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  PentaTone Classics -
  PTC 5186 166
  Mahler: Symphony No. 8 - Haitink
  Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand"

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Bernard Haitink (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 3

Site review by Polly Nomial June 18, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by Russell June 2, 2006 (22 of 22 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I was quite excited about this 1972 recording being reissued on SACD, as it's been one of my favorite performances of the work ever since LP days. I've always felt this recording was underappreciated, both for performance and recording quality. The LP had the misfortune to be released around the same time as the more flamboyant Solti recording on Decca, and most critics preferred Solti's over the more diffusely recorded Haitink one. While the Solti is certainly the more overtly 'spectacular' recording, the Haitink has its merits as well.

I wasn't disappointed with this new SACD. Though I don't have the original Philips CD issue on hand to compare it to, the sound on the PentaTone SACD is huge, spacious, and transparent, though lacking a bit in richness and weight. I remember this as a characteristic of the LP. (BTW, I listened in stereo only, as I'm not set up for MCH.) As for the interpretation, it's pretty much echt-Haitink from that period--direct, straightforward, unfussy, no interpretive mannerisms (that I could hear, at least). It's also pretty swift, at under 76 minutes (Solti's is just over 79, IIRC). (Note: the total time printed on the back cover is incorrect--it says 70 minutes and change.) The singing is first-rate, and better IMO than on the recent Wit/Naxos CD, which has received very high praise elsewhere--I found it good, but overrated. Haitink dispatches the very end of the work just a bit too coolly--I would have preferred Haitink to wallow more in its grandeur--but overall I really loved hearing this recording again and am happy to have it on SACD.

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Review by willemvoorneveld July 15, 2012 (10 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Haitink has recorded several Mahler cycles during his career. In the early seventies and later in the mid 80ís he recorded with the Concertgebouw Orchestra followed by an almost complete series with BPO in the early 90ís (both on CD and DVD) and more recently, live recordings with CSO, the Bayerischen Rundfunk Orchestra and again with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, all on SACD. With the 9th done last December in München he could bundle them up and issue the next complete release!

His interpretations have evolved over time but still carry the same basic ingredients.
This Pentatone recording is from his earliest complete set (1971 recorded) and although I do have the original CD (1972) I had a hard time to find out whether the two discs are sourced from the same tape because details made to hear through the Pentatone disc do not seem to exist on the old Philips CD stereo version. The timing is similar so I assume they are the same.

Haitink's interpretation is balanced, more inward looking than extrovert (as Bernstein VPO, 1975) and more intellectual than superficial (Compare TTT with SFO). Haitink has the United Choruses of Amsterdam available to him which is an equal match to Bernsteinís cast who had the United Choruses of Vienna singing. Both the Haitink and the Bernstein version were the ones I preferred most so far but sound quality wise they were both not ideal. The Philips CD was too distant and the Berstein DGG too rough and tiring. Mahler 8th seemed too much music for just two channels.

The Pentatone release uses two channels more than the original Philips CD, and the result is stunning. It convinced me that with only 4 channels one can also create a solid 3 dimensional soundstage, with very fine balance between soloists and the orchestra and Chorus. So, this 40 year old quadrophonic recording proofs that 4.0 can be as good as 5.0 Multi-channel.

Compared to the current RCO live releases (made by the same company) there are a few differences though: Low percussion is less articulate and deep and violins can become a bit harsh in Forte; indicating that some progress seem to have been made in the microphone department. What remains though is a very realistic acoustic picture of the Concertgebouw (the symphony Hall) that in no way is less accurate than in current recordings.

Recommended both for artistic and sound reasons!

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Works: 1  

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 8 in E flat major "Symphony of a Thousand"