Mahler: Symphonies 1 & 4 / Brahms: Symphony No. 1 - Levine

Mahler: Symphonies 1 & 4 / Brahms: Symphony No. 1 - Levine

Dutton  CDLX-7344 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Mahler: Symphonies 1* & 4**
Brahms: Symphony No. 1

Judith Blegen** (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra*
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Levine (conductor)

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3 of 4 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Analogue recording
Comments (16)

Comment by Waveform - November 4, 2017 (1 of 16)

Glad to see Dutton has re-released these Mahler recordings from the quadraphonic era, looks like a must-have purchase for every serious Mahlerian.

Comment by hiredfox - November 9, 2017 (2 of 16)

I have commented under the flag of Dutton's new Heldenleben release but the same theme applies here

Comment by William Hecht - November 9, 2017 (3 of 16)

I'm responding to John's thought here rather than the Heldenleben thread because I had all these recordings on CD-4 encoded RCA LPs but I never had the Heldenleben and don't even know whether it was an RCA CD-4 or a CBS SQ that Dutton has rescued from the ash heap. When they were new these Levine recordings enjoyed considerable critical acclaim, at least stateside. Whether the acclaim was engendered primarily by the performances or the then new quadraphonic sound I can't recall, but they've been gone from my shelves for at least 30 years so I'll probably plunk down my money as an exercise in nostalgia. Goodness knows they have to sound better than they did in the days of the CD-4 demodulator and Shibata stylus. Otherwise John I'm with you, my money goes toward the propagation of new repertoire and talent so that I do my little bit to keep great music alive and vital not off to the side in an aural museum.

Comment by Waveform - November 9, 2017 (4 of 16)

Bill, I would like to hear how these (Mahler/Levine recordings) sound in quad? No reason to spend money for mediocrity.

Comment by William Hecht - December 7, 2017 (5 of 16)

This arrived in my mailbox yesterday. How's that for timing? I hope that Dutton at least can recover it's costs.

Comment by SteelyTom - December 10, 2017 (6 of 16)

However prevalent the rumors surrounding Levine may have been, his sudden, utter fall from grace is truly staggering. He's arguably the greatest classical musician ever produced by America.

His RCA recording of Mahler 3 with Chicago SO is the first CD I ever purchased, back in 1985.

Comment by William Hecht - December 11, 2017 (7 of 16)

The Brahms 1st in this set was recorded in leftover session time from that Mahler 3rd recording you mentioned. For our friend Luketsu and anyone else who may still have an interest in this set I'll just comment briefly that all three performances are excellent, particularly that time pressured Brahms which has real intensity. That's also the best of the recorded sound unless you're into the "immersive" experience. The rear channels in the Brahms are used for ambience and the recording is reasonably natural and effective. The Mahler 1st has direct sound wrapping around to 90 degrees right and left of the listening position, not very realistic even for someone who prefers to sit in the front row when attending a concert (I prefer the rear of the orchestra, that's stalls to many of you, or the first balcony). The Mahler 4th has a 360 degree direct sound field which is completely unrealistic and among other travesties results in Judith Blegen's wonderful singing being entirely too loud and quite literally "in your face". A couple of weeks ago I'd have said this set was a must buy for the immersive sound fans. Now I can only report what I hear and the rest is up to you.

Comment by hiredfox - December 12, 2017 (8 of 16)

I've not kept up with all of the recent allegations of impropriety by notable figures here or in your part of the world Tom, after all they are only allegations at this stage aren't they?

The only observation I can make is that such allegations are rarely levelled at 'normal' people. What disturbs me most that alleged perpetrators are named and in the eyes of many shamed before anything is proven against them. We can all recall the episode involving similar allegations made against Michal Pletnev a few years ago which came to nought.

Comment by SteelyTom - December 17, 2017 (9 of 16)

The allegations are likely to remain just that, as the statutes of limitations in the relevant jurisdictions have run. In the current climate here in the US, however one might judge it, Levine is done as a practical matter. No doubt his declining health is a factor at the margins-- he was clearly in his twilight as a performing musician.

Complicating matters for Levine is the suggestion that Met management may have ignored abuse complaints, or even taken steps to keep complainants silent. Peter Gelb et al. presumably prefer to contain the damage by keeping the focus squarely on Levine.

Remarkably, WHRB, the Harvard station and at this point, the best classical music radio station in the Boston area which, among other things, airs the Met live broadcasts, has decided to place a moratorium on airing Levine's recordings, unless there's absolutely no alternative version available. I gather this means no Levine/CSO, or Levine/Berlin or Vienna records on HRB going forward. I can't imagine presenting the aural history of the Met while ignoring Levine. I urge this site's members to track down his SACDs with the Boston SO-- the Ravel Daphnis and Mozart symphony sets in particular.

Comment by hiredfox - December 18, 2017 (10 of 16)

Thanks Tom for your illuminating insight, very much appreciated and Yep! I have that recording and have no plans to ditch our collection of Levine recordings anytime soon. We will miss him as the Met Opera is screened live over here in cinemas and theatres across the country; tickets are hard to get hold of if you are slow out of the blocks.

Comment by William Hecht - December 18, 2017 (11 of 16)

Yes, gentlemen, the climate over here is now decidedly frosty for powerful men in the media, the arts, or politics. Of course the Levine stories have circulated for years unlike some of the others that are brand new, hot off the press, reports of things that supposedly happened 2, 3, or even 4 decades ago.

I regret that the BSO series was so small. The orchestra is wonderful, the recordings are first rate, and Levine is a fine conductor. Just thinking about what great music making must be in the archives and now will never be commercially available is truly sad.

Comment by ubertrout - December 21, 2017 (12 of 16)

According to the notes the Brahms is a new mix of the original multitracks into quad by Michael Dutton, while the Mahler symphonies are vintage quad mixes. Explains why the Brahms is more along the lines of modern mixing philosophies while the Mahler is much more radical.

Comment by William Hecht - December 22, 2017 (13 of 16)

Thanks, I missed that. Explains alot.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - January 1, 2018 (14 of 16)

First, I was privileged to enjoy many fine Levine/BSO performances both in Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood. Unfortunately the sound at Tanglewood had not undergone the transformation to what it is today. (Electronic enhancement has much improved it over what it historically had been). I DID enjoy Levine's Mahler but frankly do not see these "historic recordings" as anything that could possibly outrank what I am currently hearing in the hall from Andris Nelsons or from my SACD collection where if comparisons are to be made, Ivan Fischer and the BFO take pride of place!

Comment by hiredfox - January 4, 2018 (15 of 16)

That's very helpful Bruce, thank you. Fischer is hard to beat for sure while MTT is eternally reliable.

According to some sources I've been reading here Symphony Hall is regarded as possibly the best sounding concert hall on the planet. Praise indeed and while I've yet to attend a concert there in person believe me it is near the top of our 1000 things to do before our number is called in. If it sounds better than the Concertgebouw then we really are in for a treat. All we need now is for you guys to be bit more generous with your dollars.

Comment by hiredfox - July 29, 2018 (16 of 16)

I am reminded to let you know that the BSO and Nelsons are performing two concerts at the BBC Proms at the RAH at the end of August. Tickets still available if any of you are planning to holidaying in the UK this summer and especially in London. Go to the BBC Proms website for details.