkin of the first Mazzetti, were it not for the fact that it represents the only recording ever made of the Carpenter score I wouldn't mention it here. Conducted in a perfunctory, cavalier fashion, the tone-starved, lacklustre ensemble seems barely interested in the work and the recording is only adequate. Faberman's principal fault is the fast tempi he adopts, robbing the music of most of its emotional power. Clinton Carpenter deserves so much more than this and I do hope one day he receives his due in the recording studio. The CD is hard to find but, if you are curious to hear this version of this score, by all means try to look because it is full of interesting things. It is not an edition that I could live with since it goes a lot further than the others do in trying to "second guess" what Mahler would have done had he lived rather than merely presenting what we have been left with in performance form. Clinton Carpenter is a very clever man of the highest integrity but I think he presumes a little too much. There is one other name to be dealt with in the story of Mahler's Tenth as it applies to available recordings of "performing versions" and that is Joe Wheeler. Wheeler was an Englishman born in 1927. Apart from National Service in the Royal Air Force he was a Civil Servant for most of his life, a Mathematician, a ballroom dancer, a brass player, a composer and a Mahler

enthusiast from a time when that was unusual. It was in 1953 that he began work in earnest on the Tenth Symphony material, six years before Deryck Cooke. He had done so following a meeting in London in 1945 with the scholar Jack Diether where the two kindred souls were at an early British performance of the Fifth Symphony. From then on they began a detailed correspondence that would last until Wheeler's death in 1977. Diether encouraged Wheeler to work on the Tenth and he would produce four versions in all. The last, the one represented in a "live" recording by the Colorado Mahlerfest Orchestra under Robert Olson in 1997, was completed in 1966 and premiered in New York by the Orchestra of the Manhattan School of Music conducted by Jonel Perlea. The liner notes in the Mahlerfest recording (MF 10), available direct from the Colorado Mahlerfest: , contain articles detailing the history of Wheeler's edition and the work that had to be done to bring it to "race trim" for the live performance in Boulder, Colorado. They also make mention of the other editions. In fact Clinton Carpenter and Remo Mazzetti played no small part, along with conductor Robert Olson, in bringing Wheeler's edition to life for this recording, proving the sense of fellowship that exists in the Mahler community. The short article in the notes by Mazzetti is exemplary in scholarship and also modesty regarding his own contribution to the Tenth Symphony's performing history while Olson's part is dealt with in the notes by the conductor himself. He is modest on this too but one suspects it was greater than he admits. This does suggest that what we have before us is not a pure rendition of Wheeler's final version but, in a work that stands or falls on the acceptance of the concept of "work in progress" in the first place, this should not concern us too much. Especially since Olson is expected to record the work again with a fully professional orchestra. The Colorado Mahlerfest Orchestra forms for two performances of one Mahler symphony every year at the festival in Boulder. Many of the players come from the Colorado Front Range and others come from elsewhere professionals, semi-professionals and amateurs - but this is the only time they play together as this orchestra. The drawback is that they don't have the kind of corporate elan found in the metropolitan bands or the whipcrack solidity of ensemble great Mahler playing really needs. Neither can they draw on experience of playing other composers. It's a tribute to them and their conductor that they play as well as this with a near note-perfect performance taped live. But there is no doubt a few allowances have to be made if perfection in orchestral playing and tonal splendour is important. On the other hand there's no doubting their enthusiasm and the sense that they share their

conductor's missionary zeal. Olson is a direct and punctilious Mahlerian, a man with a mission to adhere to the score though some might say at the expense of passion and emotion. Under Olson the performance of the first movement is notable for its structural integrity. There's the sense of each episode here delivering an unfolding story as each return of the main adagio material is played with a little more urgency each time. There is a subtle, consistent undertow drawing us on. I also like Olson's sense of a strict dichotomy between the warm, noble music and the spikily dissonant passages. Presented like this we are aware the music of this symphony presents vulnerability always trying, and ultimately failing, to keep away terrors. This prepares us for the confirmation of this idea at the great brass chorale blaze and trumpet dissonance. It's vitally important we never forget this moment and under Olson we don't. However, there is a clean, almost clinical feel to this passage as played here that puts me in mind of Ormandy in that it lacks some of the raw emotional power others bring and the impression is of purgation rather than wounding. It's an interesting, refreshing impression, though. It is from the second movement on that listeners familiar with the versions by Deryck Cooke will notice the differences between that and Wheeler's. There's a great deal of evidence to suggest Mahler was viewing this as a bipartite symphony with the first and second movements forming Part I and I think Olson is aware of this because there seems a clear idea of presenting "the other side of the coin" to the one we have heard in the first movement. The contrast between them couldn't be greater whilst there is still the vestige of an idea that the two are symbiotically connected. With all that in mind I enjoyed the idiomatic treatment of the "Trios" this first scherzo almost "falls into" in the course of this movement. Just as in the first movement there is alternation between two specific kinds of material (the symbiotic relationship between them surely) here in the second movement the idea is carried many steps further with the awkward, asymmetrical main material alternating with the nostalgically charged Trios. Under Olson these keep moving a little faster than usual and there is opinion to suggest a greater slowing down was a misunderstanding of the source material on Cooke's part corrected by Wheeler. Though I'm told Olson felt the music naturally suggested a slowing down so this is what emerged in rehearsal for the concert here recorded. Olson's sense of proportion and the Wheeler version's much clearer wind lines help produce what I think is a more Mahlerian sound - though with the caveats to follow below. I also couldn't help noticing a kinship between passages in

these Trios and their counterparts in the second movement of the Fourth Symphony. I'm unsure as to whether this is a case of the Wheeler edition or Olson's interpretation of it, or both, but I found it illuminating. It is certainly the case that Wheeler's score is from now on a tougher sound than Cooke's, less cushioned, more febrile, more worrying. In his liner notes article, Remo Mazzetti writes: "Whereas Cooke and I imitated the textures of the middle period symphonies (5,6 & 7) and Carpenter tried to re-create the dense polyphony of the Ninth, Wheeler alone allowed Mahler's own leaner textures to come through clearly. In this, Wheeler's final version is closer to Das Lied Von Der Erde than any of the other versions, not because Wheeler thought that this should be so, but because Mahler's own orchestration of the first half of the symphony strongly suggested this." I'm glad Mazzetti uses the word "closer" regarding relationships between the sound of the Wheeler version and Das Lied Von der Erde rather than "close". There is a whole world of difference between what we hear in this Tenth version and that other masterpiece from Mahler's final triptych, particularly the translucency Mahler manages to obtain from his chamber-like textures in Das Lied. But Mazzetti's point is to be born in mind. Wheeler does indeed make the case for a new sound palette being explored within a recognisable line of descent that claims parentage to Das Lied Von der Erde rather than any other work in the Mahler canon. It has often been said Wheeler is the least "interventionist" of the various editors. Compared with Clinton Carpenter he certainly is, but it is a lot more complex than that, as Remo Mazzetti argues. This is all born out most strongly in the fourth movement, the second scherzo. This has always been the problem movement for me when listening to the Cooke version. I have never been especially moved, or completely convinced, by Cooke's versions here. Always feeling in this movement I was the furthest away from Mahler, not really feeling that the music suits the scribbled exclamations Mahler left in his score at this point: "Madness, seize me, the accursed!" "Destroy me so that I may forget that I exist!" etc. Of course, like all Mahlerites, I have been lost in admiration for Cooke's work and gratitude for the fact that we have always had it to hear when we might have had nothing. But there is no doubt in my mind that it's in this movement Wheeler's version really comes into its own. The immediate aspect one notices is that Wheeler is freer than Cooke in his use of percussion. In fact he was even freer than is represented here since this is one area of the orchestration Robert Olson admits to having adjusted down. Nevertheless, the percussion, and then, as the music progresses, those starker, clearer wind lines and the greater "openness" of the orchestration I referred to, (with correspondingly less use of

strings as cushion), make this the movement where, as Mahler writes in his sketches "The Devil Dances it with me". It is in this movement as rendered here that Mahler's nightmare visions, the one's that have threatened chaos right through, actually seem to be winning. Olson helps by not rushing the music and knowing when to slow down even more to mark the rhythmic effects, grinding the music into our minds. With this in mind the orchestral quotation from the first song in "Das Lied Von der Erde" emerges with more bitterness and abandon. So too do the dance-like elements where Olson judges the snap of the "gallumphing" gaits to perfection and is helped considerably by Wheeler's more astringent sound. He is also able to accentuate more dissonance to a degree I have not been aware of to quite this extent. This is an uncomfortable ride. Altogether in this movement Wheeler and Olson seem to take us further into the century than Cooke and giving us a newly tantalising "might have been" glimpse of where Mahler could have gone. Is that modern urban life I hear as the music starts to wind down? Perspectives shifting even more profoundly than usual, dynamic contrasts, sharp percussion more prominent? Tram cars, trains and motors, the buzzes and clicks of the telegraph - the "Victorian Internet"? Mahler the precursor of Varese rather than Webern? Maybe, and maybe that's too programmatic for a composer who rejected programmes. But I cannot stress too highly my admiration for the fourth movement as recorded here. It is something genuinely new and very important and makes us ask questions of the music we may not have asked before. It's worth adding that, with the bipartite structure in mind, the opening movement of "Part II", the tiny but profoundly important third movement Purgatorio prepares the ground perfectly for the fourth movement with a crepuscular, wind-dominated and more sour-sounding piece than with Cooke. So to the drum strokes that open the last movement. As to volume, Olson is of the more restrained persuasion, though even he might have instructed his player not to strike with quite so much enthusiasm as this. What someone familiar with the Cooke version will notice most about the Wheeler version's opening of the last movement is the fact that the ascending figure that accompanies the drum strokes is given to the double bass section rather than the solo tuba with Cooke or a string bass solo with Mazzetti, and that it is delivered at a quicker tempo. A pure presentation of the Wheeler material may have had this taken even faster and I think Olson exercised some creative interpretation here, but the difference is still telling as it has the effect of integrating this crucial passage more into the general tableaux of the work,

knitting it back into the previous movement and forward to what is to come. I also liked the feeling of a small military band procession in one of the contributions from the woodwind choir. This is idiomatically Mahlerian to an extent Cooke isn't quite as much. As the drum falls silent the music climbs once again and we are in the presence of the solo flute passage that so impressed those who heard Cooke's score for the first time in 1964. Wheeler leaves the flute playing alone rather, as Mazzetti, hands the material around the section and he is surely correct. In the subsequent quicker passages of the movement Olson's sense of the architecture of the work doesn't fail him. All the references back to the Purgatorio and to the two scherzos come off, as too does the greater sense of dynamic contrasts that were so telling in the fourth movement. The final, clinching dissonance, the recall of the key piercing high trumpet passage from back in the first movement, carries the same purging quality and a sense of "full circle" is achieved. This is such a consistently "thought through" performance, symphonic. The final section, where Mahler reaches a peace and resignation like no others in any of his works is in keeping with Olson's treatment of the first movement: pure, direct, without self-indulgence or excess, but built up unerringly if a little "four-squarely". Others might prefer more passion. I wouldn't disagree, but as a presentation of the score you could not really ask for more. I liked the cymbal crash Wheeler puts into the score at one moment of resolution too. This is a release of importance to the Mahler discography and is worthy of joining it since, unlike Slatkin's recording of the Mazzetti and especially of Faberman's of the Carpenter, Olson's performance of the symphony deserves its place here in spite of the fact that it is, at the moment, the only recording we have of the Wheeler. The availability of Wheeler's edition does not, I think, herald a replacement for Deryck Cooke's latter two but is a compliment to it as are those by Clinton Carpenter and Remo Mazzetti also. To broadly characterise each of the editors from the most to conservative to the most adventurous would be in the order of Wheeler, Cooke, Mazzetti and Carpenter. As things stand at the moment I regard the Wheeler score, as represented in the Olson recording, the first alternative to those by Cooke. But Deryck Cooke's final versions remain, at the moment, the paramount guide to the Tenth Symphony as it stood at Mahler's death. I'm aware of all the scholarly disagreements that statement entails but I think I have a duty to state my position. Of those conductors who have taken this best-known version up it is

Simon Rattle who reigns supreme with Kurt Sanderling close behind. Rattle's second recording in Berlin is the one against which all others should be measured even though I have the highest regard for the hard to find Sanderling in spite of the changes he makes. Those recordings by Wigglesworth and Morris already mentioned run these close but they are even harder or impossible to find. There are two other recordings of the second Cooke version of the Tenth. One of these is by Ricardo Chailly and the Berlin Radio Symphony on Decca. It's a fine version though not, I think, the equal of the ones already dealt with. More importantly this was made earlier in Chailly's career before his more recent Mahler recordings with the Royal Concertgebouw and his performance of the Tenth has matured greatly. I very much hope he will re-record the work soon. I do await a new recording of the Wheeler version by Robert Olson too. Not just for the fact that it will be with a better orchestra than the one on his present recording, but also that it might offer us a version of Wheeler's score a touch more faithful to the original. Even though this will not lessen my admiration for the Colorado version. This survey is, by the nature of the work under discussion, very much an "interim report". With Mazzetti's second version imminent for release by a fine Mahler conductor, an entirely new version of the work rumoured to be in the wings from another well-known conductor, and the propensity of still other conductors to make their own adjustments to the versions that already exist, how could it be anything else? Rattle Berlin Philharmonic CDC5569722 Crotchet Amazon US Rattle Bournemouth SO CDC7544062 Crotchet Amazon US Slatkin St Louis SO 09026 68190-2 Amazon US see also Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (1901-2) Symphony No.10 in F sharp minor (1910) Reconstruction and instrumentation after Mahlers sketches by Rudolf Barshai Junge Deutsche Philharmonie/Rudolf Barshai

The Mahler Symphonies A synoptic survey by Tony Duggan Das Lied von der Erde Death was no stranger to Mahler. In childhood it visited his home and took away brothers and sisters. In adult life he faced it down by pinning it all over his creative work in the form of funeral marches, settings of songs about more children dying, of drummer boys going to battlefields, of soldiers facing execution. Death was personal. It drank in the taverns, it stared back in the reflections of mountain streams, it glowered from the trees in the forests. Nearer the end of his own short life, however, death lost its sting and the composition of "Das Lied Von der Erde" ("The Song of The Earth") could be looked on as the drawing of that sting. In the Autumn of 1907, following the death of his elder daughter, Mahler learned he had a heart condition. Whilst this diagnosis was not, as if so often mistakenly believed, a sentence of death it certainly had the effect of focusing his mind anew on mortality and mutability. It also coincided with his being given a collection of poems which were free translations by Hans Bethge of original Chinese verses. These seemed to magically chime in with Mahler's growing belief about what comes after death and he selected seven of the poems, rewriting some passages, to arrange them into six extended song movements that form a continuous theme and variations on the leave taking of life, "The Song of The Earth". Every mood from cynical and drunken hedonism to serene and Zen-like stasis gets covered in the course of the hour this work takes. At the end, the message is that, since the beauties and mysteries of the earth renew themselves year after year, our own passing should not be feared but accepted calmly and without rancour. The earth, the world and nature goes on without us. The work is a symphony in all but name and form. A completely novel creation: a "song-symphony". This fact proved useful since Mahler shied away from calling it his "Ninth Symphony". Composers died after their Ninths. Composition extended over 1908 and 1909, but the first performance didn't take place until six months after Mahler's death in 1911 when it was conducted by Bruno Walter.

A large orchestra is called for yet Mahler's use of it is like that of a huge chamber group with many long, concertante-like solo passages and textures often pared down to a handful of solos supporting the singer. The first movement/song illustrates energy, hedonism and terror in the face of life, all seen by a drunkard trying to get along by deadening his pain through oblivion. The second is a quiet meditation on Autumn as metaphor for the loneliness of the individual in the face of life and its inevitable end. The third, fourth and fifth lighten the mood with descriptions of carefree days, sunlit uplands, and more drink, hints too from the Chinese scenes at the base of these poem unmistakably filtered through the darker-tinted glass of turn-of-the-century Viennese angst. The sixth is one of the greatest pieces of music Mahler ever wrote: a thirty minute meditation on leave-taking with, at its core, a funeral march and, at its end, a long passage in which the soloist gives us comfort that "everywhere the lovely earth blossoms forth in spring and grows green again....for ever, for ever, for ever." This work is perhaps the most special to lover's of Mahler's music and opinions on performances and recordings of it are among the most disputed. With other Mahler symphonies it's the conductor's interpretation that is principally on trial in a survey such as this. In "Das Lied Von Der Erde", however, the conductor's contribution must be considered on an equal footing with that of the two singers. One weak link in this trio can flaw a recording irrevocably. Kurt Sanderling's recording is with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Peter Schreier and Birgit Finnila on Berlin Classics (0094022BC). The opening of the first song, "Der Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde", ("Drinking Song of Earth's Sorrow") is huge and commanding with a real weight of tone that pitches us into the hurly-burly just as it should. Peter Schreier handles both the louder, animated, more vigorous passages and then the softer, more lyrical ones with equal flair and aplomb. So this is a very complete rendition of the opening song. We know Schreier to be an artist of rare intelligence and he shows this in spades. There is never a moment when he hasn't something interesting to say about this work. True, he may not have a Heldentenor's power but he makes up for this in dramatic point. For example, each repetition

of the line "Dunkel ist das leben, ist der Tod" ("Dark is life; dark is death") that punctuates this movement as a bitter-sweet refrain, as if casting a sidelong glance at popular song, finds a different tone from him each time, the second an especially dying fall: a world of regret conveyed in one phrase showing how alive he is to each nuance. In the passage beginning "Das firmament blaut ewig" ("The heavens are ever blue") I love the special treatment Sanderling gives to the trumpets, representative of his care for instrumental detail and an example of the support he gives Schreier's intelligent delivery. But the passage that's the greatest test for the singer is that which describes a nightmare vision of an ape crouching on graves in the moonlight. This is wonderfully dramatised by Schreier without tumbling into melodrama. Notice how he spits out the words "wild-gespenstische Gestalt" ("wild and ghostly form"). There is a great sense of a climax reached and then a satisfying return to lyricism for the close. This is all recognition that here is a poem of extremes and that those extremes need to be mapped and framed by the soloist and conductor which they are here in a deeply satisfying whole, frightening and soothing all at once. A better start to this work could not be imagined. The contrast between the extremes of vigorous exuberance and heartfelt lyricism that mark the first song and the stark, Autumnal and static feel of the second, "Der Einsame im Herbst" ("Autumn Loneliness"), is superbly achieved by Sanderling with an opening on strings and oboe that achieves the trick of being glacial yet also invested with deep meaning. The delicate colours of autumn are painted superbly as the music progresses. Finnila's entrance is arrestingly ripe and whilst you can't say she's Schreier's equal in the rarest expression of intelligence and drama, she does acquit herself well. Sanderling keeps up the tempo and, in the end, manages to make this quite a passionate performance without seeming to mould very much. There is pentup passion held back here. Finnila does have a lighter voice than some we are used to but I found her very refreshing. Her grasp of the words is impressive and she responds perfectly to the restless accompaniment by Sanderling of the one real passage of warmth and feeling at the line "Sonne der liebe willst du nie mehr scheinen" ("Sun of love, will you never shine again,"). Peter Schreier is the real gem of this recording with Sanderling. His delivery of every word and phrase in the third song, "Von Der Jugend" ("Youth"), is a joy, as also is Sanderling's accompaniment and that of his orchestra. The lightening of tone after the previous two movements is remarkable, but even then conductor and soloist notice that the penultimate stanza does have more of a reflective feel to it. Schreier may not be to everybody's taste but I love the

slightly ironic stance he seems to take. There is always a cynicism lurking behind his voice giving even the lyrical sections an edge. He seems to want to convey the idea that, though he is the very much participant in what he describes, he nevertheless retains his independence of mind and spirit, like an actor's view of a great part he is enacting on stage - a Loge rather than a Siegfried. In the fifth song "Der Trunkene im Fruhling" ("The Drunkard in Spring") note the wonder invested into the line "mir ist als wie im Traum" ("it seems to me like a dream") and in "Der lenz ist da" ("Yes ! Spring is here") the slight slowing down to wonderful effect. You also know he is listening to the birds in this song and what a tuneful piccolo the orchestra supplies. At "Ich fulle mir den Becher neu" (I fill my glass anew") there is a final change of timbre to tell you the singer is hitting the bottle again and he even sounds drunk in the last stanza with the final words barked out. Finnila copes better than many with Mahler's impossible demands during the episode in the fourth song, "Von der Schoenheit" ("Beauty"), that describes young men on horseback surprising girls bathing by a river. The speed at which she must take this torrent of words must fill all singers who approach it with dread and some of the best have been known to almost come to grief. But Finnila navigates with style. Then she manages an epilogue with all the time and space it needs where, as so often, Sanderling is there like a rock. However, the really big test for her is the last song, "Der Abschied" ("Farewell"), that is the centrepiece of the work. Finnila darkens her tone for the opening and Sanderling supports her by making sure everything can be heard in the orchestra. Remember the orchestration for this work is one of the many remarkable aspects of it and the recorded sound here presents a rich canvas with enough air around the instruments and a nice bloom overall. There is also in Sanderling's gentle pressing tempo a forward motion and great yearning. The wonderful bloom on the playing in the passage about the moon floating like a silver ship on the blue sea of the heavens is really made to float up and down with Finnila's singing illustrating the words. There is similar rapport between conductor and soloist at "Alle Sehnsucht will nun traumen," ("All longing now has turned to dreaming"). The orchestral interlude, a funeral march, is given great lyrical portent by Sanderling and a modernist feel reminding us this is late-period Mahler. Then note the low tam-tam at Finnila's description of the stranger dismounting in the final section. The line "Du mein freund, mir war auf dieser Welt das Gluck nicht hold !" ("Oh my friend fortune was not kind to me in this world") is, I think, one of the central statements of this work and Finnila's

delivery of it is made more remarkable by the balance of her voice against the orchestra where all details can be heard clearly, woodwinds especially. As I have implied, she is not quite Schreier's equal in artistry, her contribution not quite as distinctive. But we are comparing excellence so don't underestimate Finnila's contribution which is never less than beautifully sung and phrased with each word counting. Both Finnila and Sanderling see the end of the work as a scene of joy and repose, regret for the loss of earthly senses, not despair, which many commentaries on this work might imply. The whole approach in this movement accords with so much of what Sanderling seems to be aiming for in the whole: let the music speak, let the soloists deliver any extra expressive points and concentrate on detail, tone and a singing line. Maybe the heart is not wrung as in some recordings but this is as valid a view as any and I found it deeply impressive. I also admire the recording balance which places the singers a little further back than is often the case so the orchestra becomes like another soloist. Since they play superbly this adds another dimension to a remarkable and distinctive recording. Less remarkable but no less distinctive is Eugene Ormandy's recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Richard Lewis and Lili Chookasian on Sony (SBK 53 518). This recording sells at bargain price and so must be the main recommendation for those on the most limited resources - more so than the recording on Naxos conducted by Michael Halasz. Richard Lewis has less attack than Schreier in the first song. He is more mellow and lyrical and Ormandy matches him in being more lighter-toned than Sanderling, more concerned with the singing line and communicating energy and lift. There is less contrast between the varying sections of the song too. The passage starting with "Das firmament blaut ewig" is delivered by Lewis with none of Schreier's special irony and in the ape and graves section Lewis is a little overwhelmed by the orchestra, well as he sings, where Schreier manages to ride the climax admirably. Not surprisingly, Lewis doesn't have Schreier's distinctive delivery on each "dark is life; dark is death" refrain". The playing of the orchestra is superb, though, giving notice from the start we are in the presence of one of the world's great ensembles. Ormandy opens the second song with admirable restraint and real icycoldness. This is late Autumn with no heat at all. Lili Chookasian has a very light voice and her first entrance doesn't bode too well for what is to come. All this brings some dividends when the orchestra shows a wonderful burst of

warmth, especially from the lower strings at "Bald werden die verwelkten" ("Soon the withered golden leaves"). In fact, the Philadelphia strings are, and it should be no surprise, one of the glories of this recording and show Chookasian up. If only she could sing as well as they do. At "Ich weine viel in meinem Einsamkeiten" ("Long do I weep in my loneliness") hear also the solo horn against the oboe picked out by Ormandy and then "Sonne der Liebe willst du nie mehr scheinen" (Sun of love will you never shine again), where, as with Lewis in the ape and graves section of the first song, Chookasian is rather overwhelmed by the power of the orchestra. I think Ormandy sees this work in symphonic terms. It's a view which is often put forward by scholars which casts the first and second songs as first and second movements, songs three, four and five running together as a kind of scherzo-intermezzo third movement (fourth song as quasi trio to the other two movements' scherzo), and the sixth song as fourth movement/finale. The reason I see this in Ormandy's account is that he seems to see the third, fourth and fifth songs in very much the same way, very little variation in tone and approach from song to song, stressing the chinoisserie that is certainly a feature of Mahler's orchestration. Then there is the fact that little of the darker undertones Sanderling sees are brought out. There are some lovely woodwinds at the start of "Von der Jugend" matched with Lewis's lighter delivery paying great dividends. Unlike Schreier, however, he is much more the witness than the participant and, especially in comparison, even more detached from the words in "Der Trunkene im Fruhling". Schreier, for example, becomes quite inebriated as the song goes on where Lewis stays as sober as a judge. It's a valid view either way and the listener must decide but I prefer Schreier's approach. It brings me in more to what is being depicted and this work must involve the listener. Though let it be said there is a rare stepping inside of the scene by Lewis at "Ja! Der Lenz ist da" (Yes ! Spring is here") and he also manages a laugh when describing the bird's laughter. In "Von Der Schoenheit" Chookasian struggles to make the words tell, not least in the horses section which Ormandy takes very fast making her hang on for dear life and then in the opening of "Der Abschied" there is some lack of tragic weight, but this is in common with what appears to be the philosophy behind Ormandy's performance. Again and again the stress is on refinement, fastidiousness and polish and no praise can be too high for the orchestra who bring really cultured playing to everything. Again Chookasian seems underinvolved. With Lewis any detachment could be looked on as a positive stance but with Chookasian I feel it's simply that she isn't quite up to the peculiar

demands of this piece, never more so than in the challenge of the last song where her rather one-dimensional singing and peripheral feeling for the words tells most of all. Ormandy's polish is in evidence throughout and a good example is his accompaniment of "Die Blumen blassen im Dammerschien" ("The flowers grow pale in the twilight"). He is very controlled too, helped by a slightly faster tempo than we are used to, so that crucial line "Alle sehnsucht will nun traumen" doesn't move us as it should. He also skates too discursively over the wonderful bird section, a real example of his refinement actually robbing the music of one of its most distinctive moments -more "Ma Mere l'oye" than "Le Chant de la terre"- and although that expressionist, "Pierrot Lunaire-like" section beginning "Es wehet kuhl" with flute and string bass underpinning has a fine sense of stillness it has less depth than it needs, so that when the music warms up there is less feeling of respite. In the funeral march orchestral passage there is some extraordinary music where Mahler pushes the boundaries of tonality to the limit but Ormandy rather throws it away in pursuit of smooth edges. The overall tempo is too quick also to make the effect it has to, though there is some wonderful playing from the cellos at the climax, really digging in to their phrases. Which is more than Chookasian does in the closing section. Her attention to the words is not really close and her tone rather one-dimensional, not expressive enough for music that expresses so much and Ormandy rather forces her on. In sum this is a beautiful performance, especially from the point of view of conductor and the orchestra. But there is more to this work than what lies on the surface and Ormandy's apparent stress on symphonic aspects seems to encourage him in his refinement of everything else. Lewis's detachment at least seems to have point. He plays, as I said, the witness. Chookasian, on the other hand, is witness rather, one suspects, because she doesn't know how to get involved or indeed whether she should. On balance I think the same applies to Ormandy who doesn't impress as a Mahlerian in this most elusive of works and is only saved by his wonderful orchestra who, in spite of some slightly faster tempi than we are used to, make this a performance to be enjoyed for all I may not regard it as a front runner. Mahler brackets a baritone as alternative to a contralto in songs two, four, and six but this practice is still the exception. One reason must be the fact that male and female singers alternating makes for greater contrast. Another that the presence of great mezzos and contraltos down the years, compared with

fewer comparable baritones, have made the choice of a woman automatic. But it could be said that it seems more natural for a man to be relating these poems - the poet speaking - and there are three recordings that take this option. Two of them are with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and one with Thomas Hampson. Hampson is matched with Peter Seiffert and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle on EMI (5 56200 2) but I'm going to pass over this recording in favour of one of those with Fischer-Dieskau. For one thing the Rattle recording illustrates the problem of having two voices that don't contrast enough. Hampson and Seiffert are fine singers but they have voices that sound very alike. In addition both they and their conductor, whilst giving a superbly prepared performance, don't really penetrate into the fabric of this work when compared with the best of the rest. So, with regret, because the recorded sound on this issue is perhaps the best I have heard, I shall leave this aside. So far as the two recordings with Fischer-Dieskau are concerned his earlier one with Murray Dickie and the Philharmonia under Paul Kletzki on EMI is a lovely performance but is, I believe, surpassed by his second where he is partnered by James King with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and re-issued in a new mastering by Decca on their "Legendary Performances" series (466 381 2). The extra distinction in the conducting of Bernstein and the presence of the Viennese adds lustre to this famous set. James King is a Heldentenor, a Siegmund in the past, and the abandon he and Bernstein adopt to tear into the first song is very impressive. Bernstein's tempo is quite quick but does retain the "pesante" Mahler demands. He is also aware of the intricate details in the orchestra, helped by a rich but very analytical recording. At the first "Dunkel ist das leben" note the drop in tempo so that when the opening bursts out again the effect is truly arresting. King enunciates each word superbly too and is very passionate. "Das firmament blaut ewig" brings a fine change in mood and only Bernstein matches Horenstein with his vivid pizzicati at this point. There is wonderful string playing right through, in fact, and every department of the VPO show them with this music in their blood. In the ape on the graves section Bernstein and King conspire to deliver the most expressionistic account of all, pushing the music to the absolute limit. King is magnificent here with a visceral assault on our emotions and notice the crunch on the final chord of all with the pizzicati sounding like something out of the more recent avant garde.

In the second song the contrast could not be greater after what has followed. The preparation before the entry of Fischer- Dieskau is superb. "Man meint, ein kunstler habe Staub von Jade" ("One would think an artist had strewn jade dust") brings a beautifully pointed description and what delicacy on the word "ausgestreut". "Ein kalter wind beugt ihre Stengel nieder" ("an icy wind bends down their stems") really sounds as though he is shielding himself from the blast, so this is a subtlety dramatised account from Fischer-Dieskau. Bernstein was never one to hold back when there is any emotion going but it all seems more than appropriate here because he does know when to pare the music down to almost nothing. "Mein Herz ist mude" ("My heart is weary.") really does sound like a man at the end of his tether. The great interpreter of Die Winterriese understand how to convey that in a song. So this recording shows that two male singers can be made to contrast: King heroic and passionate, Fischer-Dieskau reflective and elegiac. Bernstein seems happy to be a man for all seasons and we will see this as a recording that really explores opposites in this work, sometime polar opposites, to a remarkable degree. King bounces the third song along, all jaunty energy, and Bernstein's accompaniment is ripe and chipper too, though they vary their approach in the central section. This bounce is maintained in the fifth song but I must say here I start to see the value of a little more subtlety, of irony like with Schreier or Julius Patzak for Walter, though there is no doubt King has the lung power those two singers lack. At "Der Lenz ist dar" ("Spring is here") the playing of the VPO is a wonderful example of their total commitment to this music. Fischer-Dieskau's description of the girls in the fourth song realises the necessity to draw us into the scene and see it through his eyes. A slightly slower tempo from Bernstein brings dividends too with some lovely string slides. But the horses section is a mad dash, as fast as possible, forcing Fischer-Dieskau to hector and shout in the manner of a PE instructor and I didn't enjoy this one little bit. The return of the opening material for the close is even more poignant, however. Did Mahler write any music sweeter than this ? Bernstein is surprisingly sharp in the opening of "Der Abschied", not doomladen as many often are. There is such experience in Fischer-Dieskau's opening lines to follow this. He easily manages the trick of staying one step back from the scene, as I think the singer should here, but also to invest it with

deeper meaning. Here I felt Hampson for Rattle stayed one step back but nothing else, so there was a cold detachment which was inappropriate. "Oh sieh ! Wie eine Silberbarke schwebt der mond" is then floated like the moon it describes and it is as if Fischer-Dieskau first steps into the scene at this point. In the passage describing the birds FischerDieskau picks out words pointedly and Bernstein paints the scene vividly, as he does later when the central interlude starts. There are some really extreme sounds here again. The great lieder singer Fischer-Dieskau is comes to the fore in "Er stieg vom Pfred und reichte ihm den Trunk" ("He dismounted and gave him the parting cup") in its intimate simplicity and so it is with the rest of the great closing passage. Again we sense the great contrast achieved by matching Fischer-Dieskau with King. The recording balance of the voice here and elsewhere is forward compared with others so it's like having Fischer-Dieskau in the room with you. This adds intimacy in those parts where intimacy is appropriate, but can be wearing where it is not. This latter is also an the impression I am left with by James King and, in his case, it isn't just a question of the recording balance. His heroic tenor might project the extrovert music superbly, but on repeated hearings it can become tiring and it can lead to a slight skating over of those passages in his songs where some intimacy is needed. So, in this recording it's the tenor who is the weaker link. But Fischer Dieskau is special and his contribution among the finest available. Bernstein's view also is to be relished, especially its awareness of the nervy tensions inherent in this music, one that is sometimes ignored. As so often with him in Mahler this is a roller-coaster ride. But there are few, if any, passages where this is anything other than illuminating and enhancing. That prince among Mahlerians Jascha Horenstein never recorded this work commercially. Like so much else in his recording activities the catalogue of missed opportunities that deprived us of, among other things, an integral recorded Mahler cycle got in the way. Fortunately he made a studio recording for the BBC in Manchester with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, John Mitchinson and Alfreda Hodgson under near ideal conditions in 1972 a year before his death. Through the activities of those with their eyes on the main chance, unofficial issues have appeared and you can find two of them on Music and Arts (CD 728) and Descant (Descant 01 - available through Berkshire Record Outlets). The orchestra had never played the work so Horenstein was given time to rehearse them thoroughly and the results pay

dividends. This is an expansive performance but the degree of space Horenstein gives the music, allied especially with the familiar fingerprint of choosing modular tempi to suit an entire movement, takes us deeper into this music than many others can. Note the more trenchant tempo from the start of "Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde" leading to the dragging on the strings at "erst sing' ich euch ein lied" ("first I will sing you a song"). Then when Mitchinson reaches "liegen wust die Garten der Seele" ("the gardens of the soul lie waste") you really believe they do. Right the way through this first song the tread is heavier, the weight of the world greater, the mood reflective. To some this might take a little getting used to but persistence brings rewards. Not least in the change of mood with the third stanza "Das firmament blaut ewig" ("The heavens are ever blue") and the opportunity Horenstein gives himself to mark emphatically the pizzicati in the short passage while the singer is silent. Evidence of his care for inner detail allied to outer structure. Mitchinson delivers these words as a lament, tear-stained with his care at "Du aber mensch, Mensch, wie lang lebst denn du ?" ("But thou, o man, how long wilt thou live ?") penetrating as a question like no others. The section describing the ape on the graves is terrifying with unease carried over to the very end. After such a performance of the first song the second comes across even colder than usual, more akin to despair. There should now be no question that Horenstein's view of this work is darker and tinged with tragedy. The phrasing of the oboe is exemplary in its lamenting quality as Horenstein continues his deep analysis. Alfreda Hodgson's first entry is unobtrusive, her voice darker and more earthy than the previous two we have considered. This is surely the kind of voice Mahler must have had in mind. There is a surge of feeling at "Bald werden die verweltkten goldnen Blatter" but no real warmth so I think Horenstein wants to stress the utter loneliness in the poem. The suitability of Hodgson's voice shows again at "Ich hab' Erquickung" ("I need refreshment") with a really earthy tone and even the one point where most interpretations relax the mood, the one point where the poem shows some hope, "Sonne der liebe willst du nie mehr scheinen ?" ("Sun of love will you never shine again ?"), the stress seems to be on hope rather than promise - a vain hope, too. In "Von der Jugend" Mitchinson lightens his approach revealingly but Horenstein's slightly held-back accompaniment reveals more of the darker, angst-beneath-the-surface quality. Note too a sight drag on the rhythm, and in the central stanza, where the singer observes the surface of the pond,

Horenstein and Mitchinson become very reflective. In the fourth song Hodgson's opening is as good an example as any of her feeling for words and Horenstein gives her just the space she needs. At last a singer in these songs that can match her partner. The horses section is steadier than usual and so Hodgson keeps up and gets her words in without problems. Also Horenstein can mark the slightly unhinged quality of this passage, not usually noted. You are also aware that this song, like the previous one, has three parts and I love the half- tone Hodgson adopts at the end allowing us to hear the lovely high strings and woodwinds. Horenstein closes the movement as you would expect, a real awareness of winding down. He is also wonderful at the chamber-like textures, helped by the closer-in recording, but surely as much a tribute to him. This is also true of the fifth song. Note the plaintive woodwind, cawing like birds. Again there is more drag, but every detail tells and the mood remains analytic and elegiac all at once. The opening of "Der Abschied" is doom-laden promising a heavy journey ahead. In fact it's worth noting Horenstein's performance clocks the longest span of all. There are passages when time seems to stand still in an almost Zen-like stasis. Hodgson enters almost with fear, as if she is going to cause the world to end if she sings too loudly. The passage describing the birds ("Die vogel hocken still in ihren Zweigen") shows a conductor steeped in the Viennese tradition of that time and what conducting and playing there is too around "Es wehet kuhl im Schatten meiner fichten", the words almost whispered by Hodsgon and the feeling of rapt expectation extraordinary. We know this remarkable performance was done in one take, as if it was in front of a live audience, but I don't think I have ever heard this amazing passage, where Mahler pares everything down to a few instruments, taken so slowly and with such concentration. It's hard to find words adequate to describe the final pages. Taken at as slow a tempo as could be dared, soloist, conductor and orchestra sustain a line that is unutterably moving. According to John Mitchinson in a later interview most of the orchestra were in tears at the close. So, we have a performance where both soloists compliment and balance each other and are matched with a conductor whose own contribution is one of the greatest ever committed to tape. This was a special work to Horenstein who first heard it in Vienna in 1918 conducted by Mengelberg. He was never the conductor for the easy option, though. He expected an enormous amount from everyone, including the listener, and it is the case that many of his recordings don't reveal their secrets on first encounter and that is the case here. I really cannot recomend this recording too highly. It's one for the long haul, one that

will reveal its greatness over time. Some may find Horenstein's tempi, especially that for the first song, on the slower side of acceptable. For me the tempi are natural and what is more important there's never any strain in the playing or the singing because of it. It's clear an immense amount of preparation went into this and that the decision to perform without retakes paid dividends. The sound is analytical, tailored for broadcast, but this only accentuates Horenstein's way with the chamber textures with every detail is exposed by his gimlet eye. This is a performance that penetrates to the very core of this work, the time in which it was written and the man who wrote it. It reaches to the core of the listener also. The orchestra is the only weak link. They play well and have the benefit of being the clean sheet on which Horenstein wrote his interpretation but they don't have the corporate elan of one of the great international ensembles. However, surface sheen, as we saw with Ormandy and his Philadelphians, is not everything. Five years after the Horenstein studio broadcast the BBC Northern Symphony performed the work "live" at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester with John Mitchinson again but this time with Raymond Leppard conducting and, the real gem of the recording, Janet Baker. This appeared a few years ago on BBC Radio Classics and has become available again on a reissue of some of that series, BBC Classics Collection (BBCM 5012-2). We can speculate on how much Horenstein's influence was still with these players but it would be nice to think many of them carried the experience of working with him for they play the work well under a conductor not usually associated with Mahler. Leppard presses forward in the first song more than Horenstein, is more energetic than many others. I love the cackling woodwind against the opening horn figure each time it re- appears and Mitchinson is encouraged to be more dynamic and energetic. "Das firmament blaut ewig" retains that sense of forward movement, not pausing for repose, but manages to pick out fine detail. It may be the presence of an audience that makes him really project the words so the ape on the graves section receives more hysteria than it did with Horenstein. Perhaps the orchestra is lacking in the bass department but the gain in higher frequencies of the shriller aspects of the music is illuminating. Mitchinson and Leppard are especially perky in the "Von der Jugend". A lightening of tone after what has preceded and you feel Mitchinson is freer to smile more than he did under the rather glum Horenstein. Leppard is, I think, a more approachable character with less early-century Viennese angst. Again in the fifth song Mitchinson and Leppard go for energy. I found the delivery of

the passage starting at "Ein Vogel singt im baum" contained a real Wunderhorn quality reminiscent of the Third Symphony's third and second movements. Leppard should be congratulated for noticing this. When Janet Baker makes her first appearance in the second song we are in the presence of one of the greatest of all Mahler interpreters, one of the great voices of the century. Note even in her first line there is no tentativeness. Her interpretation is formed from the very first word with meaning in every syllable. Her tone also is so full it has the effect of shifting the entire attitude of this movement to something more than just a description of loneliness to the act of being lonely. We are made to feel through the singer and so are made to care about the character. This is an aspect of interpretation you would expect a great singer like Baker to bring out. Listen in "ein kalter wind beugt ihre Stengel nieder" ("an icy wind blows down their stems") how she halves her tone for the last words and likewise, after the outpouring at "Sonne der Liebe willst du nie mehr scheinen", she tempers this in the same way at "mild aufzutrocken" ("my bitter tears") with almost a whisper. It is as if the bitter tears have only just been discovered. Few singers, if any, can describe the young girls playing by the river in "Von der Schoenheit" like Baker. You have to hear to believe how her phrasing, lilt and the special magic of her voice makes this passage stick in the mind. An openness of heart is the best description. Notice the slight pause on the word "Neckerein" ("teasingly"). That kind of artistry is denied to many singers. She can even hang behind the beat a little in "spielgt sie im blanken Wasser wieder" ("and reflects them in the clear water"). Sheer weight of tone is rather missing from the tolling at the start of "Der Abschied". It could have done with a little extra funeral tread for Leppard is less good on tragic weight in this work. But when Baker enters any reservations must be put aside. There is an immense contrast between the last time we heard her and now and this ability to cover a whole world of meaning and mood is one of the many reasons why she is so great in this work The long orchestral interlude perhaps finds Leppard falling some way short of his more illustrious colleagues but he acquits himself very well for all that. The recording balance favours the winds and they play with great character, if not with the cultured tone you would expect from one of the great Mahler ensembles, but that was true also of their account for Horenstein. "Er stieg vom Pferd und reichte ihm den Trunk" ("He dismounted and gave me the parting cup") is a token for what is to come since Baker's account of the final part of this work surpasses everything she does and that was formidable

enough. Again her ability to vary her tone and dynamics and to pick out each word and phrase is uncanny and deeply moving. Janet Baker's great contribution is the finest part of this "live" recording but Mitchinson, so very good for Horenstein, also projects a more confident, extrovert account this time, showing him to be a great and flexible artist whilst not quite matching this partner as he did Hodgson. Leppard too, it must be said, is a revelation. That is not a case of damning with faint praise. His background at this time was in other repertoire but you would never know it and what he may lack in Mahlerian depth he makes up for in innate musicianship and obvious love of the work. This is not the only recording featuring Janet Baker. Her studio recording is on Phillips with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Bernard Haitink and James King as her tenor partner. This is currently only available coupled with Haitink's fine account of Mahler's Ninth which makes it less competitive. There is no doubt the presence of one of the great Mahler orchestras gives this a head start over the recording with Leppard, but I think that is all it has in its favour. Janet Baker's contribution on the Leppard recording has more reach, depth and eloquence, added to by the presence of an audience. James King has the Heldentenor's voice many believe these songs demand but I think he's better heard on the recording with Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic. Haitink supports both singers superbly and those who believe his considerable Mahlerian credentials make him more suited to this work than Leppard need not hesitate. Here is Janet Baker in her glory, after all. But for real greatness from her point of view my advice is to seek out the Leppard recording because he is by no means shamed by comparison with Haitink. In fact, there are passages where his slightly more astringent approach is to be preferred. Otto Klemperer recorded the work twice commercially, but it's his second recording for EMI which is the one to consider, especially now it's been remastered for EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century" series (CDM 5 66892 2). Clarity and richness are the keynotes of his approach in the opening of the first song with a wonderful density and weight to support Fritz Wunderlich's golden, well-microphoned tenor. His first "Dunkel ist das Leben" is lamenting and lyrical but it's the passage "Ein voller Becher Weins zur rechten Zeit" ("A brimming cup of wine at the right time") with a more insistent, ardent delivery

that is the best representative of his wonderful contribution to this work, I believe one of the finest on record. Notice also the woodwind in the second "Dunkel ist...." where Klemperer's practice of giving prominence to all the woodwind in his special sound palette accentuates the chamber textures of this work to a remarkable degree. Since the players concerned are so good this is a big plus in this great recording. In the orchestral passage before "Das firmament blaut ewig" Klemperer, for all the astringency of his sound palette, sounds more exotic than most giving echoes of passages in the Seventh Symphony. Here also Wunderlich makes us aware of every word in the text. Notice too the cor anglais and the flutter-tongued flutes, never better caught or heard than here. Wunderlich might not have the lung power of the Heldentenor but manages with his artistry and clear diction to deliver the ape on the graves section in as manic a fashion as could be wished with real terror from Wunderlich. Klemperer holds back his tempo for "Der Einsame im Herbst" with the opening woodwinds like lamenting crows on the branches. Forget Autumn, Winter is here already. This reminds us perhaps of Klemperer's life-long battles with manic-depression after the extroversion of the first song. Christa Ludwig matches Fritz Wunderlich in artistry and we are aware immediately that this recording boasts two singers of equal stature. Listen to the wonderful solo flute in this movement. At that time the Philharmonia retained Gareth Morris as Principal. He played a wooden instrument whose sound Klemperer was very fond of, unlike many colleagues. Ludwig is balanced a little further back than Wunderlich so her contribution takes on the air of a duet with the woodwind soloists. Her feeling for words matches Wunderlich's, though, and is almost as great as Baker's. I liked, for example, her slight hesitation on "Ein kalter wind beugt ihre Stengel nieder" ("An icy wind bends down their stems") and her description of the little lantern is exemplary, recognising this as a central image of the song. Then "Ja, gib mir ruh...." ("Yes, give me rest....") really shows the range of her voice - every timbre from high to low. The eloquence of Klemperer's interpretation shows even more in "ich weine viel..." with the orchestra and soloist in perfect accord and only Klemperer encourages the horn to snarl in the final line: a worm in the roses of the last flowering. Typically Mahler, typically Klemperer. It's interesting how it's the really great Mahler conductors who make the most of this elusive second song. Too often it can sound dry and anonymous after the ripeness of the first. Klemperer invests every bar with interest and Ludwig supports him.

The third song brings with it what might be a problem for some and that is the slower tempi Klemperer adopts. In this song I think it brings dividends in the feeling that every detail of Mahler's orchestration glitters, but there is some loss in energy. On the other hand it allows Wunderlich to take his time over every word and for us to enjoy that. Also, as the song uncurls itself, you become more aware of the darker shadows, more of the Viennese angst, behind the ostensibly Chinese imagery. At the start of "Von der Schoenheit" there is lovely detail in the high strings showing what a rich recording this was and how well it has come up in the new transfer. Ludwig is almost as fine as Baker in the opening description with a lovely, chesty tone but that slower tempo we noticed in the previous song becomes a problem in the horses section. One effect is that Ludwig has no problems and we are also able to hear some remarkable details from the orchestra. But these do sound like old nags the young men are riding. Much is redeemed at the close, however, for at "In dem Funkeln ihrer grosen Augen" ("In the flashing of her large eyes") Ludwig really describes the girl as if a camera has zoomed in on one face in the crowd. A fine example again of a singer knowing how to direct the attention of the listener to the points that really matter. Extraordinary woodwind again at the opening of "Der Trunkene im Fruhling", close in like a chamber group. Klemperer marks well the slightly off-beat in this song in spite of, again, a slower overall tempo than we are used to. But "Ein vogel singt ...." brings a lovely lightening of tone from Wunderlich, a real touch of fantasy. He doesn't really sound drunk, though, as does Schreier. Just rather tipsy. With the heavy tolling of harp and gong at the opening of "Der Abschied" the impression is that Klemperer has decided on the most sombre of moods. Ludwig is very pure and ethereal in her opening and again her partnership with the solo flute is unforgettable. The oboe also is haunting. Soon after this the passage beginning with "Der bach singt voller...." ("The brook sings loud....") finds Klemperer picking the piece apart. It's rather like inviting an old friend around who then proceeds to submit you to deep analysis. This is perhaps the most remarkable account of the section describing the birds with every sound made to count. Klemperer also makes sure the mandolin is given prominence. It seems to be the older generation who do this. Maybe they still recalled how novel it was to hear this instrument all those years ago.

The funeral march passage is heavy with a very special irony. Not easy to describe but there is distinct mordancy about the timbre Klemperer adopts. The feeling I always have is that Klemperer regarded this passage as something of a centre piece of this work, token of his darker view of the work. But this doesn't detract from the closing pages which bring a wonderfully ecstatic reading from Ludwig, Klemperer and the orchestra. This close is not the sad farewell that it often seems but a real liberation of spirit. So Klemperer's recording finds an almost perfect balance between the singers. Wunderlich has a wonderfully golden tone with every word clear. Maybe he doesn't dramatise as much as Schreier, or Mitchinson, but his is one of the greatest accounts. Ludwig has a wonderfully deep tone and keen awareness of the words surpassed only by Baker on record. This recording also gives a superb orchestra the chance to record a reading that accentuates the textures to a remarkable degree. Every strand is audible while at the same time supporting Klemperer's less-emotional, more analytical response. For those wishing to hear every detail of the score this is certainly the recording to have because the playing is the best on record. Some might find the woodwind balanced too close but since they play so well, and fit so well with what Klemperer is trying to do, few ought to complain. Some of Klemperer's tempi are very deliberate, the middle songs especially, and there's no denying this has an effect on the lighter elements, but this would not be the reading it was if they were different. This recording must be taken as it stands. Experienced Mahlerites will have noticed there are two names so far missing from this survey: Bruno Walter and Kathleen Ferrier. Walter gave the first performance of the work in 1911 and there are five extant recordings of him conducting it that are taken "off-the-air" in Europe and the USA. He recorded it officially for commercial release three times. The first was "live" in Vienna in 1936, the second in the studio in Vienna in 1952, the last in a New York studio in 1960. Of these the 1952 Vienna Philharmonic recording on Decca (414 194-2) is the most famous in that it records in the contralto songs the interpretation of Kathleen Ferrier who Walter admired from performances in New York and Edinburgh. Ferrier was terminally ill when she recorded this and died a few months later. This fact, added to her undoubted artistry and the unique quality of her voice, lends a special emotional charge to the recording, one which has elevated it to a status granted few others. Her tenor partner is Julius Patzak, a great artist who was also just past his prime when this recording was made and is rather overwhelmed by the orchestra at the start.

There is such character in his voice and delivery that this sweeps many doubts away. His first "Dunkel ist das leben" has a sweet melancholy to it, for example. Like many of his colleagues Patazk is no Heldentenor, but I'm now convinced this is not as important as awareness of words and that ineffable thing called character, both of which Patzak has in abundance even if his voice shows signs of strain. "Das firmament...." finds him in reflective mood and Walter pares down the accompaniment for him beautifully, but the ape on the graves section finds Patzak very strained. You could argue this adds to the sense of drama, character and worldly-sickness, but after too many hearings it can wear a little. Walter is wonderfully thrusting in this movement, though. In fact the further back you go in Walter's recording career the faster he seems to go. Walter presses on more than Klemperer in the second song also but paints as bleak a picture as any. Ferrier's entrance is as memorable as Baker's and establishes its magic from the start. "Ein kalter wind...." chills, "ein herz ist mude" is given more deeper meaning than many. However, like Patzak she shows strain, especially in "Sonne der liebe...". What matters is how far we are prepared to forgive her faults for the unique experience we are offered. Walter's tempo is much more suited to the middle songs than Klemperer's and in his songs Patzak has a wonderful line in sly confidence. This is the gnarled old philosopher, still in his cups from the tavern, nose pressed up against the metaphorical windows watching his betters enjoying themselves. Ferrier's description of the girls bathing is warm and involved, not as much as Baker's, but enough. She seems to manage the horses section better than most, maybe because Walter gives her just enough time. In the closing pages you hear why a voice like Ferrier's was so suited to this work but, though it pains me to say, the past tense is never more apparent than here. There's no doubt in my mind that this famous recording needs to be on the shelf of serious Mahlerians. I am equally sure that, in all conscience, I cannot offer it as a benchmark choice. Hearing it again in such close proximity to so many other great recordings has caused me to alter my opinion of it slightly but profoundly. Ferrier and Patzak are both past their best, both showing signs of some distress. In addition to this, surprisingly, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are a drawback. Not to put too fine a point on it, they just don't play very well. There is insecurity in the woodwind and the strings are undernourished and insecure. This was still post-war Vienna, the orchestra hadn't really recovered from its wartime depravations and the Decca recording doesn't help them in being rather brittle and papery. I think the time has come

for this recording to be allowed to take a second row seat in our considerations, remain there for enrichment, for the special quality of Ferrier especially, but to sit back and allow others to represent Mahler's masterpiece more fittingly on-stage. Those who wish to have a better recorded and played version of this work conducted by Bruno Walter should investigate his 1960 stereo recording with Ernst Haefliger, Mildred Miller and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra on Sony (SMK 64455). A fine performance well recorded but one which does not, in my opinion, quite stand comparison with the best of those already dealt with. The main problem is Mildred Miller who I think is relatively uninvolved, though others disagree with me. Those interested in historic recordings of this work must investigate Bruno Walter's "live" 1936 recording made in Vienna (Dutton CDEA 5014 or Pearl CD 9413) with the pre-war Vienna Philharmonic and soloists Charles Kullmann and Kerstin Thorborg who would all would propel this recording into my front rank were it not a question of the limited audio. As well as this there is an even better "live" recording from Amsterdam in 1939 where the Concertgebouw Orchestra is conducted by Carl Schuricht (Archiphon ARC3.1 or Grammofono 2000 AB 78553) with Thorborg, dark and elemental, again the contralto partnering this time the superb Carl Martin Ohmann. Once more limited audio prevents this remarkable recording making it into my short list. I include these two recordings here because I believe they tell us much about Mahler performing practice pre-war and open an artistic window on a world now lost. Here are two of the three great Mahler orchestras in their golden eras, palpably still in touch with the way they would have played under Mahler himself, and as such of crucial importance to lovers of Mahler's music. The Schuricht recording also records an infamous incident in a quiet section of the last movement where a woman in the audience calls out to the conductor, much to the annoyance of the rest of the audience: "Deutschland uber alles, Herr Schuricht !" Carl Schuricht, a German, was a late replacement for a sick Willem Mengelberg and the atmosphere in the hall, weeks after the outbreak of war, must have been electric. Sarcastic protest against Schuricht's presence or support for the monsters of Nazism that were sweeping away so much of the old Europe that gave rise to the work being performed and the people who it honoured ? We shall probably never know. Whatever, the incident sends a shiver down the back and lends an extra drama to what is already a remarkable performance and reminds us that music had central importance in people's lives at that time, and should do so now.

There are more recordings of this work but the ones I have dealt with in detail are the ones I believe represent the very best and are not let down by the contribution of one of the three protagonists. This is principally why I have no place in my short list for otherwise fine recordings by Tennstedt and Solti where I think the contribution of the contraltos is the fatal flaw, or Giulini where it's the tenor who spoils things, along with a feeling that the conductor isn't quite inside the piece. I've also left out Reiner because, superb though his two singers are, on this occasion the conductor's legendary coldness leaves me equally cold in a work where personal involvement is crucial. I also believe Barenboim and Von Karajan aren't sufficiently Mahlerian enough to allow their recordings to match the best. People whose opinion I value sing the praises of Gary Bertini on EMI. His recording boasts the splendid Ben Heppner as tenor soloist who can stand comparison with Schreier and Wunderlich, but his mezzo is Marjana Lipovsek who let down the Solti recording and I'm afraid does the same here. These are all very personal reactions but, as I explained, this is a work that goes to the very core of personal taste in all Mahlerians and I am no exception. I'm hard-pressed to recomend one recording above all. If I could have Peter Schreier and Janet Baker with the Philharmonia Orchestra of 1963 conducted by Jascha Horenstein and recorded by Rattle's engineers "live" in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, I would be satisfied. Janet Baker is, in my view, the greatest exponent of the contralto songs and for those of the tenor I would award that palm to Peter Schreier from among those in my short list. But Fritz Wunderlich is not far behind him and neither is John Mitchinson. The Leppard recording is the one I reach for most often, followed closely by the Horenstein and then the Klemperer. Horenstein goes far deeper than Leppard but their orchestra is not of the top flight. Klemperer goes deep also, has a fabulous orchestra and two great soloists, but he does slow down in those central songs. For the best all round version go for Sanderling who approaches Horenstein, has a fine orchestra, one very great soloist and one very good one, and all in a nicely balanced recording. But no Mahlerian's library should have only one, or even two, recordings of this endlessly fascinating and moving work. Selected Recordings Peter Schreier, Birgit Finnila, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Sanderling: Berlin Classics (0094022BC). Crotchet Amazon Richard Lewis, Lili Chookasian, Philadelphia Orchestra, Ormandy: Sony (SBK 53 518) Crotchet Amazon

Fischer-Dieskau , James King , Vienna Philharmonic Bernstein: Decca "Legendary Performances" (466 381 2) Crotchet Amazon John Mitchinson, Alfreda Hodgson , BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra Horenstein: Music and Arts (CD 728) Crotchet Amazon Fritz Wunderlich, Christa Ludwig , New Philharmonia Klemperer: EMI (CDM 5 66892 2) Crotchet Amazon Julius Patzak, Kathleen Ferrier, Vienna Philharmonic Walter Decca (414 1942) Crotchet Amazon Tony Duggan November 1999 New Reviews Horenstein and Leppard March/April 2000 reviewed very favourably by Tony Duggan but Marc Bridle disagrees Mahler's Song Cycles A survey by Tony Duggan Das Klagende Lied "Das Klagende Lied" ("The Song of Lamentation") is Mahler's opus 1. He wrote it in 1880 at the age of twenty, just two years after leaving college. It's a cantata originally in three parts and based on stories by the Brothers Grimm and Ludwig Bechstein. Part 1 "Waldmarchen" ("Forest Legend") tells of brother murdering brother in a dark forest. Part 2 "Der Spielmann" ("The Minstrel") shows a minstrel finding a bone belonging to the murdered brother that he makes into a flute that sings human words when played. Finally in Part 3 "Hochzeitsstuck" ("Wedding Piece"), the minstrel goes to a wedding feast in a castle where the murderous brother is about to marry a beautiful Princess. The minstrel plays the bone flute, through it the dead brother reveals the truth, and the castle falls to the ground. The only other work of Mahler's to end like this in total catastrophe is the Sixth Symphony. "Das Klagende Lied" was not performed until 1901 by which time Mahler had revised it, a revision which included deleting the whole of Part 1, "Waldmarchen". The reasons for this are unclear. Maybe he felt dramatically Parts 2 and 3 work better alone. Maybe at the back of his mind was the death of his own brother Ernst in 1874. Did Mahler feel subconscious guilt at his much loved brother's passing and exorcised his feelings in some way by

writing this work? Then, later on, he shied away from telling the world through "Waldmarchen"? Whatever the reasons, for many years "Das Klagende Lied" was performed with just Parts 2 and 3, but "Waldmarchen" turned up again in the 1970s and now the whole work is performed with all three parts. This is, of course, going against Mahler's wishes but the listener at home can choose not to play "Waldmarchen" if they feel any scruples. Ideally if "Waldmarchen" is heard at all, it should be alongside the original orchestration of Parts 2 and 3 prior to the revision which removed it. That too is now possible. Whether you hear "Das Klagende Lied" complete in three parts or in the way Mahler left it in revision, there is not really any need to own multiple versions. Provided your recording has a chorus, orchestra, soloists and conductor who all know their business you are alright. My own favourite version of the two part version is conducted by Wyn Morris on IMP (PCD 1053). I like it for its sense of drama and, especially in the dramatic passages, a sense of "live" performance. For performances that include "Waldmarchen" my favourite is the one by Simon Rattle on EMI (5664062) Amazon UK . This is less well recorded than some but is similar to Morris's in having a superb sense of drama and attack in the animated sections and a fine sense of the darker shadows. Alfreda Hodgson and Robert Tear are also among the fine soloists too. Better recorded and almost as compelling is Michael Tilson Thomas on BMG (09026685992) AmazonUK but, for three part versions, my advice is to go for Rattle. For me Tilson Thomas is a touch self-conscious, less aware that this is a young man's work. I mentioned that it is now possible to hear the three-part version with Mahler's original arrangements for Parts 2 and 3 - in effect hear "Waldmarchen" in its correct context. The first performance of this score took place in Manchester in 1987 by Halle Orchestra forces conducted by Kent Nagano and that performance is now available on Erato (3984216642) Amazon UK. It is of great interest, not least for the slight differences in instrumentation and the use

of boy soloists at strategic moments. However, I don't feel Nagano quite has the feel of Mahler's special mix of Wagnerian-influenced texture along with his own early style and I think we await a better recording of this early version. I heard a splendid broadcast of the piece conducted by Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos and maintain hopes that one day he might be allowed to record it.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn Mahler's orchestral settings of individual poems from the anthology "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" ("The Youth's Magic Horn") by Armin and Brentano are crucial to our understanding of his art. Not only do they bear an intimate relationship to many of his symphonies, especially 2-4, they are small masterpieces in their own right. Then, as a sequence, they form a body of work of equal importance to that of any of the symphonies. All but two were written between 1892 and 1896, the remaining two in 1899 and 1901. The character of each is reflected in the orchestration used so great care must be taken to understand the words being used on every occasion. These poems appealed to Mahler for the same reason they appealed to so many of the time: nostalgic yearning after lost innocence, though Mahler's settings are unquestionably of his own time. Broadly there are three groups, or types, of song. Firstly the military songs which contain marches and the imagery of soldiers and warfare (Revelge, Der Tambourg'sell, Der Schildwache Nachtlied, Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen) bringing out memories of Mahler's childhood living near barracks. Next there are the love songs of varying kinds (Verlor'ne Muh, Trost im Ungluck, Das irdische Leben, Lied des Verfolgtem in Turm, Rheinlegendchen, Lied des Verfolgtem in Turm). Lastly humorous songs covering various situations with wit, irony and sarcasm (Wer hat dies Liedel erdacht?, Lob des hohen Verstandes, Fischpredigt.). For me there are three truly great recordings of this collection for consideration. Recordings that, because of the contributions of conductors and singers, stand them head and shoulders above other versions. They are conducted by Wyn Morris, Felix Prohaska and Georg Szell. Other, more recent, versions under Haitink, Bernstein and Abaddo have virtues too and would grace any collection, but I'm going to leave them on one side in the face of their more established competitors.

First George Szell on EMI (5 67236 2).Amazon UK His two singers Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf were artists beyond compare who bring to these songs every ounce of their vast experiences. What is I think in doubt is whether their contributions are appropriate in songs that should have about them an air of homespun simplicity, even roughness. Down the years many have wondered whether the sophistication, mannerism and intelligence presented by the two of them is ultimately too restricting. Maybe this is damning with faint praise but there's no doubt in my mind that on repeated hearings especially some aspects have the tendency to grate. But let's be positive. "Der Tambourg' Sell" was one of Mahler's two later settings. It's a piece almost symphonic in its implications and FischerDieskau delivers a classic account of it with George Szell riveting in support. This track is as good an illustration of the disc's virtues as any. Note the closein sound with every orchestral detail clear, the superb diction of the soloist, the penetrating vision of the conductor too, all in perfect accord. FischerDieskau doesn't emote quite as much as his partner in any of the songs he sings, but I have the impression he does so more than he might to keep up with her, especially in the songs delivered as duets. Listen to Schwarzkopf on her own in "Lob des hohen Verstandes", for example, and judge whether her pointing-up of certain words - "kraus", for example - isn't just too much of a good thing. Not to mention her "Eee-aws !" in the same song. There are many other examples where, I think, she's a little too "knowing" for her own good: too clever by half, superb though she undoubtedly is. Some of the songs are sung as duets, as they are in most other recordings. Be aware there is no sanction in the score for this practice. Authentic are the versions that assign one song to one singer, as the score expects. The real success of this recording is George Szell, ably supported by a supremely well prepared LSO. He seems to have absorbed these songs into his bloodstream. He can go from the tragedies to the comedies to the romances in the twinkling of an eye and yet retain a sense of an overall plan. No mean feat in this collection and an endless source of pleasure, as also is the sound balance.

Another version where some of the songs are treated as duets is the one conducted by Wyn Morris on IMP (PCD 1035). Amazon UK His singers are Geraint Evans and the young Janet Baker. I make no secret of preferring this version to Szell's. For one thing Wyn Morris is one of the Mahler conductors of the old school and in this recording he brings every ounce of feeling for the special sound world of these songs, which beguiles and fascinates with each hearing. He is also much less sophisticated than Szell, not afraid to roughen the sound of the orchestra and to take a few chances with tempi. For example in "Revelge" he is quicker and more extrovert, even upbeat, but then takes care to make the more reflective passages that much more contrasting. In "Rheinlegendchen" Janet Baker's sweetness and lyricism is a wonderful anecdote to the knowing Schwarzkopf. Geraint Evans is not the cerebral artist that Fischer-Dieskau is, of course. He is much more the "hail-fellow-well-met" which I like very much. In "Trost im Ungluck", sung as a duet, Evans is more "rollicking" than the rather correct Fischer-Dieskau and I think Mahler would have loved it, especially with the deliciously pert Janet Baker in tow. However, Baker can vary her tone wonderfully as can be heard in her expressive "Das Irdische Leben," the story of a mother watching her child starve to death. The sound recording of the Morris version has its problems where Szell's and Prohaska's have come up beautifully in restoration. The Morris suffers from a slight glare full out, but you should soon adjust. Do not let this get in the way of your enjoying this classic version. Felix Prohaska is less well known than his two colleagues, but on the evidence of this recording, where he conducts the fine Vienna Symphony Orchestra on Vanguard (08 4045 71), this is a pity. His singers are that highly experienced Mahlerian Maureen Forrester and the little known Heinz Rehfuss, and

excellent they are too. Interpretatively this version falls between the Szell and the Morris. Crucially, it assigns one singer to each song and for that scores points in my book. This is the more classical version of the three with less mannerism on the part of the three principals and it really should be looked on as the benchmark recording for those who want to get to know these great songs. In "Lob des hohen Verstandes" Rehfuss is more piquant in his delivery than Evans, more ironic. It comes down to personal preference but I just prefer Evans's bluff and earthy honesty. "Der Tambourg'sell" in this recording is very clear and concentrated and is helped by the superbly clear and balanced sound recording. I would not be without any of these three though the version by Wyn Morris is my marginal preference, as you have probably gathered. The recording conducted by Bernard Haitink on Philips boasts the Concertgebouw Orchestra and John-Shirley-Quirk at his most persuasive. Unfortunately his partner Jessye Norman fails to impress me in her awareness of words and her willingness to enter into the world of these songs. I also enjoyed the recent recording conducted by Claudio Abaddo on DG. Not least for the presence of that exciting singer of the present generation Thomas Quasthoff. Again, however, his partner Anne Sofie Von Otter fails to impress me enough and Abaddo also is just too refined when compared with Morris. Each time I hear Wyn Morris's recording I am convinced his is the one to own. Snap it up whilst it is still available but don't overlook Felix Prohaska. There are other settings of Wunderhorn poems by Mahler but these are for voice and piano alone and can be found in recordings of all Mahler's earlier songs as "Lieder und Gesange aus der Jugendzeit". Janet Baker's splendid Hyperion recording (CDA 66100), Amazon UK in which she is accompanied by Geoffrey Parsons, is one of those small gems of the Mahler discography I recommend warmly to go into your collection. Faultless interpretations of these small jewels from the master's workshop. Some of these very early songs have also been orchestrated by, among others, Harold Byrns and Luciano Berio. Let me take this opportunity of drawing to your attention a disc featuring another great Mahlerian of the present generation, Thomas Hampson. This is on the Teldec label (Dig.9031 74002-2) and contains eleven orchestrations of early songs by Luciano Berio with the Philharmonia conducted by Berio himself. What I like about them is the fact that Berio doesn't try to think himself into Mahler's mind for songs he himself did not orchestrate. What we get is a genuine collaboration between the two

men. You also get a fine version of the Wayfarer Songs thrown in. Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen Kindertotenlieder Ruckert Lieder As you build a Mahler collection you will find recordings of these three song cycles appearing as fill-ups to some of the symphonies. I suspect this is how most collectors acquire their recordings of these works that are as crucial to understanding Mahler's art as the Wunderhorn cycle. "Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen" ("Songs of a Wayfarer") comes from early in Mahler's career and stands in relation to the First Symphony as the Wunderhorn songs do to the three that followed. The five Ruckert Lieder and the "Kindertotenlieder" ("Songs on the Death of Children"), also to words by Ruckert, come from the middle of Mahler's career and have thematic links to symphonies 5-7. It's unlikely anyone would buy a recording of one of the symphonies just to acquire a recording of a song cycle coupled with it so I'm limiting myself to discs that contain only these three song cycles on them. Janet Baker's collection on EMI (CDM5 66981 2) Amazon UK stands supreme. In each cycle Sir John Barbirolli accompanies her in sublimely sympathetic mood and this partnership delivers one of those rare experiences which illuminates with each re-hearing new aspects of scores you thought you knew well. The Wayfarer songs are buoyant and ripe with the rapture of youth that founders on the ultimate disappointment of frustrated love. The "Kindertotenlieder" touch the depths of noble despair with Barbirolli's complete understanding of both the music and his soloist's needs unforgettable. The Ruckert Lieder then bring an intimacy and personal involvement no Mahler collection can afford to be without. For myself I would willingly listen to these accounts of these song cycles for all time but it should be remembered that Mahler preferred a man to sing them and a male voice does bring a darker hue to Mahler's writing. Fortunately there is a disc by that Mahlerian of equal stature to Janet Baker, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau. His accounts of these three cycles with Kubelik and Bohm conducting on DG (415 191-2) are almost as riveting as Baker's. Indeed, they demand to be thought of as complimentary.

Look out also for Kathleen Ferrier's account of the "Kindertotenlieder" with Bruno Walter and the Vienna Philharmonic on EMI. Amazon UK Her voice is very different from Baker's but demands to be heard. So too do FischerDieskau's earlier accounts of the Wayfarer songs and "Kindertotenlieder" on EMI, the former conducted by Willhelm Furtwangler. Amazon UK Das Lied Von Der Erde arranged for chamber orchestra I have been amazed at the number of people who, during the course of writing these surveys, have contacted me to ask if I'm going to mention the arrangement for chamber group of "Das Lied Von Der Erde" started by Arnold Schoenberg and finished by Rainer Riehn in the 1920s. Clearly it's liked by a lot of people but I must say I fail to see the attraction for the listener today other than novelty. For performers the attractions are clearer. Here is a chance to perform a version of Mahler's masterpiece where all that is needed are a handful of players. For the singers in particular there is no need to pitch the voice against a full orchestra. However, a work that in its original form already performs miracles of chamber style writing surely needs no more transparency and hearing Mahler's wonderful textures changed like this is quite frankly painful. In a previous age this type of enterprise might have been the only opportunity an interested audience would have had to hear the work. Today, with CD recordings and broadcasts, it seems largely redundant, an echo from a previous time. However, if you're determined to give it a try and are, unlike me, prepared to stomach the sound of a piano pounding away in Mahler's masterpiece, the version conducted by Osmo Vanska on Bis (BISCD 681) Amazon UK seems the best to me with two fine singers. And finally. In 1905 Gustav Mahler himself sat down at the keyboard of a Welte Mignon system and produced four piano rolls of four of his own compositions. These have been available intermittently but the easiest way to acquire them now is through the efforts of that indefatigable Mahlerian Gilbert Kaplan, either through the single disc "Mahler Plays Mahler" disc (GLRS 101) or through his two

disc "Mahler Album" on BMG (75605512772). Either issue will also give you some of the interviews "Remembering Mahler" that were recorded by William Malloch with members of the New York Philharmonic who could remember playing under the great man. The latter double CD issue will also give you Gilbert Kaplan's own fine studio recordings of the Second Symphony and the Adagietto from the Fifth and a whole program of images connected with Mahler that can be played on your computer. The piano rolls are very interesting. How much they reflect Mahler's real playing style is debatable. The tempi are very quick. That they were Mahler's hands originally at that keyboard is, however, not in doubt, and that is an experience I recommend to everyone. Tony Duggan Later release Gustav Lieder eines fahrenden Kindertotenlieder* 5 Songs from Des Knaben 5 Rckert Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Philharmonia Orchestra/Wilhelm Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Rudolf with Daniel Barenboim EMI Great Recordings of the Century CDM 5675562 see review Review of BOXED SETS of MAHLER Symphonies by Tony Duggan When I'm asked for the best way to build a collection of Mahler's symphonies I always say compile it from single releases by different conductors rather than buy a boxed set conducted by one. The reason lies buried in the phrase by Neville Cardus that with each symphony Mahler "sheds a skin". Each work is different from the one preceding it, each needs a subtly different approach from conductor and orchestra, and, after more than thirty years of listening to Mahler, I'm convinced no one conductor is truly capable of responding equally well to all the symphonies - though a couple come close. This means that when you buy a box containing one conductor's cycle you usually end up with MAHLER Gesellen Wunderhorn+ Lieder+ (Baritone) Furtwngler Kempe* (piano)+

a number of the works in performances that fall short of the best available. I am, of course, aware that one person's definition of "best" will differ from another's but as a general rule I've found one-conductor cycles don't satisfy over the whole canon. The raison d'tre for my survey of Mahler recordings has been to help navigation through the individual releases and to build that cycle. In the past some conductors recognised all this. Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer never touched certain symphonies. Both admitted to not understanding the Sixth, for example. Klemperer himself only regularly performed a handful of Mahler's works yet based a reputation as a Mahlerian on that alone. Would that today's conductors had that humility. Today no conductor's career seems valid without his complete Mahler cycle to go with his complete Beethoven cycle. Indeed I have the impression that Mahler has taken over from Beethoven in the conductor's "wish list" when he signs the recording contract. Mahler is expensive to record but Mahler sells and so conductors continue to get their way. The winner in all this is certainly the collector. The downside is that there are more and more recordings of Mahler that will not last. There is also the nightmare scenario of conductors who should never be allowed within a mile of a Mahler score but who nevertheless get to play with their "train sets" in front of the public. I do not, as some of my less charitable correspondents think, only favour recordings by conductors who are either very old or very dead. Anyone who has taken the trouble to read the whole of my survey of Mahler recordings will see I place some recent versions, some of them by young men, high on my lists. Thomas Sanderling, Gatti, Shipway, Tilson Thomas, Levi, Welser-Most, Lopez-Cobos and Rattle receive glowing mentions from me for some of their recordings. So I think that answers that canard conclusively. It's just that I believe for any recording to succeed it does have a lot of great acts to follow. Great Mahler performances and recordings hit you full in the face. They insist themselves into any list of recommendations. But I have to say I do not believe it to be the case, as other correspondents have also insisted to me, that new necessarily means better. Quite the opposite can be true. I do accept that orchestras can play the notes with more efficiency now than they did twenty or forty years ago and certainly no composer can expose the second rate quite like Mahler. There are also advances in recording technology to take into account as Mahler benefits from the very best sound engineering. But I do feel that some recent recorded performances have lost something of the harder

edge to Mahler's music earlier interpreters brought to it through their sense of discovery or of being closer the world of ideas Mahler came from. Certainly there has been an underlying tendency to make tempi slower, for example. As if by so doing the conductor can wring more emotion out of Mahler because they think that is what the public wants and therefore needs. This imbalance is to be discouraged. Poor, tragic, doomed,victimised Mahler seems to be the message in those instances. I say remember Mahler as a man of ideas, a man of action, a man who loved life and celebrated it in all its beauty and all its ugliness - and balance the whole man. These works are a lot more than orchestral showpieces, a lot more than "machines for pleasing" and a lot more than exercises in tear jerking and elation pumping. They are often uncomfortable "awkward squads" and the interpreter who misses that element is cheating the public badly. Great precision in playing is to be welcomed, and great recorded sound too, but neither should be at the expense of missing the real Mahler. If I have to sacrifice perfection of execution and recorded sound I will do so gladly, and so should you. To be fair there are other considerations to take into account in the question of boxed sets which is why I've added this Appendix to my survey. For example, there's no question that it's easier to walk into a shop, or go to an online site, and come away with one purchase rather than twelve. You can also get good deals with regards to price when you "bulk buy" your Mahler. It's also interesting to have one person's view, one orchestra's performances, one producer and engineer's sound stage, to get an "overview. So I will give you a few ideas as to what I think are one-conductor cycles worth seeking out for all their drawbacks and those that I think are better avoided. As usual this is a very personal selection. There will be the usual disappointments. Supporters of this conductor or that conductor will, no doubt, ask why I have left out their favourites but if you have been following my survey you will be well used to my preferences. But first there is another class of boxed sets altogether. Those that are not one-conductor cycles (at least not in the conventional sense) but which contain performances gathered together for other reasons. I'll call these "special event" boxes and there are a four of them I want to draw to your attention as additions to your collections. The first of these is "The Complete Symphonies", an eleven-disc bargain set on Brilliant Classics (99549)29.99 of all Mahler's completed symphonies taken from different sources. I include it because at such a low price it would

make a perfect addition to the collection of someone starting out in Mahler or wanting to experiment. The First Symphony gets a performance of contrasts and maximum involvement by the Royal Philharmonic under Yuri Simonov. The Second, by the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague under Hans Vonk, is the weakest link. The first movement is unimaginative and the sound recording lacking in impact. There is more charm in the second movement but this hardly compensates as the third shows the same shortcomings as the first. The last movement saves the performance from descending into boredom as Vonk keeps things moving, but again there's much more that can be made of this. Next I count the version of the Third conducted by Jascha Horenstein one of the greatest of all Mahler recordings and you can read a detailed review of this in my survey on the Third Symphony. Hartmut Haenchen's Fourth benefits from a big acoustic that allows lower woodwind to tell in a warm but very fluent performance. In the Fifth Vaclav Neumann's view of the first movement is stiff and unyielding, adding some excitement to the frantic central section though not enough contrast to stop me feeling cheated. Neumann's failure to bury himself in the second movement also means we hear mostly sound and fury only. Things improve in the Scherzo and the clearheaded Adagietto, but the last movement doesn't contrast enough with the first. On to Hartmut Haenchen's Sixth recorded "live", which probably accounts for some lapses. The first movement is under-powered with Haenchen unable to decide the mood. In the last movement the problems of "live" performance and Haenchen's inability to penetrate the terrible message confirms this as an average performance only. Kurt Masur conducts the Seventh in Leipzic and provides a clear nightscape in Mahler's "night into day" journey. In the first movement he is also good on the inner tempo relationships and brings clarity to the canvas. Neeme Jarvi conducts the Eighth "live" in Gothenburg. This has a fleet, athletic account of Part I rather lacking in critical mass". In Part II the Prelude is notable for clarity so some sacrifice of atmosphere is inevitable. This is a Part II for the brightest part of the day. Finally, the first movement of the Ninth under Neumann is a good Andante comodo that allows a course between nostalgic repose and penetrating drama. The sound balance also means we hear how good the Gwandhaus Orchestra is. Neumann knows how to deliver nodal climaxes, never losing sight of the big picture. To sum up, smart friends with money to burn might cast aspersions on this bargain basement set but if this is all that can be afforded it will last you quite well.

At the other end of the price range is the kind of set smart friends will have displayed prominently on their shelves but which I want to draw to your attention nevertheless. "The Mahler Broadcasts 1948-1982" is a lavish twelve-disc collection containing "live" New York Philharmonic performances - effectively an NYPO Mahler cycle. order It comes with a sumptuous 500-page book with essays, interviews, notes and reviews, photos from the archives, documentation of Mahler's time with the orchestra and a list of the orchestra's Mahler performances. Completing the set is the famous radio documentary "I Remember Mahler" containing recollections by musicians who played in the NYPO under Mahler. The elderly Alma Maher herself was in the audience in 1959 for Sir John Barbirolli's ripe reading of the First Symphony. The performance itself moves from the sunshine meadow of the first movement to ethnic revelry in the second and a splendid Mahler funeral march in the third showing Sir John in tune with the mix of irony and beauty. The fourth movement is an excellent, triumphant crown with fine brass playing bringing this distinctive performance to a fine conclusion. The Second Symphony comes from the NYPO's 10,000th concert in 1982. Zubin Mehta was Musical Director and rises to the occasion with a performance superior to his Decca version with the Vienna Philharmonic. The marvellous Maureen Forrester adds lustre to the performance too. The NYPO's next Director was Pierre Boulez who conducts the Third Symphony. This will strike some as more romantic, more suffused with warmth, than they expect. But this is always the case with Boulez who seems doomed to be judged by people's preconceptions. There is fabulous brass playing in the first movement and Yvonne Minton is inspired in the fourth. Georg Solti then conducts the Fourth Symphony from 1962 and shows a different Mahlerian to the one heard in his Chicago cycle for Decca. He is relaxed and genial here, not at all the ruthless drillmaster. Klaus Tennstedt next delivers his characteristically involved and vital reading of the Fifth that can also be heard in his "live" London Philharmonic recording for EMI. The NYPO brass are superb and the strings appropriately lyrical with the Adagietto especially passionate. Tennstedt has his fanatical admirers and they will love this roller-coaster ride that demands to be heard at least once. Next a truly great performance of the Sixth under Dimitri Mitropoulos at Carnegie Hall in 1955. In my complete survey of Sixth Symphony recordings I deal with this in detail and recommend you to read that to see how highly I rate it. The playing more than justifies the NYPO's reputation as one of the great Mahler ensembles and proves beyond doubt they could play Mahler magnificently before Bernstein came along and usurped his mentor. The

difficult Seventh Symphony gets a fascinating performance from Rafael Kubelik who is a surprise guest in this box. His performance is almost one third as long as his DG studio recording dealt with below. The outer movements are especially deep and profound and I confess to not being able to make up my mind about this performance. A brave and inspired choice for this box, though. Next comes Leopold Stokowski who was present at the first performance of the Eighth Symphony in Munich in 1910 and also gave the first American performance of it in 1916. His 1950 reading at Carnegie Hall is the stuff of legend and here at last is a transfer of the broadcast tape that does this great occasion proud. Forget any ideas about Stokowski the "liberty taker". The old wizard gives a scrupulous reading, inspired from first to last, with little allowance needing to be made for the age of the sound. This set also includes "Das Lied Von Der Erde" and the recording is the oldest here with Bruno Walter directing Kathleen Ferrier's American debut in 1948. We find her in even better form here than she was for Walter in her Vienna recording for Decca four years later. Set Svanholm is also inspired in the tenor songs and this transfer is far superior to the one you may have heard from acetates available on a Naxos release. Sir John Barbirolli then has the distinction of being the only conductor in the set to appear twice in complete symphonies. His Ninth from 1962 is characteristically eloquent though it doesn't quite match the level of inspiration reached in his Berlin Philharmonic recording for EMI a year later. The 1962 broadcast sound is not as good as some others in this set being a little thin-toned. Nevertheless, this is still a performance to be treasured. Bringing up the rear are excellent performances from 1960 and 1958 of the Adagio and Purgatorio from the Tenth conducted by Mitropoulos who seems to get under the skin of this music as it stands like few others. Which brings us conveniently to the next "special event" box I want to deal with which is "Mitropoulos Conducts Mahler". This is a set collecting some "live" performances by a conductor of the previous generation who is often overlooked. A pity because Dimitri Mitropoulos's view of Mahler comes before what can best be described as that hint of "smoothing out" that has crept into Mahler performances as orchestras and conductors became more familiar with the works and which has not been to Mahler's advantage. In 1960 the NYPO mounted a festival to commemorate Mahler's centenary and Mitropoulos conducted the First, Fifth and Ninth symphonies, plus the Adagio from the Tenth. These make the majority in this six-disc set on Music and Arts (CD-1021 with ordering and samples at: Mitropoulos Conducts Mahler CD-

1021). The first movement of the First Symphony strikes a balance between a romantic, dark-hued world of the Wayfarer theme and sharp birdcalls. The second movement is wilful and could irritate but the coarse-grained double bass solo at the start of the third movement shows Mitropoulos never prettifies Mahler. He then tears into the finale with abandon and encourages his players to go for broke. Next is the Fifth Symphony where Mitropoulos has the measure of the mood swings in the first and second movements. Problems start with the Scherzo, though. The way Mitropoulos tears into it says a lot about how I think he misses the point and with it that of the whole work, because the symphony pivots on the way this movement provides a "junction box" for the war between positive and negative. The reprise of the Adagietto in the last movement is interesting in that Mitropoulos takes it slowly and makes the connection between the two movements better than many. Finally in the Ninth Symphony the first movement is forward-looking and edgy, which is a surprise after the Fifth for the restraint and clarity Mitropoulos brings. The second movement then receives a quick performance with the Tempo I Landler especially testing the orchestra and the Tempo II Waltz wild and turbulent. In the Rondo Burleske the basic tempo is steady enough for each note to tell and this is followed by a searing performance of the last movement. At twenty-one minutes it is one of the quickest on record but since all Mitropoulos's tempi overall are quicker you shouldn't really notice. Following these 1960 recordings the Third is with the NYPO in 1955. There are cuts in this and some fast tempi injecting impatience, so on its own this would be a recording to give a wide berth to. There is, of course, a better Sixth by Mitropoulos in the "Mahler Broadcasts" box dealt with above but I still believe this Cologne Radio version from 1960 deserves consideration. Mitropoulos was more interventionist in this performance, especially in his deliberate treatment of the fate rhythm in the first movement. There are awkward gear changes too but, as so often, Mitropoulos can bring out the sharp, uncomfortable sound of Mahler very tellingly. The Eighth from the 1960 Salzburg Festival is the most distinguished performance here. Mitropoulos's tempo in Part I stresses grandeur and solidity but then, as the central double fugue progresses, a sense of momentum builds up. In Part II Mitropoulos's ability to bend with the music delivers a moving experience, contrasting the first part admirably. Then, as the soloists appear, their fine qualities are confirmed in every case. To sum up, this is an essential box for admirers of both Mahler and Mitropoulos. A window into Mahler performing styles prior to the boom of the 1960s.

Finally in these "special event" boxes is what might seem a oneconductor cycle but which isn't quite. "Mahler Kerstmatinees" is a nine-disc box from Philips (Dutch Masters 50) only available from Holland. order by e-mail. For a number of years on Christmas Day in the 70s and 80s Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra would perform a Mahler symphony in Amsterdam with the concert televised "live" to most of Europe. I'm pleased to say the stereo broadcast tapes have now been gathered in this box. The Sixth and Eighth Symphonies are absent as these were never performed in the series so what we have are 1,2,3,4,5,7,9 and some songs. However you can always supplement a Sixth from Haitink's studio recordings. (Haitink's studio recording of the Eighth is bland and dull in the extreme.) The booklet interestingly mentions the difference in Haitink "live" and Haitink in the studio, which is something I have always noticed. So often his "live" performances have more life, intensity and sense of involvement than his studio recordings so this set is important since few conductors know these score better and no orchestra plays them better. Here you will hear conductor and players taking risks and seeming to respond to the sense of occasion these concerts brought with them. The Third, Seventh and Ninth Symphonies are especially fine and the Concertgebouw Orchestra is on top form throughout. Netherlands Radio was responsible for the sound and they have done this wonderful orchestra proud with better sound to that you will hear in Haitink's first and complete studio cycle on Philips (4420502). From the deepest bass to the highest treble everything is heard in superb balance. Highly recommended. So now to single conductor cycles and two that can be recommended almost without reservation as they are by conductors whose views of Mahler, whilst being personal and distinctive, reach a level of achievement that is consistent over the whole canon to give that "overview" I mentioned earlier as valuable. They are by Rafael Kubelik on DG and Leonard Bernstein on Sony. If you want only one interpreter's views on the whole cycle these should be at the top of your list for consideration. [Crotchet 59.95 Amazon UK 60.99] Rafael Kubelik's cycle on DG (463 738-2) has truths in it corrective to many more "demonstrative" versions. He is especially good in Mahler's "Wunderhorn" moods but can surprise in later works where a more Modernist approach is called for. In the First Symphony he recognises a young man's work tied to nature and rejected love. Notice the

purity of the opening, the piquancy of the birdcalls, the unfussy phrasing of the main theme. In the third movement he is aware of the grotesques but never distorts or smooths out. Then he crowns the recording with a dramatic last movement though not at the expense of ardour. In the Second Symphony the first movement has weight with electric tempi and the big ascending theme strong on "Wunderhorn" character. Kubelik is almost as fine as Klemperer is in bringing out stranger sounds too. The start of the fifth movement has all the drama you could want and the "voice in the wilderness" is imposing with delicate horns over harps and woodwinds and fluttering violins with growls from basses and contrabassoons with bass drum. Admire too the sense of architecture and the piercing Bavarian brass. Kubelik's Third Symphony is a classic with unity and purpose that pays as much attention to inner movements as outer with playing of poetry and charm. In the first movement Kubelik echoes Schoenberg's belief of a struggle between good and evil and listen to the savage basses and cellos and raw trombone solos. In the last movement no one offers a more convincing tempo either. Next in the Fourth Symphony Kubelik recognises a chamber-like work. Tempi are quicker but never at the expense of detail. Again there is a nice line in grotesques. Then in the slow movement I hear the same singing line as Bruno Walter. Also woodwind against strings are reproduced beautifully. The Fifth Symphony then gets a lean performance from Kubelik. No "fat on the bone" in the first movement and a bit lacking in tragedy. The second movement is fierce, the abrasive recorded sound a trial, but the pacing is faultless. In the Scherzo there is spring in the step, joy and carnival, though the sound is still a problem. This is the weakest performance in the cycle but still worth hearing. The Sixth Symphony is riveting, however. Though the first movement is fast it stresses the classical nature of this classicallystructured movement and it also makes us see Mahler's "hero" prior to the Tragedy that overwhelms him. The compelling Scherzo reinforces the rigour of the first movement: consistent and uncompromising it reminds us Kubelik was an exponent of 20 th century music. The third movement is unselfconscious, but notice the nostalgic trumpet. Then in the last movement Kubelik suggests menace and tension in the opening and the rest balances the first movement in being sharp with Tragedy integrated into the structure. After this the Seventh Symphony gets a performance consistent with Kubelik's general approach. The first movement is fluent with symphonic structure paramount; alive to the new sounds Mahler experiments with, accentuated by a close balance. In the second movement Kubelik remembers this is a march and doesn't smooth out. The malevolent Scherzo finds every nerve exposed and after a tense second Nachtmusik the last movement goes off like a rocket with those prominent "baroque" trumpets. On

to the Eighth and Kubelik's recording suffers first from restrictions of sound. There is an element of grandeur missing in Part 1 with Kubelik direct to the point of correctness as well. Part 2 fares better. The Prelude is impetuous and notice passages where Kubelik brings out the "Chinoisserie" Mahler will rely on in "Das Lied Von Der Erde". This recording has a fine solo team too. The first movement of the Ninth Symphony gets a dynamic reading with the building bricks of the movement clinically presented. A tough reading aware of the jagged contours of Mahler's late sound world with lines clear. The second movement is full of character and the Rondo Burleske contains tension though there are more "unhinged" versions out there. Less than twenty-two minutes might seem short for the fourth movement but what matters is overall pacing fitting with those of the other movements. Finally in the Adagio from the Tenth Kubelik is the one of the few who makes it seem like a complete work in itself. To sum up, listen to this cycle "in one" and its virtues become apparent. You will gather I regard it as nearly indispensable. [Crotchet 114.94 Amazon UK 108.99 Amazon US $164.67] There are two recorded Mahler cycles from Leonard Bernstein. The first is with the New York Philharmonic (and the LSO for the Eighth Symphony) for Columbia made in the 1960s and the second for DG made in New York, Vienna and Amsterdam in the 1980s. Along with Kubelik Bernstein is one of the two conductors on record who for me reaches a level of consistency over the whole cycle that is deeply impressive, even though there are aspects I have disagreements with. In contrast to Kubelik Bernstein is more emotionally engaged and there is frequently a "life or death" struggle going on that can be compelling when appropriate if irritating when not. It's a set of attitudes Bernstein delivers every time without fail and for that his cycle must go into this particular survey as a leading recommendation because here is another set to give you a specific and consistent "overview" from one interpreter's viewpoint. Of the two Bernstein cycles I prefer the earlier one that now resides with Sony, but the one on DG (459080) is almost on the same level of achievement. How very alike his individual interpretations are after twenty years is more proof of Bernstein's consistency but I find the younger Bernstein's energy, sense of wonder and discovery even more compelling. The versions by him of the Third and Seventh Symphonies remain among the greatest Mahler recordings ever set down and I reviewed them in some detail in my surveys of those works to which I direct you. At the point of writing this earlier cycle is not in the catalogue but I'm assured Sony will be reissuing it early in 2001 at bargain price.

2009 update - see reissue of remastered Sony set [Crotchet 59.95 Amazon UK 56.99] Bernard Haitink's studio cycle on Philips (4420502) is another one-conductor set which, as a set, I rate almost on a par with Kubelik's and Bernstein's for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra's authoritative playing and Haitink's integrity. These are central, solid interpretations of depth and stature if a little lacking in character. You could say they are a "third way" between Kubelik and Bernstein. Apart from the Ninth and Seventh there isn't one individual symphony in this set I would recommend on its own but, as a set, it does have a lot going for it, even though Haitink himself is heard to much greater advantage in the "live" Christmas Matinee set already mentioned. There are many other boxed sets containing complete cycles by one conductor and orchestra. You will often see some good bargains among them too. But I remain convinced that none of them can compare with either building your own cycle from individual recordings or relying on Kubelik, Bernstein or even Haitink to give that overview I mentioned. However, let me round some of them up in case you see them. First there is Sir Georg Solti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Decca (4308042) or London (30804). He is certainly consistent in his approach to each work and there's no questioning the stunning precision and power of his orchestra. But Solti's Mahler is, for me, almost unvaryingly presented in the full glare of a clinical spotlight with too many passages driven to the point of ruthlessness such that I'm usually left admiring the performance rather than the music. I also think this orchestra, on the evidence of these recordings, has no real Mahler sound when compared with the Concertgebouw, for example. Many also rate Klaus Tennstedt's London Philharmonic cycle on EMI (5729412) very highly. I find it uneven. Indeed, I often find Tennstedt's approach within each work uneven. As with Haitink, Tennstedt was often better experienced "live". Also his type of "hands on" interpretative style is much better experienced under Bernstein whose knowledge of the scores is greater. Though I must say there is no doubting the sumptuous, upholstered playing of the London Philharmonic who deliver Mahler's darker hues gloriously. Next there's Claudio Abbado's cycle on DG (4470232). This too is variable and, in the end, too self-conscious too many times to warrant a strong recommendation over and above convenience or special offers. There are a couple of the symphonies worth having individually but for me this cycle just falls short of convincing, even though it is superbly played and recorded. Leif Segerstam on Chandos delivers his

Mahler in sound recordings that are huge and imposing but his style can sometimes be grossly mannered almost to the point of distortion. Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Philips (4388742) provides superb orchestral playing and excellent sound recording but too often there is failure to penetrate much beneath the surface of the notes. Lorin Maazel's cycle on Sony with the Vienna Philharmonic is self-conscious to an extent that is ultimately self-defeating and though his Fourth Symphony is excellent the rest do not live up to that high point. In the end I return to where I began and stress once more that I firmly believe you should compile a Mahler collection from single releases by different conductors rather than buy a boxed set by one conductor, unless for reasons I have outlined. Mahler recordings keep coming. There is a bewildering choice for even the experienced collector. I hope that in the course of this long survey I have provided newcomers with a "road map" and older hands with something to think about. Tony Duggan