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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 8 - Zinman

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Reviews: 2

Site review by Geohominid April 18, 2010
Performance:   Sonics:    
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http://www.HRAudio.net/showmusic.php?title=6289#reviews

Review by jdaniel July 25, 2010 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Love the organ! Not nasal or tart! Great fundamentals, too. Spacious HUGE sound, chorus sings with swagger and jubilance rather than ferver. Soloists get a touch hard on high notes but stay on pitch and employ tasteful vibrato. Engineers allow their voices to blend with acoustic before hitting mics; thank you. Bell (or chime) not very unsettling.

Amazing detail in the grand development section and it all falls so comfortably on the ear. (Track 6) Such a crisp, in-tune choir, they nail Mahler's sometimes wild chord-progressions. The choral pickup note "AH" is a little under-nourished. Great bass-drum crescendo after the dissonant, minor-mode (pre) climax and so transparent in the texture! Zinman takes the return "Veni" straight: no slowing; I believe that's what Mahler wanted but I like a little expansion here. Overall, I'm very gratified by this section because it's usually set my teeth on edge, both on Lp and CD...Zinman's forces are exciting, weighty, illuminating and captured by the engineers nigh-on perfectly.

Hmmm....after all the crispness, the final rush to the end (track 8)gets a touch legato and smoothed-over, ("saeculoRUM!"), and the final, thrilling up-the-scale runs of the chorus get a little murky. At the moment of the very final "landing" (the moment the off-stage trumpets come in) things don't seem perfectly lined up to my ears, (over-anxious trumpet?) and THE resolving chordal progression of the entire movement isn't quite nailed. Big problem here.

Part II

Orchestral intro not very raw and elemental. Low brass and woodwinds--with their typically gorgeous woodsy timbres--aren't really exploited fully. Griffey (track 10) does indeed have an odd voice; accurate and tasteful, but sounds very...elderly. He gets dangerously close to going flat on the exquisite lead-up to Mater Gloriosa "soaring into view" ("Jungfrau..."). Diener's voice is lovely as Magna Peccatrix.

Orchestra not "playfully-grotesque" enough (Track 14) before the "Blessed Boys" section...nor sublimely charming enough during their singing, (listen to Tennstedt here.) Mater Gloriosa unsteady (track 15), (poor dear though; I couldn't sing through a hole in the top of a concert hall either), in any case, I'm falling out of love with the performance....

Wait: Griffey better and more settled-in during Blicket, the subsequent orchestral interlude OK, but Mahler's stunning tonal deconstruction not as remarkable as it could be. Choral entry (Mysticus) a little earthbound...but wait again: Diener's solo floated high Bb the loveliest since Tennstedt's Connell. Organ and chorus soli stunning,(return of "Alles...") as is the suspended high French-horns which lead into this particular moment.

Off-stage brass and organ really sound big and "from beyond."

Last three chords a little soft-grained but huge.

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The recordings I come back to the most are Tennstedt's (EMI) and Morris' (World Records Lp). I imprinted on Solti's but Tennstedt, (like Goodall as a similar foil to Solti's Wagner), shows that there's much more gold in the hills. Yes, his choir is smallish, it's an '88 digital recording, (I prefer the very late-pressed Lp for its "airier" sound and better bass), but Soprano Elizabeth Connell floats the most perfect high Bb of all in the final Chorus Mysticus, the Tiffin Boys' Choir is literally angelic, instrumentalists play (purposefully) rough and ravishingly by turns, (listen to the consoling strings brush the ear during the Mysticus), and Tennstedt's vision--especially in the orchestral coda of Part II--is truly cosmic and the rapt dedication of all involved is downright touching. Wynn Morris' is a one-off and it thrills because it moves along like gang-busters and you never know who is going to win, not least the acoustic of Royal Albert Hall. The organ is particularly thunderous. Yes, there are some gaffs, congestion and some compression, but I'm won-over every time, warts and all. Zinman's--from a recording perspective--has no warts....

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