Mahler: 10 Symphonies, Das Lied von der Erde - RCO
RCO live RCO 12102 (11 discs)
Classical - Orchestral
Mahler: Symphonies 1-10 (compl. Cooke); Totenfeier; Das Lied von der Erde
Ricarda Merbeth , Miah Persson , Christine Brewer , Camilla Nylund  & Maria Espada  (sopranos)
Bernarda Fink [2, 3] & Stephanie Blythe  (mezzo-sopranos)
Mihoko Fujimura  (alto)
Anna Larsson [DLvdE] (contralto)
Robert Dean Smith [8 & DLvdE] (tenor)
Tommi Hakala  (baritone)
Stefan Kocán  (bass)
Netherlands Radio Choir [2, 3 & 8]
State Choir Latvia 
Bavarian Radio Choir 
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Daniel Harding , Mariss Jansons [2, 3 & 8], Iván Fischer , Daniele Gatti , Lorin Maazel , Pierre Boulez , Bernard Haitink , Eliahu Inbal  & Fabio Luisi [DLvdE & T] (conductors)
A host of accomplished conductors including Daniel Harding, Daniele Gatti, Bernard Haitink and Eliahu Inbal lead the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in these performances of Mahler's Symphonies Nos. 1-10. Recorded in Amsterdam over two seasons in 2010/11, the collection also includes 'Das Lied von der Erde'.
- Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major 'Titan'
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 10 in F sharp minor
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor 'Resurrection'
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 3 in D minor
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 4 in G major
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A minor
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 7 in E minor
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E flat major 'Symphony of a thousand'
- Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 9 in D major
- Gustav Mahler: Totenfeier
Review by Graham Williams - September 2, 2016
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is arguably the finest Mahler orchestra in the world with a pedigree of great performances stretching back to the composer himself and, thanks to the championing of Mahler's music by Willem Mengelberg the orchestra's chief conductor from 1895-1945, the tradition that was established then continues to the present day.
The performances on these discs are of live recordings made during the 2009-2011 Mahler celebrations at Amsterdam's acoustically magnificent Concert Hall. On this indispensable set of 11 Blu-ray discs from RCO Live we have the nine completed Mahler symphonies, the performing version of Symphony No.10 in the Deryck Cooke completion, Das Lied von der Erde and Totenfeier – Mahler's early symphonic poem that eventually became the first movement of his 'Resurrection Symphony'. Each of the symphonies is allotted a separate disc, while the final disc contains 'Das Lied von der Erde' and 'Totenfeier'.
It is worth mentioning at this point that there are no 'extras' of any kind on these discs. The menu allows a choice of audio between stereo or surround and selection of individual movements from each symphony. As well as 'Das Lied von der Erde', four of the symphonies contain vocal movements, but there are no subtitles provided, so listeners will have to do their homework with regards to the texts and translations.
The choice of conductors for this enterprise is especially interesting. Some Mahler veterans like Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel and Elihau Inbal have, over a number of years, recorded complete Mahler cycles on CD while others like Daniel Harding are relative newcomers to this composer. Not surprisingly Maris Jansons (the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's current Chief Conductor at the time) has chosen to conduct three of the largest and longest works ( Symphonies 2, 3 and 8) each of which is given a thrilling and immensely satisfying performance.
The various video directors carry out, with great skill, the difficult task in ensuring that the camera work is both relevant and varied. Watching the way in which nine conductors achieve their desired interpretations from this orchestra is endlessly fascinating. From the impassive, almost detached, Pierre Boulez in Symphony No.7 to Daniel Harding in Symphony No.1 – the latter, by contrast, all flailing arms – the mysterious power wielded by each maestro is demonstrated to the viewer. The many close-ups of the orchestra reveal the concentration with which these players listen to each other – often confirmed with a knowing glance or a smile between them.
The sound quality is excellent throughout as one would expect from the experienced Everett Porter of Polyhymnia International, and whether one is listening in 2-channel stereo (96/24bit PCM) or 5.0 channel surround (dts-HD Master Audio), the latter giving an even more vivid representation of the superb Concertgebouw acoustic, the impact of each of these performances is conveyed in full to the listener.
Mahler often uses off-stage forces in his symphonies and this can present a problem for the video director. Not here though, as thanks to the use of an extra camera, we are able to see the evocative post horn solo in the third movement of Symphony No. 3, being beautifully performed on an actual post horn rather than the often heard flügelhorn substitute.
In a review of a set that lasts a total of 15 hrs.17mins. it would be almost impossible to discuss the finer points of each performance in detail. However, highlights include Daniele Gatti's blistering performance of the 5th Symphony containing a ravishing account of the famous 'Adagietto' – treated here correctly as a flowing love song and light years away from any spurious linkage to Visconti's 'Death in Venice'. Also pretty overwhelming is Jansons' heaven storming account of the 8th Symphony benefiting from a superb line up of soloists led by Christine Brewer in refulgent voice and the magnificent choral singing from the combined choirs of Bavarian Radio, Netherlands Radio and the Latvian State Choir. Perhaps most valuable of all is the disc devoted to Elihau Inbal's deeply moving performance of Mahler's incomplete 10th Symphony in the performing edition by Deryck Cooke. Inbal has been a long standing champion of this work – he first recorded it with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra over 20 years ago for Denon – and to hear it played by an orchestra of such quality as this is a rare treat.
There is so much to enjoy in both aural and visual terms from this essential set that it can be confidently recommended to all Mahler aficionados as an unmissable record of some of the finest Mahler performances of the early 21st century.
Copyright © 2016 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net