Now reissued on 17 CDs, plus a bonus DVD containing a live concert of the Ninth Symphony, this is practically a Mahler “complete works” edition. Yes, Das klagende Lied is missing, but you get the three major song cycles, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, both the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony plus the Cooke completion, and finally, Das Lied von der Erde. All of these performances are just as fine as those of the symphonies. I reproduce my earlier review of the set below for convenience, and most of the individual symphony releases have been reviewed as well, so there’s plenty of additional coverage if you’re curious. Back in 2004, I felt that this was, on balance, the best complete Mahler cycle available, andRead more while I wouldn’t turn in Bertini, Bernstein, and parts of Chailly, I stand by that judgment.
As evidence, I choose as a sound sample the end of the first movement of the Eighth Symphony, mainly because Gielen has a reputation as a specialist in musical misery and angst. Here, the joyous outpouring of sound and bigness of conception, coupled with remarkable clarity of detail, reveals that he has the full measure of Mahler’s vision–not just the scary or tragic bits. So if you didn’t get this set the first time around, you should surely consider this “new and improved” version of it. I would only add that the generous booklet comes with extensive notes and complete texts and translations–a welcome rarity these days. -----
Performance reviews from past CD releases included in this set:
Mahler: Symphony No 2
Michael Gielen has a solid reputation as a conductor of Bruckner and Mahler, and this new Resurrection Symphony upholds it handsomely. His reading of Symphony No. 2 is not of the transcendent, epiphanic type espoused by the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Klaus Tennstedt, but more along the lines of the direct, flesh-and-blood manner represented by Otto Klemperer and Vaclav Neumann.
Mahler: Symphony No. 6
Gielen masterfully uses the orchestra's bright coloring to stress the first movement music's anguish (and also its temporary relief, as in the tranquil interlude). With the Andante this performance really hits its stride, calling forth warm and bucolic playing from the orchestra.
Mahler: Symphony No. 8
The soloists all perform with passionate conviction, but Margaret Jane Wray and Glenn Winslade deserve special mention for their richly characterful renderings of Una Poenitentium and Doctor Marianus. The assembled choirs and the SWR Orchestra give fully of themselves in this inspiring and heartwarming rendition, captured in spacious, natural sound by Hänssler's engineers. While this may not be a heaven-storming Eighth in the manner of Bernstein or Tennstedt, it's one that offers more than a glimpse of paradise, and certainly satisfies on its own terms.