Author Topic: just an opinion: new Fischer/Utah/M.T.C./R.R. Mahler 8 is a sensational knockout  (Read 272 times)

Offline barryguerrero

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For me, we now have a clear 'front runner' in the Mahler 8 sweepstakes.  The bass end of the recording is fairly 'boomy', being that this was recorded live in the Mormon Tabernacle. Those string bass pizzicatos at the start of Part II are huge. Yet, the Sound Mirror engineers manage to keep a sharp focus and achieve great clarity throughout. Musically speaking, this is pretty sensational. I expected stunning discipline and uniformity from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but what I didn't expect was the fully informed, idiomatic playing of the Utah Symphony. In that regard, this is a huge improvement over Abravanel.  More importantly, the cast of mostly no-name (or 'low name') soloists is uniformly very solid. There isn't a single 'woolly' sounding vocal solo in the entire Part II movement. As if all that weren't enough, the boys choir they employed is also excellent and highly disciplined. Obviously, much credit has to go to conductor Thierry Fischer - someone of whom I know almost nothing about. His conducting job is truly an 'interpretation' without him being too much of an 'interventionist'. In short, what he does, works.

I have only two very minor complaints about this release (and I wish to stress, "minor"). First, I would have liked for R.R. to have provided more tracks on the second disc (Part II). Second, I would be even happier if Fischer took the orchestral postlude at the end of Part II a tad slower. That said, however, the offstage brass, organ and percussion (cymbals, tam-tam) are really solid without any hint of sonic congestion. Just a tad more bass drum on the very final cut-off would have been welcomed as well. Still, none of these are big enough complaints for me to keep this from being my number one favorite at this point (Markus Stenz still has the best ending of anyone, but the rest of it is a bit of a run-through). 

For those of you who are considering a download of this, I think springing for the 96 kHz option may be a really good idea.  Everyone should at least hear this.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2017, 07:19:05 PM by barryguerrero »

Offline John Kim

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Great, thanks!

Fischer is also in charge of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, S. Korea. I once saw him conducting Rach Second and a Janacek in Seoul. They were both pretty good.

My fingers are crossed!

P.S. How di you like Fischer's M1st with the USO?

John

Offline John Kim

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Barry,

I took the liberty of pasting your review on FB.

John

Offline barryguerrero

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John asked: "How did you like Fischer's M1st with the USO?"

I haven't heard it. It's not on Spotify and I'm not really in the market  to buy another M1. Like most everyone here, I already have a number of M1 recordings. I'm quite satisfied with the Jurowski/LPO one, which is five movement version that really makes the insertion of "Blumine" - back into its original second movement position - really work and seem natural. I also like the old Bruno Walter and Ozawa/DG (with "Blumine") ones too.

Offline hrandall

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I just got my copy of the SACD in the mail, listened for the first time, and am inclined to agree with Barry. I need to spend more time with it, but this M8 really is special, I think.

Offline waderice

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My SACD of this recording came late in Saturday's mail.  I listened to it this morning and this afternoon, listened to my copy of Abravanel/Utah Symphony Vanguard LP Classic Records reissue, as re-enginerred by Bernie Grundman of Bernie Grundman Mastering in Los Angeles, for comparison purposes.

With 53 years difference between the two recordings, the Abravanel certainly does not sound all that bad compared to the Reference Recordings issue.  While the experience gained in the intervening years by the Utah Symphony in general as an ensemble playing the work, and sound engineers in general trying to give justice in recording the work has benefited both parties, I certainly wouldn't throw out the Abravanel recording by any means.  This was the first recording of the work in stereo, and sound engineers really faced a challenge in making the work succeed in that medium, with limited success.  According to the album notes, sixteen microphones were used to record Abravanel's performance in the Tabernacle.  To my ears, the soloists sound too "up front" on the stage (meaning, too close to the microphones), and various smaller and quieter choral sections in Part II were recorded a bit too close, probably to help increase clarity in an issued recording.  Also, the opening of the Chorus Mysticus is too loud.

Performance-wise, the Thierry one is very good, with the orchestra, choruses, and soloists giving a really heart-felt effort.  Part I doesn't quite have the vibrant presence and acoustic of the Mormon Tabernacle as does Part II, to my ears.  Perhaps both parts were different recordings from different days, which possibly accounts for the difference.  The notes for the recording state that six microphones were used for the recording.  With the use of digital recording, dynamics were no longer an issue with quieter choral sections.  The opening of the Chorus Mysticus sounded as it should in Theirry's account.  The soloists were still a bit "up front", though certainly not as much so as in Abravanel's recording.

This brings me to the often-discussed issue of where and how to perform/record the work.  Considering where the work was first performed, it was in Munich in the confines of a large exhibition hall, now unfortunately converted to a transportation museum, which was really disheartening to see when I was there a few years ago.  To my mind, a "large exhibition hall" takes on the meaning of venues like Albert Hall in London (thinking of Horenstein's performance there in 1959), plus the Mormon Tabernacle, with its extreme reverberation signature (considering the two recordings at hand).  Thankfully, we have the BBC's recording of Horenstein's legendary performance, which was recorded with a two-microphone crossed pair (Blumlein), that resulted in great overall balance with all of the performers.  The use of sixteen microphones for Abravanel's recording contributed somewhat to what some might consider a sonic morass in trying to properly record the work.  The use of six microphones for Thierry's recording was a significant improvement, but still not perfect.

So, what large venues we have left in the world for performances of M8 similar to how Mahler experienced it himself are Albert Hall and the Mormon Tabernacle.  Recording-wise, the Horenstein one at Albert Hall, in my mind, is a great success.  What if the same microphone principle that was used for Horenstein had been used to record the Thierry performance in the Tabernacle?

Wade

Offline barryguerrero

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No arguments from me over the worth of the Horenstein recording.