Author Topic: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?  (Read 538 times)

Offline erikwilson7

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Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« on: February 17, 2020, 06:37:47 PM »
A friend of mine agreed to dive into the world of Mahler and I'm going all in. The only problem is I don't know which recordings to show them because I don't remember what it's like to hear Mahler's music for the first time. My basic criteria are: good modern sound (1990 and onwards), is widely available (Spotify, etc.), generally middle-of-the-road interpretation, preferably not noticeably live, and a recording that captures the spirit of the work. I have a few picked out, but the rest I can't decide on. These aren't my own personal favorites, but rather recordings that I think would be best-suited for someone who is hearing the music for the very first time.

Here's what I have so far:

Das klagende Lied: Tilson Thomas/SFSO
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Nagano/Gerhaher/Montréal
M1: Bernstein/RCO... probably.
Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Chailly/Bonney/Fulgoni/Winbergh/Goerne/RCO (open to other suggestions)
M2: Not sure yet... torn between Vänskä/Minnesota, Fischer/Budapest, Nott/Bamberg. Bernstein (DG) is too extreme for a first-timer (though amazing).
M3: Chailly/RCO... probably.
M4: Between Salonen/LAPO, Fischer/Düsseldorf, Chailly/RCO, and Vänskä/Minnesota.
Rückert-Lieder: Gardiner/Otter/NDR (open to suggestions)
M5: I truly don't know... I'm thinking maybe Stenz/Melbourne, Gielen/SWR, or even Harding/SRSO.
M6: Also not sure... I want powerful Hammerschläge and loud, staccato timpani prominently bringing forth the fate rhythm motifs in the first and last movements. I was thinking Abbado/BPO but you can hardly hear the deep bells in the finale. Jansons/LSO is a decent choice. Vänskä has all the details but conducts like a robot (but would a first-time listener even pick up on that?). I don't want Bernstein/VPO because he has 3 hammer blows (not the norm, so probably not a good choice for a first-timer).
Kindertotenlieder: Chailly/Fassbaender/DSOB or Barbirolli/Baker/Hallé (though the sound is certainly dated).
M7: Also don't know... I want to do Stenz/Gürzenich but he's too quick in the second and third movements. Nott/Bamberg is my most likely choice.
M8: I'm thinking Nagano/DSOB. He captures the essence of the work better than most, and the sound is amazing. If the Bertini were available on streaming services I would choose that. I'm also considering the Boulez.
Das Lied von der Erde: Any choice for this one will be controversial, but I'm probably going with Giulini/Fassbaender/Araiza/BPO (sound holds up incredibly well).
M9: I'm pretty set on Gilbert/Stockholm, but I might change my mind and go with Chailly/RCO. I just like Gilbert's pacing much better.
M10: Also always controversial, but I might go with Nézet-Séguin/OM. I didn't want to choose Chailly/DSOB because he uses Cooke II. I might also switch to Dausgaard/Seattle.

What would you choose to show someone who has never heard Mahler before, let alone hardly any classical music?

Offline Vehemence

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2020, 05:54:46 AM »
In my experience, the DG Bernstein recordings seem to get people who've never been exposed to Mahler or classical music quite excited. Generally I'm not a fan of these interpretations, but they are very exciting, visceral and overly emotive. I think think those 3 qualities help a new listener stay involved in these lengthy works. Especially the 2nd, all the younger kids are bonkers over that one.

Offline erikwilson7

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2020, 07:24:36 AM »
That’s a really good point. I was thinking they might be way too much for a newcomer, but they might not even have another symphony to compare it to. Bernstein/DG is a good way to show “this is what the buzz about Mahler is all about.”

Offline Prospero

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2020, 05:31:18 PM »
If I might note, I don't think good recording or good recordings of Mahler begin in 1990. You eliminate even the stereo Walter, Horenstein, the early Bernstein, Kubelik, early Haitink, etc. If you listen to the Walter stereo 9th on a clean early stereo LP and a sensitive system, you will find a detailed and deeply felt performance.

In my view recording from the mid-fifties to the introduction of digital was in general more sensitive to musical values and experience than the 90s. I know many will see it otherwise. But ultra multimicing and hyper editing by engineers insufficiently experienced in live music can do much harm.

Still, your advocacy of Mahler to new listeners is to be commended.

Offline erikwilson7

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2020, 06:19:54 PM »
Prospero,

You’re absolutely right, and I didn’t mean to imply there weren’t good Mahler recordings with good sound before 1990. In fact, I find the Columbia Bernstein M7 to still be one of the best-sounding Sevenths. I also find the early digital recordings to be the worst-sounding recordings, generally speaking. The only reason I mention 1990 and onwards is because that’s when we start to really notice powerful dynamic range and more fullness in the bass frequencies. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I would also prefer to show a new listener a recording that is entirely free of any hiss present on older recordings.

I do admit to being ignorant of older recordings, including Horenstein, Walter, Klemperer, and early Haitink. I am merely 25, so by default I have been accustomed to the sound of contemporary recordings since I began listening to classical music only a half-dozen years ago.

Thank you for your valuable input. I’ll have to check out the ones you mentioned.

Offline barryguerrero

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2020, 12:42:30 PM »
This is a tricky topic. I feel the choice of recording is nearly irrelevant - it just needs to be one that you believe in. I only came to Mahler's music because I kept trying it over and over. I do know this much - the Solti recordings did nothing to make me interested in the composer, except his earlier, pre-CSO ones (to some extent). For most folks, I might try "Blumine", or the Adagietto from M5. The two middle movements from M1 might be good, then showing how the slow movement leads to the start of the finale. The first two inner movements of M2 might also be good, or perhaps the scherzo from M3. If the listener is more opera or vocal oriented, I might begin with "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen", then show how that relates to the Adagietto. Some of the milder songs from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" may be good too. If the listener is already more 'sophisticated' in their knowledge and taste, I might begin with the second Nachtmusik from M7 (movement 4). If they like that, I might let it go on to the finale for a bit. It's always good to leave people wanting more.

In general, I think it's good to be creative and show how certain movements relate to certain songs - emphasizing the fact that the symphonies are greatly expansions and developments upon various lieder. Shoving an entire symphony down someone's throat rarely works - that's better saved for live performances. Just an opinion.

Offline brunumb

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2020, 09:52:30 PM »
My first exposure to Mahler was when I took a punt and selected the 'Resurrection' symphony from the catalogue of the World Record Club decades ago.  WOW!  I was totally hooked when I heard it.  That recording of the 2nd was with the LSO conducted by Solti and it is still one of my favourites out of the 64 in my collection.  The soloists, Heather Harper and Helen Watts, have never been bettered to my ears.  A colleague at uni then lent me a recording of the 5th and Mahler subsequently became an OCD with me.  My shelves are now groaning with well over 500 Mahler discs.  So, be warned erikwilson7, you may be starting a juggernaut that is unstoppable.

Offline David Boxwell

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2020, 01:28:13 PM »
Solti's Mahler 8th was my initiation into Mahler's world as a college student. It hit me like a ton of bricks, on LP.  The sound is still frighteningly effective.

Offline David Boxwell

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2020, 01:31:20 PM »
I would also have a first timer watch the Bernstein "Resurrection" filmed at Ely Cathedral.  It is, like, totally awesome.

Offline waderice

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2020, 04:45:39 PM »
Mr. Boxwell's post about the film of Bernstein's Ely Cathedral performance of M2 kind of caused me to think that probably the best method to introduce a newcomer to Mahler is via video, not just a sound recording.  To my mind, sight as well as sound make a performance of a Mahler symphony all that much better.  And it gives the newcomer a visual perspective of what instruments are playing what parts throughout a performance.

Of course, Bernstein's DG video performances on film are probably the most effective in showing the emotional side of Mahler performance.  Though these are probably the best from a performance standpoint, the problem now is that the films are a bit dated and only available as DVD video.  It would be good if these Bernstein Mahler film performances could be remastered sonically and transferred to high definition format.

Considering that the Bernstein filmed performances likely will not be remastered and reissued in high definition, probably the best modern, though incomplete cycle in high definition video, are the ones by Claudio Abbado at the Lucerne Festival performances over the years before his passing.  The Chailly performances in Leipzig are also a good modern alternative, if incomplete.

I'd like to see what others' choices are as to Mahler performances on video, not just through a sound recording.

Wade

Offline John Kim

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2020, 01:49:16 PM »
M1 - Gatti/RCO
M2 - Fischer/BFO
M3 - Fischer/BFO
M4 - Haitink/BRSO
M5 - Tennstedt/LPO (live)
M6 - Levi/ASO
M7 - Abbado/CSO
M8 - Zinman/TOZ
M9 - Ozawa/SKO
M10 (complete) - Rattle/BPO

To pick only one in each symphony in updated sound. Otherwise, I'd recommend Bernstein's analog set on Sony as the best all around cycle.

Offline lschmitz

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Re: Which recordings would you show to a first time listener?
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2020, 07:26:59 PM »
My first introduction to Mahler's universe came in the form of video performances of Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Even though I did not yet fully grasp the epic nature of Mahler's music, there was something captivating in seeing Haitink go crazy over the music. It totally upended my view of what classical music, or indeed music in general, could be. Mahler's music has ensnared me ever since.

In line with what others have argued, the visual aspect may draw a first-time Mahler listener in even more. The Haitink Christmas recordings are particularly effective in this regard; Haitink and his great orchestra at the height of their powers, captured in great sound with clever camerawork of the highest production value.

 

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