I begin my voyage of symphonic (re)discovery with Bruckner and Mahler.
[entry originally published Wednesday, March 2, 2005 but I’ve kept adding to it throughout the month]
I’m having a grand time returning in mid-life to a profound joy of my youth, classical music, especially symphonies. I had somehow forgotten how soul-uplifting this music is for me.
With Dr. Julius as my emcee to the possibilities once again, I find myself especially drawn to exploring Herr Bruckner und Herr Mahler. Using guidelines from the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs, reviews at Amazon.com (at links below), and most helpful of all, informed discussion threads at Head-fi.org (Bruckner, Mahler), I’ve started with these purchased recordings.
Bruckner: The Complete Symphonies (00-9) performed by Georg Tintner and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Naxos, February 22, 2000)
Notes: Extravagant, I know, but I liked Tintner’s No. 3 so much I bought the whole inexpensive but well-regarded boxed set. Penguin Guide lists set as a key 3-* recording.
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 performed by Otto Klemperer and the New Philharmonia Orchestra (EMI, recorded 1964, remastered release October 7, 2003)
Notes: The sound is close to spectacular. Here I am listening to something recorded during my pre-kindergarten years, and even now as I’ve begun showing early signs of Old Fartitude, I’m being blown away by it.
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 performed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmoniker) (Teldec, March 7, 2000)
Notes: Penguin Guide lists as a key 3-* recording.
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 performed by Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Decca, July 16, 2002)
Notes: I can’t yet compare to any other performances, but the Adagio (3rd movement) here is one of the more sublime things I’ve ever heard.
Mahler: Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” performed by Zubin Mehta, Ileana Cotrubas, Christa Ludwig, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Decca, recorded 1975, rereleased June 13, 2000)
Mahler: Symphony No. 4 performed by Fritz Reiner, Lisa della Casa, and the Chicago Symphony (RCA, recorded ~1958, rereleased March 7, 2000)
Mahler: Symphony No. 5 performed by Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker (EMI, November 5, 2002)
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde performed by Otto Klemperer, Christa Ludwig, Fritz Wunderlich, and the [Old and] New Philharmonia Orchestra(s) (EMI, recorded 1964–1966, rereleased January 12, 1999)
Notes: Not that long ago when I’d hear music like this, with operatic singers crooning and ululating in German, I’d say, turn that noise off! Now, to my surprise, I can hardly get enough. Maybe it’s the aging process, the deeper understanding of the fleetingness of life on earth (and acceptance of death’s everpresence here) that comes with years, that has my head and heart converging with Mahler’s life trajectory and resonating to it. I still don’t understand much German, yet the words still seem so right.
received Friday, March 18 …
Bruckner: Symphonie No. 9 performed by Carlo Maria Giulini and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmonica) (DG, November 14, 1989)
Notes: Ordered because Tyson won me over with
… it is finally a recording that matches my favorites (Tintner in both). I’m coming to the conclusion that I simply like slow, intensely spiritual, song-like style of Bruckner conducting, which both Giulini and Tintner have in spades.
received Friday, March 18 …
Mahler: Symphony 9 performed by Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Decca, November 9, 2004)
Notes: Ordered this recording because I’ve seen it praised as an extra high-quality new recording of a work of which Origen writes —
If there is a more beautiful first movement in symphonic history than [Mahler 9], please let me know.
to which Masonjar responded —
[Mahler 9’s 1st movement is] definitely my favorite Mahler movement. That would obviously place it above every movement of any symphony by anyone else (since Mahler is my favorite symphonist), and above any piece of classical music period.
received Mon, March 21 …
Bruckner: Symphonie No. 8 performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmonica) (DG, September 13, 1989)
Notes: Widely hailed, acclaimed by the Penguin Guide as
… the most impressive of them all. The sheer beauty of sound and opulence of texture is awe-inspiring but never draws attention to itself: this is a performance in which beauty and truth go hand and hand.
received Sun, March 27 …
Birthday monies let me expand this glory by two more Mahlers and expand into Vaughan Williams:
Mahler: Symphony No. 8 performed by Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Decca, recorded 196_, remastered release August 10, 1999)
Mahler: Symphony No. 10 performed by Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker (EMI, June 6, 2000)
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis et al. performed by John Barbirolli and the Allegri String Quartet (EMI, recorded 196_, remastered release March 14, 2000)
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5; Valiant-for-Truth et al. performed by Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra (Chandos, February 9, 1999)
received Sun, April 4 …
Mahler: Symphony No. 9 performed by Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Telarc, February 23, 1999)
Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony performed by Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra (Chandos, May 22, 2001)
received Wed, April 13 …
Mahler: Symphony No. 3 performed by Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Decca, May 11, 2004)
Notes: This recording’s 23-minute final movement may be the most lyrical and powerful piece of symphonic music I’ve ever experienced. Most of its length is melodic interweavings I fully expect to hear in heaven. Then its finale packs in the tympanic power, is even bombastic perhaps, but it’s bombast that raises waves of goosebumps then melts my heart. I’ve listened about six times now, and each time it’s left me speechless with tears rolling.
received Mon, May 23 …
Mahler: The Complete Symphonies performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (Sony, January 30, 2001)
Notes: In one final burst of Mahlerian extravagance I’m listening to Bernstein’s Sony box set, as a result of a weak moment while reading the enthusiasm for it in this thread. One way of looking at it, the one I’m using, is $55 for 12.8 hours of music most of which makes my heart sing is a pretty good deal!
Listening now — political thoughts out the window; theological thoughts, too, except insofar as these are religious experiences for me. Ahh …
Wow, I’ve bought a year’s worth of music in a month. Have I uncovered a wee bit of OCD? But what a joyful obsession it is. And one with a lifelong shelf life, eh? (Plus I can rationalize I’m doing my part to help keep the classical genre a viable market for artists and record labels. :-)