You will probably be as incredulous as I was to learn that the greatest cycle of Mahler symphonies comes not from any of the usual suspects - Abbado, Bernstein, Chially, Haitink, Kubelik, Rattle, Sinopoli, Solti, Tennstedt - but from the unsung Gary Bertini, who spent the better part of his career as music director of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. Unlike any of those more publicized sets, each of which includes a misfire or two, Bertini is consistently successful from first to last; his performance of each of these works can stand comparison with the very best available.
The musical reconstructions industry keeps gathering pace, but few works have attracted as much attention as Mahler's 10th Symphony. Joe Wheeler (who died in 1977) was a brass-playing British civil servant with a passion for Mahler. This completion (itself in an edition by the conductor here, Robert Olson) uses the leaner orchestration of the composer's later years. But does it sound Mahlerian? Certainly more so than Remo Mazzetti's 1997 version, but neither caps Deryck Cooke's acute sense of authentic detail and color in his legendary edition.
How good to see Riccardo Chailly so radiant at the end of this great event.It's an exhilaration he earns through sheer hard work as well as injecting the adrenalin at most of the right moments.(Majority) of the singers are excellent,from two very different but keenly-projected lyric-dramatic sopranos,Erika Sunnegardh and Ricardo Merbeth,to Georg Zeppenfeld,whose bass is rock solid and expressive across a huge range.Chailly holds attention between movements and makes you realise how many soloists within the orchestra have to sing,too.His Leader,the superb Sebastian Breuninger,assists him between blazes in the most striking of chamber-musical moments.Breuninger shares the front desk of viloins in Claudio Abbado's Lucerne festival Orchestra,but this one Mahler symphony Abbado's forces have yet to tackle,and Chailly's rendering leads the field on DVD. (BBC Music Magzine)
"It is my best work, with a primarily cheerful character". This was Gustav Mahler's assessment of his Symphony No. 7, which was also highly regarded by Arnold Schoenberg, who said, "I had an impression of absolute peace based on artistic harmony. Something able to set me in motion without recklessly unsettling my center of gravity." Riccardo Chailly, in his internationally acclaimed interpretations of Mahler's symphonies - which he and the Gewandhaus Orchestra are bringing together in a complete cycle - focuses on the musical qualities of the works, eschewing false pathos and sentimentality while giving up none of the music's dramatic intensity. "Mahler's Seventh Symphony, in which the composer pulled out all expressive stops and revealed himself to be an innovative modernist, has seldom been as persuasive and direct as in Chailly's interpretation", said the Frankfurter Neue Presse.
"The audience knows that the performance of a Mahler symphony is not only a musical experience, but is also emotionally effective" (R. Chailly). This counts especially for Mahler's enigmatic sixth symphony, an emotionally stirring challenge for both performers and listeners, whilst also being one of the most impressive works in musical history. Chailly's interpretation with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is "intensely great" (Die Presse). "Chailly uncompromisingly considers this sixth symphony through the lens of modernity; looking forward, not retrospectively staying in 'late romantic'. In this celebrated orchestra, all sections splendidly come together and fulfil an 'open' sound, conserving whilst respecting its original beauty." (Salzburger Nachrichten)
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.