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James Levine conducts Mahler: Symphonies No 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 & 10

Mahler / Levine,James
Release Date: 03/25/2014 
Label:  Rca   Catalog #: 7686092   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Marilyn HorneJudith Blegen
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraChicago Symphony OrchestraChicago Symphony Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 10 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

As a Mahler interpreter, his performances are exciting, fabulously played, razor-sharp rhythmically, and sensitive to the myriad details of Mahler's scoring. He has terrific vocal soloists...Artistically, though, this is about as good as it gets, and it's a pleasure to welcome this set back into circulation.

Had James Levine finished his Mahler cycle with Nos. 2 and 8 it might well have been the finest available. Rehearing these performances it's amazing just how competitive they still are. Certainly Nos. 3-6 and 9 stand with the finest available, and Nos. 1 and 7 aren't far behind. Only does No. 10 sound oddly disengaged, partly the result of the denatured digital recording of the last four movements (the opening
Read more Adagio was recorded earlier in analog). Levine's recent Mahler has become much slower and heavier than what he offers here, so this set has to be considered one of the Mahler discography's great "might have beens."

Still, this doesn't diminish the value of what Levine actually gave us. As a Mahler interpreter, his performances are exciting, fabulously played, razor-sharp rhythmically, and sensitive to the myriad details of Mahler's scoring. He has terrific vocal soloists--Judith Blegen in the Fourth and Marilyn Horne in the Third--but seems not to like cowbells very much in the Sixth and Seventh. Perhaps the two standout performances are the Fifth and Ninth, as much for the playing of the Philadelphia Orchestra as for Levine's intense interpretations.

The sonics were always wildly variable. Remastering has helped, but the percussion in the Sixth is still too far forward, and the Seventh was an early digital nightmare. It's listenable now, but still no engineering prize. The total absence of notes and sung texts is inexcusable. Artistically, though, this is about as good as it gets, and it's a pleasure to welcome this set back into circulation.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Mahler 1st Symphony from this set:

“This Mahler First, certainly one of the freshest and most vibrant performances, but one that also tends to get lost in the shuffle. The playing of the LSO is terrific: the scherzo bids fair to be the best on disc, but then Levine seems unusually energized and spontaneous throughout...this is an outstanding performance in all other respects, and moreover one that will sound well on iPods, in cars, and in all of those places where soft passages tend to vanish annoyingly in a welter of ambient noise. It certainly deserves to remain available.”

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Mahler 4th Symphony from this set:

“A lot of Mahler 4s have come and gone since this 1974 release, but its musical values remain undiminished. It finds both James Levine and the Chicago Symphony at the absolute peak of their form, and that's really saying something. This performance has everything: incredible precision in the first movement (especially the central development section), a nicely spiky scherzo, a broadly sung and soulful adagio rising to a glorious climax, and a terrific soloist for the finale in the person of Judith Blegen. There's really not much more that needs to be said, other than that the current remastering sounds extremely vivid and close up, even a touch bright, but perfectly acceptable. A generation of Mahler lovers imprinted on this performance, and it's great that a new legion of fans will now be able to do the same--and at mid-price too. .”

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [5/11/2004]

Mahler 5th and 7th Symphonies from this set:

"I am not sure that James Levine's Mahler is appreciated so fully as it ought to be. His recording of Symphony No. 7 (RCA—nla), perhaps the most difficult of the set to bring off, is a magnificent achievement and some might think that he is superior in the finale even to Abbado in his recent Chicago recording on DG. This reissue of No.5 is first-rate in every respect. As an interpretation it falls only just short of Barbirolli's classic HMV account (SLS785, 12/69) in the reconciliation of structure and emotional intensity, the playing of the Philadelphia Orchestra (particularly its brass and woodwind soloists) is truly amazing and the recording is bright, warm and well-balanced.

Levine's attention to Mahler's markings, especially the dynamics, is scrupulous but never sounds mechanical or contrived. The first two movements are full of tension, tragic and furious by turns, as they must be if the sunlit triumph of the finale is to shine forth as it should. The playing and recording of the flute's final passage in the first movement followed by the lower strings' pizzicato may be only a small example, but they are symbolic of the vividness of the whole interpretation. Again, in the second movement, the pizzicatos are thrilling, and the cellos' tone is ravishing. Only superlatives will suffice, too, for the performance of the scherzo, the blending of the horn obbligato with the woodwind most beautifully judged. I do not find Levine's tempo in the AAdagietto at all too slow, The pulse never falters and the line of the melody is never stretched beyond coherence. Wieder dusserst langsarn ('again extremely slowly") Mahler directs after the first statement of the theme, and Levine obeys him, with a magical differentiation between p and pp throughout. When it comes to the finale all the threads are drawn together in a thoroughly convincing way and the big build-up to the victorious chorale steers well clear of bombast."

-- M. K., Gramophone [8/1985]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896 
2.
Symphony no 3 in D minor by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Chorus,  Glen Ellyn Children's Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1896; Hamburg, Germany 
Language: German 
3.
Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Judith Blegen (Soprano)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Symphony no 5 in C sharp minor by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
5.
Symphony no 6 in A minor "Tragic" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904/1906; Austria 
Date of Recording: 1977 
6.
Symphony no 7 in E minor by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904-1905; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 7/1980 
Venue:  Medinah Temple, Chicago 
7.
Symphony no 9 in D major by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Austria 
8.
Symphony no 10 in F sharp minor/major by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1910; Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  5 Customer Reviews )
 A Young Conductor Joins the MahlerCraze January 31, 2016 By E. Barnes (Herndon, VA) See All My Reviews "When I first heard many of these recordings over the air from classical music stations when they were first released, I was underwhelmed. A young and ambitious James Levine had apparently assiduously studied the score, RCA hired him an orchestra, and a recording was produced. I already knew a lot of the Mahler works from other recordings, especially the erratic Old School guys like Hermann Scherchen, and I liked how they got into Mahler, the shrieks, the yelps, the sudden impulsive, impetuous romantic fortes. Levine is a MUCH better conductor these days. For years now, music has become his lover and not merely his caviar ticket. But these early efforts, 1974-1980, were, as far as I'm concerned, a demonstration of a promising young man not quite ready for prime time and a hefty recording schedule. This is of course a minority view, but I just wanted to put some caution into the otherwise almost uniformly positive comments. My preference for a complete Mahler set is the older Bernstein New York Philharmonic set on Columbia (Sony), with its crisp sound AND genuine fire in the belly." Report Abuse
 Mahler & Levine - a great combination June 4, 2015 By F. Juarbe (Ocala, FL) See All My Reviews "What would be better than a set of Mahler symphonies conducted by James Levine? Perhaps ALL of them, with #2 & #8 not included, one has to wonder what RCA was thinking. But what is here is well worth your listening pleasure. Maestro Levine has at his powers the Philadelphia, Chicago and London Symphonies, and he uses them well, very well. Levine is a wonderfully talented musician and many only know him for his outstanding work with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Hearing orchestral music conducted by the Maestro reminds and refreshes ones memory of his incredible talent. The Titan is magnificent, second only to maybe the Tennstedt live reading with Chicago. The 5th symphony with Philadelphia is marvelous and the 3rd symphony with Chicago is breathtaking. If you are not in tears by the end of the last movement, which is just under 27 minutes, you have never been moved by the magnificence Gustav Mahler. A must have for any lover of Mahler's music." Report Abuse
 Levine is not Mahler April 25, 2015 By Rick B. (Enfield, CT) See All My Reviews "For me Levine is not Mahler. When I saw the ad for such 1ll in Mahler, I knew that this was not Mahler, and it wasn't Levine. Levine's best is at the met or other opera houses! I have hard him n other releases in symphonic form, and well? It is such that some should never be president or dictators. Levine is an artist and the Met owes him more than you and I can ever imagine. My best hearing of Mahler, who I had never heard, was when I was in College and could hardy afford the 8$for the vinyl record. It was the Boston Symphony with Erich Liensdorf. That was my first exsposure to Mahler. None could be better." Report Abuse
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