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Thread: Michael Gielen's Mahler Cycle

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    Senior Member Xaltotun's Avatar
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    Default Michael Gielen's Mahler Cycle

    I'm interested in purchasing Michael Gielen's cycle of Mahler symphonies, on the account of hearing his Mahler third, which is totally awesome. If you have heard Gielen's Mahler symphonies, or have the complete cycle, please post comments here! Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Xaltotun; Apr-27-2011 at 13:20. Reason: typo
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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Gielen's is not a good set, with too many stodgy interpretations and so-so playing. His No. 7 is by far the highlight, though falls far behind BPO/Abbado (DG) and CSO/Solti (Decca Originals, rec 1971).

    Gielen is a lyrical Mahler interpreter, so if you would like a lyrical set, I recommend Bertini (EMI) or Kubelik (DG).

    BTW, if you would some day like to hear a more potent Mahler 3 (my favorite Mahler work), may I suggest Bernstein (Sony), Haitink (1983 Xmas Concert), Horenstein (Unicorn), and Nagano (Teldec).

    Hope this helps. Enjoy your quest.

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    His cycle is my favorite. I like everything from the 1st to the 9th. His modernist interpretation (combined with excellent sonics) bring alot of details out in the open that I haven't heard in any other recording. His cool approach turns off many though. My favorites are his 1st, 7th and 9th. Perhaps the weakest ones in the set are the 2nd and 6th, not every one likes them as much as I do.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Gielen's Mahler interpretations strike me as 'barely adequate', being rather superficial. I suppose "cool approach" is another way of describing them, since 'Mahler' and 'cool' are terms that don't really go together. If you would prefer to have the Bernsteinian angst turned down a bit, and the details brought out, I suggest Boulez pre-1980.


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    I guess the other guys are a big fan of the "wallow in angst" style of Mahler, but as a "neutral" Mahler set with minimal conductor exaggeration, Gielen's cycle is one of the best. I find him more consistently good and insightful than Bertini or Abbado. But it's a very expensive set and I find it hard to justify paying the full price for it.
    haydnfan likes this.

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    Senior Member Xaltotun's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot guys, your replies have been very informative, and it's interesting to see this dichotomy towards Gielen's cycle. I'm usually a "wallow in angst" kind of a guy, but on the other hand, Mahler's symphonies have a lot of interesting details that I would like to hear clearly.

    I know where this will lead, though; to purchasing multiple cycles! Gnnh!

    p.s. local store didn't have Gielen's cycle on the shelf, so I purchased Bernstein's Sony cycle instead. I'm still interested in Gielen's cycle though, so if anyone else has something to say about the topic, please keep comments coming
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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    I suggest Boulez pre-1980.

    ...if you can find anything from it aside from Das klagende lied...

    Quote Originally Posted by scytheavatar View Post
    I guess the other guys are a big fan of the "wallow in angst" style of Mahler, but as a "neutral" Mahler set with minimal conductor exaggeration, Gielen's cycle is one of the best. I find him more consistently good and insightful than Bertini or Abbado.
    It's a "neutral" set, yes--in the sense that he's not projecting himself onto it so much as others--but I don't see it as having minimal exaggeration. In the 6th symphony in particular, I've heard some things that made me raise my eyebrows a bit (let's start with the opening tempo!).

    Overall I think Gielen's is a maverick cycle, not paying attention to any particular interpretation but excelling on its own terms. I would actually recommend Bernstein on Sony as a first cycle for once, then maybe Gielen.

    (and in fact I just noticed you got the Bernstein set; I hope you like it!)

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    I hope you like Bernstein's sony cycle. I think he is too fast in some of the symphonies, but he doesn't really do a grievous injustice to any of the symphonies in particular.

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xaltotun View Post
    Thanks a lot guys, your replies have been very informative, and it's interesting to see this dichotomy towards Gielen's cycle. I'm usually a "wallow in angst" kind of a guy, but on the other hand, Mahler's symphonies have a lot of interesting details that I would like to hear clearly.

    I know where this will lead, though; to purchasing multiple cycles! Gnnh!

    p.s. local store didn't have Gielen's cycle on the shelf, so I purchased Bernstein's Sony cycle instead. I'm still interested in Gielen's cycle though, so if anyone else has something to say about the topic, please keep comments coming

    On your Sony Bernstein purchase, good for you. From that set I'm fond of Nos. 2, 3, 6, 7, 9.
    2 has blemishes, but the ride's still fun. 6's opening is a little faster than I like, but thereafter I appreciate its urgency, versus the later DG interpretation. 3, 7, and 9 are glorious, and stand proudly with the best. 9 is fast, but it works, and was recorded in one take! Enjoy.

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    Senior Member Xaltotun's Avatar
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    I've given Bernstein's cycle some preliminary listens now, and I do like it! His conducting is powerful and very personal, and thus it gives a personal, "microcosm" feeling to the symphonies. I think it benefits the symphonies that have that deep personal feeling, like for example #7... it's incredible. There, he just seems to GRAB the listener to that specific point of view, that nocturnal ghost train in 3D, and doesn't let go until it's all over. Also, this very same urgency turns #6 into a terrifying, uncontrollable spiralling funeral march to oblivion! But perhaps it takes a bit away from the "macrocosm"/universal side of things? It might be a bit of a false dichotomy, though. On #2, he is perhaps a bit too fast and urgent - thus, it seems to take a form of a personal Resurrection, rather than a full-blown Book of Revelations. It's a good #2, sure - but the feeling seems to be more like "woe is me!" than "oh no, what's happening around me?". To succeed on all levels, to bring that spiritual horror up to eleven, #2 needs a bit of both I think. "Totenfeier" - death is universal of course, but it happened to YOU, so it should be a bith of both - the cold and unfeeling scythe swiping at personal, living flesh. Second and third movement - personal memories of life, but you're no longer there so it should be a bit detached. Fourth movement - obviously personal, and fifth - universal at first, then finally both at the end.

    Ok, now I'm getting all esoteric again, I'd better stop before I start babbling about Eisenstein's art theories in relation to Mahler. Bottom line is that Bernstein's is a very good set, but I'm still considering buying Gielen's at some point, just for the joy of hearing different interpretations. There's certainly room for them!
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    I recommend getting Solti's set next, it's not very expensive and his style is a good complement to Bernstein's, being a lot more direct, focused and in your face.

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    Maybe it is better to buy individual disks? For example Solti has a great recording of Second Symphony with London Symphony Orchestra which can be found on a twoofer with a good recording of the First. His recording of Seventh with Chicago is also very good. It was recorded not in Medinah and not in Chicago Hall, but in another venue, I forgot the name, which was much better. And I think that the fast tempi in the Seventh' finale is right.

    But in some other recordings DECCA has serious problems with microphones' placement, etc.

    In the Eighth Symphony I - suprisingly - like Boulez.

    About Gielen... I want to try him too, but didn't have a chance yet.

    Maybe I should start with his Third... I'm not satisfied with Chailly, despite the good singing of Petra Lang and playing of my favorite Concertgebouw, Chailly always seems to me to be lost in the sound details, not having some general picture. He is better in Hindemith and in Brahms' Concertos.

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    I've listened only to Gielen's Seventh yet. I like it. The last movement is longer than in Solti's recording (which is great in its way), but it never drags. Gielen impressed me much more than Jansons with Oslo.

    Maybe I will buy his 3rd.

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    I like Karajan's Mahler best, intensly beautiful, powerful.
    Wish he'd have done more.

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    More on Mahler cycles here: Best Mahler 5 recording

    As I stated in that thread, I own the "budget priced" Decca reissue of the complete Mahler symphonies by Riccardo Chailly and the Concerttgebouw (with the Deryk Cooke reconstruction of the 10th featuring the Berlin RSO).

    It can be argued you can find better performances of the individual symphonies, but you would be hard-pressed to match Mr. Chailly's "unity of vision" for the entire cycle, and the price is hard to beat. The only one that compares (or bests) this cycle IMHO is the Kubelik/Bavarian RSO cycle recorded for DG in the early 1960's.

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