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Symphony 8

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
flawed, but my personal favorite among ALL Mahler 8ths Sept. 8 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
While Davis' RCA recording of Mahler 8 is flawed for reasons I'll delve into in a moment, it's a steal at the used prices that it's going for (you have to pay the shipping too, of course).

Flaws: the vocal soloists are sometimes too close, especially during Part I, and the during the 'three penitent women' passage towards the end of Part II (the soprano and mezzo solos). Also, the organ is a tad underpowered.

Strengths: the choral work is outstanding. In fact, I think this performance from Munich's Gasteig hall might have had some electronic help for the soloists and chorus. Maybe. In addition, Davis sounds completely at home in such a huge work. It's as though all his prior experiences in Berlioz pay big dividends here. He never sounds embarrassed by the Mahler's work, or as though he's trying to micromanage it.

What really puts this over the top, for me, is the way Davis handles the end of the symphony. He employs a slow tempo at the spot where the chorus sings their very last syllable - the spot where the trombones reiterate the "Veni Creator Spiritus" theme. Thus, what he hear - if I can try to approximate it on paper - is "Hiiiiiiii-Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasaaaaaan". In other words, the chorus really hangs on to that last syllable, and at a full fortissimo. It's positively thrilling! Also, the series of tam-tam smashes (large orchestral gong) that follow sound huge here. Much bigger than on most other recordings.

So yes, this is a flawed recording, but one that truly builds to a great culmination (and yes, the organ could be a tad stronger too). Also, tenor Ben Heppner turns in a fine performance on his two big solos in Part II. In fact, he sounds a bit better here than he did later on, which was on the Chaily/Concertgebouw recording (Decca - and certainly better sung in terms of the other soloists). At the very worst, one wouldn't waste much money experimenting with the Davis. I won't part with mine.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Operatic Mahler 8th March 21 2007
By Scriabinmahler - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Davis gives very unique & epic account of 8th with much emphasis on solo parts (or simply microphones were too close?). It is too operatic in conception to my taste to be first recommendation, but solists sing their heart out in most moving way and the expansive climax has earth-shattering effect. Overall, it is like a long voyage towords the final apotheosis rather than a single transformation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Davis seems lost in Mahler's vast landscape Dec 14 2008
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Colin Davis is one of a handful of great conductors who have avoided Mahler (in the modern era, I mean, since avoiding Mahler was standard practice for fifty years after his death in 1911, except among acolytes and devotees). Perhaps Davis realizes that his gifts aren't sympathetic to this composer -- he's also avoided Beethoven's symphonies. Yet in both cases he's made the occasional stab, and this live Mahler Eighth from Munich is one. Before its release in 1997 Davis had made an out-of-sorts Das Lied von der Erde that disappointed me and recordings of the First and Fourth Sym. that I haven't heard.

Some parts of this Eighth verge on the unacceptable, beginning with the stiff, blunt, squally choral singing in Part I that is a trial to get through, much less enjoy. Davis makes big waves but little sense in his hectic, driven conducting. I rested my hopes on Part II, the most difficult sectin but also the one that allows for subtlety and a more operatic approach. Those would seem to be among Davis's strengths. It's also hear that he could let his select roster of singers shine. Here they are:

Alessandra Marc , Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz , Ning Liang , Sharon Sweet sops Vesselina Kasarova mez Ben Heppner ten Sergei Leiferkus bar René Pape bass

Things don't get off to a good start. Davis lurches through the introduction rather aimlessly, at times listless, at times blustery. I have a fairly wide tolerance for conducting styles, but this was as amorphous as Davis's hapless Das Lied. Both works cry out for a vision that can make Mahler's immense musical diversity cohere and make sense. Davis seems merely to be struggling from one moment to the next. as a result, Part II is jerky and episodic, the very thing a coductor is there to prevent.

Among the soloists, baritone Sergei Leiferkus attacks his solos with convincing ardor and vocal thrust. Ben Heppner soars above any ohter tenor I've heard in this work -- if only he could have joined a better performance -- and Rene Pape is his usual excellent self. The women fare less well, however, tending to sound curdled and coarse, especially the strained, wobbly Sharon Sweet, who briefly and mysteriously was a favorite of Davis's (she sank an otherwise admirable 'Lohengirn' from him). When blending together, the women are at times unnlistenable, barely able to sing their parts in tune.

Colin Davis could conduct 'Pop Goes the Weasel' blind drnk and get a rave from the Gramophone, but even they had their doubts. They invent imaginary virtues for this "glowing" reading, "the Bavarians even outclassing their colleagues in Berlin, London and Chicago" (uh oh, pass the smelling salts) but in the end couldn't offer a gneral recommendation. That speaks volumes.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Sir Colin Davis with a Masterful Performance. Jan. 15 2000
By "bigmikedc" - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Well, one must admit that Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" is quite a difficult piece to perform. It requires only the most talented and strongest of voices and requires the most draining of energy. I must admit that while I'm not that big a fan of Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" that I did indeed enjoy this version of how a massive symphony should sound. Sir Colin Davis proves that he's up to the task by having only the most talented of male voices perform this work. The women, while not bad in any way, simply are not quite up to the level the men are in this piece. The orchestra does a magnificent job as they constantly portray what Mahler described as the "music of spheres" with the strings constantly moving and the entire piece mantains a constant and steady flow. Overall, a great work from a most talented conductor.