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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 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

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:  7 Customer Reviews )
 Not to be missed. April 8, 2016 By Olin Williams (Portland , OR) See All My Reviews "Performances and recorded quality are excellent. At this bargain price (10 CDs for 17.99) you just can't go wrong!" Report Abuse
 Can't beat this for the price of one CD March 1, 2016 By Bernard A J. (Kansas City, MO) See All My Reviews "I haven't heard these Mahler symphonies for quite a while, and for the price of one CD, it was worth hearing them again. I had forgotten how good they are. The sound has probably been remastered as I don't remember them as sounding this great. Levine is particularly good in the 3rd especially in light of Marilyn Horne being his soloist. It is the 5th though especially where he shines. It is unfortunate that he never recorded the 2nd or the 8th. I think there is a Mahler 2 live with the Israel Philharmonic in existence, but I have heard that it wouldn't compare to these recordings. One thing you will need to forego is program notes or anything as there is no booklet. For the price though, we should be thankful. Grab another complete (or separate issues) of other recordings of the symphonies for that information. Also I don't think any complete Mahler set can get a five star recognition, but I do think Levin is overall worth a four star for his almost complete edition." Report Abuse
 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
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