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Mahler: Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand" / Tennstedt, LPO

Mahler / Tennstedt / Lpo / Bullock / Sotin / Lscr
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Lpo   Catalog #: 52   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Eike Wilm SchulteSusan BullockJane EaglenJulia Varády,   ... 
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraLondon Symphony ChorusEton College Boys' Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MAHLER Symphony No. 8 Klaus Tennstedt, cond; Júlia Várady, Jane Eaglen, Susan Bullock (sop); Trudeliese Schmidt, Jadwige Rappé (alt); Kenneth Riegel (ten); Eike Wilm Schulte (bar); Hans Sotin (bs); London SO Ch; Eton College Boys’ Ch; London PO & Ch LPO 0052 (2 CDs: 87:22 Text and Translation) Live: London 1/27/1991

The final recording in Klaus Tennstedt’s EMI Mahler symphony cycle was a powerful performance of the Eighth, recorded in 1986 and released Read more in 1987. For many listeners, it was a match for Sir Georg Solti’s classic account. The concerts from which this new recording derives take on historic importance because Tennstedt would subsequently retire from the music directorship of his orchestra due to poor health. Sir Simon Rattle made this observation in his Fanfare interview with me in 1999: “Until I heard Tennstedt conduct [the Eighth], I didn’t see how it could be done. But then I heard the live performances he did in London, and I thought, ‘Oh, yes; right.’ ”

The EMI Eighth was a sonic delight for its time, balancing the voices and instruments in a very effective manner, and providing a depth to the soundstage that accommodated the massive forces with clarity and power. This new live production isn’t in that league, sounding particularly cramped in the loud tutti passages of part 1 within a narrower soundstage. The solo voices are pushed forward in the sound mix in this section, too. Part 2 fares better, mostly because the more operatic nature of the movement lends itself to the spotlighted treatment accorded the soloists, though the tape hiss is more noticeable here as well.

As far as the performance is concerned, Tennstedt broadens a few of his tempos somewhat, but generally in a manner that adds to the drama rather than simply becoming slower. The soloists are a match for the octet of the EMI set (this new recording shares soloists Trudeliese Schmidt and Hans Sotin with its predecessor), and two are standouts: Júlia Várady and Kenneth Riegel bring sensitivity and passion to their parts, eclipsing the contributions of their counterparts.

This LPO performance is part of a DVD set, also on EMI, reviewed in Fanfare 30:4. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the sound of the DVD, but it is better than the sound heard on this new recording. In the end, however, it is Tennstedt’s name that will recommend this set, and with the caveats listed above in mind, I can unhesitatingly recommend it to Mahlerites and Tennstedt fans.

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 8 in E flat major "Symphony of A Thousand" by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Eike Wilm Schulte (Baritone), Susan Bullock (Soprano), Jane Eaglen (Soprano),
Julia Varády (Soprano), Trudeliese Schmidt (Mezzo Soprano), Jadwiga Rappé (Alto),
Hans Sotin (Bass), Kenneth Riegel (Tenor)
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  Eton College Boys' Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; Vienna, Austria 

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