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Mahler: Symphony No. 7 in E "

Halle Orchestra; Sir John Barb Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 34.32 & FREE Shipping. Details
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2.0 out of 5 stars Egad! The Salvation Army! May 21 2004
Format:Audio CD
Sir Thomas Beecham is said to have made that statement upon first hearing the brass section of the Seattle Symphony. Yes, a different context perhaps, but Beecham's witty put-down sprang to my mind more than once while listening to these live Barbirolli concert readings. Barbirolli was a curiously uneven conductor: I am fond of his Mahler 4th (live) and his studio 6th, but both suffer from having one mvt. undone by a plodding tempo (with the 4th it was the finale, while the 6th has an almost interminable opening mvt.)
Here we have a Mahler 7th that is poorly played acrosss the board, and with dismal sound to boot. The Bruckner is so utterly unidiomatic as to be almost comical - whenever a British conductor starts comparing Bruckner to Elgar, it's time to run for cover.
I admire many of Barbirolli's recordings - for me, he is one of the great Sibelius conductors. His Beethoven 8th has a droll wit that is hard to resist. And so on. But this Mahler/Bruckner set is pretty much an unmitigated disaster. I welcome today's flood of previously un-issued live recordings - but these should have been allowed to sleep peacefully in the vaults.
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By Alan
Format:Audio CD
Will Saar has it right. Although I haven't heard every recording of the Mahler Seventh, I have heard a number of them. I've always loved the symphony, but I always feel that it's a collection of fascinating sections that don't add up to a really satisfying whole.
I've always suspected that there is a way to play the symphony that makes it cohere, so that each movement follows logically from the preceding movement. I mean with emotional logic.
Barbirolli gets all of it right, and you pretty much know he's going to from the opening few bars. Every moment is strongly characterized, but in a way that always seems to be pointing toward where we're going in the end.
The orchestra for the Mahler combines members of both Barbirolli's own Hallé Orchestra and the BBC Northern Symphony. Neither was ever one of the world's greatest orchestras, yet they not only hold it together but often play with great eloquence (and most of the players had probably never played the piece before). There was obviously an extraordinary commitment to realize Barbirolli's vision of this great work. (And the Nielsen Fifth was also played at the concert from which this recording comes, presumably before the Mahler!)
As for the Bruckner, I have to admit that I've never been a great Bruckner fan. I want to love Bruckner, but I usually end up mostly bored. Occasional striking moments catch my attention, but overall I just don't get it.
Barbirolli's performance, which (to the degree I feel able to judge) seems choppier than others I've heard, holds my interest. As with the Mahler, there seems to be a dramatic throughline to this performance, with each section strongly characterized but in a way that adds up to a dramatic and moving experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the john barbirolli experience: ...but beautiful Dec 10 2001
Format:Audio CD
something about every recording (abbado, horenstein, that i listen to of the 7th puts its..um..essence? just out of my reach. i dont get it the way i get other mahler symphonies, say the 5th, 2nd or 3rd. then there was this.
barbirolli makes sense of it all. and the sounds that are produced on the way are nothing short of intoxicating, a song of the night, to close ones eyes to.
the bruckner, needs to be paused after the last movement of the mahler 7 drifts into memory.
bruckner's 9th is handled with care, depth, and insight, deserving of being on its own. as a two-fer, this cd combo is proof of redemption in the world. i dont know why i wrote that, but it makes sense after listening to the recordings, somehow.
(it's hard enough trying to explain sound with letters on a glowing screen, you see)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the john barbirolli experience: ...but beautiful Dec 10 2001
By Will Saar - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
something about every recording (abbado, horenstein, that i listen to of the 7th puts its..um..essence? just out of my reach. i dont get it the way i get other mahler symphonies, say the 5th, 2nd or 3rd. then there was this.
barbirolli makes sense of it all. and the sounds that are produced on the way are nothing short of intoxicating, a song of the night, to close ones eyes to.
the bruckner, needs to be paused after the last movement of the mahler 7 drifts into memory.
bruckner's 9th is handled with care, depth, and insight, deserving of being on its own. as a two-fer, this cd combo is proof of redemption in the world. i dont know why i wrote that, but it makes sense after listening to the recordings, somehow.
(it's hard enough trying to explain sound with letters on a glowing screen, you see)
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cannot be overlooked - for the collection Oct. 8 2004
By L. Johan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Barbirolli's Mahler interpretations always strike me as deeply memorable, whatever the quality of playing and recording. I am not a fan, though, just a Mahlerite collector. This is certainly not the first choice among the many recordings we have of Mahler's seventh symphony. It is a live, mono recording. Hallé orchestra, here combined with members from the BBC Northern SO, is not in top form and the recording quality is less good. But then we have the interpretation: as always, Barbirolli provides a warmly humanistic and passionate interpretation, never dull and never out of focus. The orchestra plays also with convincing commitment and great enthusiasm. Serious Mahlerite collectors need to hear this moving testimony.

Collectors who just want one superb live recording of this work should probably look elsewhere. Consider, for instance, Kubelik (Audite), Kondrashin (Tahra) or Abbado (DG, with Berliner Philharmoniker). For an excellent studio account, try Gielen (Hänssler).

This twofer contains also Barbirolli's Hallé interpretation of Bruckner's no. 9. In terms of a Bruckner interpretation, it is less convincing than, say, Jochum's (DG) or Kubelik's (Orfeo). But, again, Barbirolli has always an interesting point of view. It is a fine fill up, but the main attraction is the Mahler piece.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If the Mahler 7th never quite works for you, try this one June 10 2003
By Alan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Will Saar has it right. Although I haven't heard every recording of the Mahler Seventh, I have heard a number of them. I've always loved the symphony, but I always feel that it's a collection of fascinating sections that don't add up to a really satisfying whole.
I've always suspected that there is a way to play the symphony that makes it cohere, so that each movement follows logically from the preceding movement. I mean with emotional logic.
Barbirolli gets all of it right, and you pretty much know he's going to from the opening few bars. Every moment is strongly characterized, but in a way that always seems to be pointing toward where we're going in the end.
The orchestra for the Mahler combines members of both Barbirolli's own Hallé Orchestra and the BBC Northern Symphony. Neither was ever one of the world's greatest orchestras, yet they not only hold it together but often play with great eloquence (and most of the players had probably never played the piece before). There was obviously an extraordinary commitment to realize Barbirolli's vision of this great work. (And the Nielsen Fifth was also played at the concert from which this recording comes, presumably before the Mahler!)
As for the Bruckner, I have to admit that I've never been a great Bruckner fan. I want to love Bruckner, but I usually end up mostly bored. Occasional striking moments catch my attention, but overall I just don't get it.
Barbirolli's performance, which (to the degree I feel able to judge) seems choppier than others I've heard, holds my interest. As with the Mahler, there seems to be a dramatic throughline to this performance, with each section strongly characterized but in a way that adds up to a dramatic and moving experience. I wonder if Bruckner lovers will like it as much as I do, but I do know that I like it.
In any case, I feel firmly that this is one of the best, if not the best, Mahler Sevenths out there.
I should mention that these are both live performances. The Mahler is from 1960, the Bruckner from 1961. There are occasional slight flubs, and the mono sound is not the greatest. But the sound is actually pretty good, though obviously not state of the art even for 1960. And the performances are very special.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barbirolli's ardent love affair with the Mahler Seventh and Bruckner Ninth June 26 2012
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Even someone who has come to admire the BBC's releases of live concerts under Sir John Barbirolli will be stunned by what we have here. At the height of his powers Barbirolli was overshadowed, so far as the major labels were concerned, by Boult and Klemperer. EMI was slow to recognize that they had a great Mahlerian on their hands, so it's sad that he was about to record the Seventh Sym. with the Berlin Phil. before he died in 1970. A slow and careful student of scores, Barbirolli only felt up to the Seventh in 1960, when this live recording was taped with a combination of the BBC Northern Symphony and is own Halle Orchestra. The result is a stunningly personal reading that keeps the listener on the edge of his eat awaiting the next phrase. Barbirolli surpasses many famous Mahler conductors in his capacity to speak the language of this tempestuous, multi-dimensional, turbulent and contradictory composer. At a time when the Seventh was barely known in England - and liable to scornful and baffled criticism - Barbirolli miraculously jumps ahead, bounding over technical limitations the same way that Horenstein could. If there is such a thing as capturing the spirit of Mahler, here it is.

One has to speak of technical limitations, because in good conscience the doubled orchestras, while spirited and totally committed, fall short of modern standards in their execution (the tenor horn doesn't fluff his opening solo, thankfully, but the trumpets have ragged lips in the finale). As for the sound, the BBC turned to a private tape made off the radio in mono. Luckily, everything is well balanced, clear, and in tune. If you can accept Mahler's vast conception without stereo, this is far better than historical sound. The only other issue is tempo. Klemperer made a notoriously slow Mahler Seventh that many critics dismissed out of hand while a few adored it. Barbirolli is almost as slow, but he takes the extra time to relish and underline Mahler's strange, haunted, and ultimately moving ideas. (This isn't a case of Celibidache trying to create a Zen mood, however. Barbirolli imparts more energy, not less, by being so intensely slow, letting us into an ardent love affair with the score.)

Once overshadowed by a critical cliche, the Seventh has shaken off its reputation for "difficulty" and for being "problematic." Great recordings abound, actually. The best that I know from the studio are Bernstein (two choices, the better one being with the NY Phil. on Sony), Abbado (two choices, the better one being a live account with the Berliners on DG), the young Rattle, and Levine. among live recordings, there's a stellar one from Tennstedt with the London Phil. on BBC legends. When you're listening to that harrowing account, it feels like the greatest Seventh of all, but Barbirolli's less tense, hypnotically enticing version is in the same league.

The pairing is a Bruckner Ninth from the Proms in 1966, and one wonders why BBC Legends squandered the opportunity to make it a separate release. Thee is an online Ninth with Berlin that is a stunner. the answer is that this, too, is a private off-air recording in mono, not an official one. Unfortunately, this time lightning didn't strike twice - the recorded sound is distant and limited in dynamic range, with some distortion in the loudest climaxes. Reviewers have leaned on the bad sound, but frankly, we would all cheer if Furtwangler's great Bruckner Ninths came to us in sound half this good. My only complaint is that the Halle sound rather distant in Royal Albert Hall (however, coughing is caught with vivid clarity).

As for Barbirolli's interpretation, it is heartfelt and very moving. How many conductors have been equally great in Bruckner and Mahler? Except for Tennstedt, my only candidate would be Barbirolli and Klemperer, although some might add Horenstein (we can't assess Furtwangler's Mahler, although he conducted a good deal of it in earlier years, leaving only the famous EMI recording of the Songs of a Wayfarer with Fischer-Dieskau). To both composers Barbirolli brings intensity and personal vision, which he almost miraculously communicates to the Halle, an orchestra that falls considerably short of the ideal in Mahler and Bruckner. For some, this recording will be too rickety, but once you are drawn in, the music-making is mesmerizing.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Referring To The Bruckner 9th Only... Oct. 13 2007
By Douglas S. Halfen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I love Sir John. He _really_ deserved better orchestras. The Hallé are often clumsy, if not downright slobbish at (many) times, so they don't truly do justice to his interpretations from what recordings I've heard. I must come to the defense of this recording of Bruckner's 9th, however, because it presents the opposite of what Bruckner probably intended (and where Celibidache ultimately took those intentions to his own delightful extreme) for this work. Barbi actually makes the 9th -- this most "cosmic" and "otherwordly" of symphonies -- sound like a full affirmation of living and breathing: instead of becoming one with the universe and accepting one's place in the cosmos, one senses an embrace of the physical world, ills and all, through Barbi's fleet tempos.

"I want to live!" screams this performance, and we're out the door, back to plunge into the wide-open world, at the close of the adagio, instead of floating up through the clouds, past the sunset and into the depths of the stars as is usually the case (prime example: Celi and the Müncheners!). This makes for a rather refreshing change of pace! What we have in this instance is not exactly what I expect or enjoy while experiencing Bruckner, but it _is_ unique and, and its own odd way, quite appealing.

The sound quality absolutely sucks, but so what else is new in this series...
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