View Poll Results: Picking your favorite Mahler Set(s) (either complete or close)

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  • Leonard Bernstein and the NYP (Sony)

    9 18.75%
  • Leonard Bernstein and the NYP, VPO, Concertgebouw (DG)

    4 8.33%
  • Klaus Tennstedt and the LPO (Warner)

    8 16.67%
  • Lorin Maazel and the VPO (Sony)

    0 0%
  • Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago SO (Decca)

    5 10.42%
  • Vaclav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic (Supraphon)

    0 0%
  • Rafael Kubelik and the Bavarian Radio (DG)

    10 20.83%
  • Dmitri Mitropoulos & the VPO et al (Music & Arts Programs)

    0 0%
  • Jasha Horenstein & the Philharmonia, LSO, et al. (various labels)

    0 0%
  • Riccardo Chailly and the Concertgebouw (Decca)

    4 8.33%
  • Gary Bertini & Kolner Radio (EMI)

    6 12.50%
  • Giuseppe Sinopoli & the Philharmonia & Dresden State SO (DG)

    3 6.25%
  • Claudio Abbado & the BPO, Lucerne (DG)

    6 12.50%
  • Kyrill Kondrashin and the MPO (Melodiya)

    1 2.08%
  • Other(s)?

    20 41.67%
Multiple Choice Poll.
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Thread: Picking your favorite Mahler Set(s) (either complete or close)

  1. #1
    Senior Member Orfeo's Avatar
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    Default Picking your favorite Mahler Set(s) (either complete or close)

    Now that there are over ten sets of Mahler's symphonies (with songs sometimes included), I am curious as to your favorite set (or sets). However, it is safe to say, given the complexities of the works themselves, that no set is perfect. Predictably of course, a set is ideal for some in capturing the essence of Mahler and his message (he was, after all, L'Homme du' Monde), but not so for others. There are those who are peeved by conductors not following Mahler's markings, and there are others who look beyond them to get to the very essence of the music. There are those who prefer a more analytical, cooler approach to these scores (Maazel, Kubelik for instances, or Neumann, but with more warmth). And yet, there are others who prefer the music perform "with their hearts on their sleeves" (Bernstein, Solti, Horenstein).

    For instance, my personal favorite is Bernstein's second set with the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw, & the Vienna Philharmonic (DG). Yes, he is accused of performing the works as though they were written specially for him to conduct, but these performing testaments are like no others. Like Mahler, Bernstein was never afraid to let himself so (too much so for some, I concede). But it is not so frequent that we see such an affinity between conductor and composer, as though there's total empathy for the man and his art (especially since Bernstein himself pondered the matters of life and death towards his final years). His recording of the Ninth is perhaps the most devastating ever for that reason.

    That said, it is regrettable that great conductors like Horenstein did not get to record all of these magnificent symphonies, for he, like Mitropoulos who regretfully did not go all the way either, was one of the earlier exponents of Mahler's music (and played a decisive role in introducing them to Great Britain). Kyrill Kondrashin's Melodiya's set is interesting, and not just for historical reasons (the Soviets, even underground, identified with Mahler, at least symbolically).

    Well, enough of my take. Please, what say you.
    Last edited by Orfeo; Feb-03-2016 at 00:16.
    David A. Hollingsworth (dholling)

    ~All good art is about something deeper than it admits.
    Roger Ebert

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  3. #2
    Senior Member D Smith's Avatar
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    I would have included James Levine's partial set with London and Chicago on your list, as well as Boulez's inconsistent set (his 6th is still my favourite though). I love Bernstein DG and also Tennstedt for different reasons and wouldn't be without them.

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  5. #3
    Senior Member Eva Yojimbo's Avatar
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    I'm voting for Kubelik, if only because I think he gets most of them reasonably right and none of them unreasonably wrong, and he does this without being completely boring/dull. This is not an easy accomplishment. Bernstein is an emotional extremist, and there are certainly times when one is in an especially sensitive, romantic mood when Bernstein rings such power out of certain pieces that you'd swear only he really got Gustav; but I've since come to think that such an approach tends to obscure the real musicality and even fun behind certain symphonies/movements. Bertini is another all-around excellent cycle, but I don't think he's quite as good as Kubelik. Tennstedt has some very fine moments as well. His may be the most dramatic set that doesn't go off the deep-end like Bernie's.

    I think not having Tilson-Thomas as a choice is a mistake. Another excellent set I rarely see mentioned is Gielen, which is strange given it got a 10/10 on ClassicsToday.

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  7. #4
    Senior Member Chronochromie's Avatar
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    I haven't heard all of Kubelik's set but his 1st, 3rd, 4th and Das Lied are the best I've heard.

  8. #5
    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    There is also the
    - Rattle / City of Birmingham/Berlin
    - Barbirolli various orchestras incl. Halle/Philharmonia/Berlin (all except 8th?) (and note that Barbirolli was one of the early Mahler proponents from the late 50s)

    and not to forget the few recordings made by both Otto Klemperer & Bruno Walter

    Hmm, isn't there also an Abravanel/Utah set? I remember having the 8th from it.

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  10. #6
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    I also chose Kubelik but if I could have but one set I would choose Boulez. Maybe it's too antiseptic for some but I think he generally has very approachable readings and the sound is great. Among the Boulez though, only his 9th, 4th, and possibly 3rd would I rank among my favorites of those particular symphonies.

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  12. #7
    Senior Member Jeffrey Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    There is also the
    - Rattle / City of Birmingham/Berlin
    - Barbirolli various orchestras incl. Halle/Philharmonia/Berlin (all except 8th?) (and note that Barbirolli was one of the early Mahler proponents from the late 50s)

    and not to forget the few recordings made by both Otto Klemperer & Bruno Walter

    Hmm, isn't there also an Abravanel/Utah set? I remember having the 8th from it.
    There is such a set.
    Also missing, off the top of my head

    Haitink
    Ozawa
    Bernstein's DVD cycle, which was filmed in between the two audio cycles
    Zinman
    Gergiev
    Inbal
    A just finished cycle on Oehms whose conductor I can not remember at the moment
    The cycle on Naxos, which is mostly Antoni Wit.

    Abbado actually recorded the cycle two times, the first being with the CSO and VPO. An alternative cycle for Kubelik can be assembled from Audite recordings.

    My own preference is Inbal, on the grounds of excellence throughout even if no individual recording is a standout.
    Last edited by Jeffrey Smith; Feb-03-2016 at 03:39.
    If music be the food of life, play on!
    ....Shakespeare, corrected.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    And there's Michael Gielen, and Tilson Thomas. I'd like to get that Levine set.

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  16. #9
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    None of the above. I'll stick with Pierre Boulez for clarity and occasional passion.
    Facts don't care about your feelings.

  17. #10
    Senior Member Jeffrey Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    And there's Michael Gielen, and Tilson Thomas. I'd like to get that Levine set.
    Sony has budget-boxed it. But Levine's best Mahler recording--imo, the second best recording of the Ninth by anyone--is a one-off a live performance with the Munich Philharmonic, available on Oehms. (The best is Zinman, who unfortunately does not come near the level he reached here in any other recording from his set.)
    If music be the food of life, play on!
    ....Shakespeare, corrected.

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  19. #11
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    As mentioned by J Smith: Bernstein's DVD cycle, which was filmed in between the two audio cycles.
    But if I have to choose from this lot I go with the Solti one.
    2/3/4 and 8 are worth it

  20. #12
    Senior Member Stirling's Avatar
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    It seems the voters like "other" the best.

  21. #13
    Senior Member dsphipps100's Avatar
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    If I had to pick one unified set of Mahler symphonies, it would be Tilson Thomas/San Francisco. Their 5th Symphony is the only one in that set that is my favorite recording of that symphony, but every single one of the others is in my top three.

    Tilson Thomas tends to have a few "quirks" here and there, which is why only the 5th makes it to my top spot, but otherwise he does show a genuine affinity for Mahler (as opposed to Solti's wham-bam brass showcase style, for example), plus the San Francisco Symphony is clearly a world-class orchestra under his leadership, and the recording/engineering quality is absolutely fabulous. On almost every one of their Mahler recordings, I hear things that I've never noticed before on other recordings, simply because the clarity of sound is so amazing.

    Unfortunately, the folks in San Francisco apparently realize what a gem they've got on their hands, because it's also the most expensive Mahler set I've ever seen, retailing from Amazon for over $200, or still well over $100 for a used copy.
    Don't bother looking at the mountains, I have already composed them into my symphony - Gustav Mahler, speaking to Bruno Walter

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  23. #14
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    Antoni Wit version,


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  25. #15
    Senior Member Polyphemus's Avatar
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    As one who is opposed to complete sets by a single conductor because they are inherently uneven. I prefer instead to select individual releases which present a better quality cycle.

    However in keeping with the spirit of the poll if I was restricted to only one cycle it would have to be the unmentioned Michael Tilson Thomas San Francisco set.
    Noli Illegitimi Carborundum

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