Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E flat major

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Symphony No. 8 in E flat major
PERFORMER: Cheryl Studer, Angela Maria Blasi, Sumi Jo, Keith Lewis, Thomas Allen, Hans Sotin; Philharmonia/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 435 433-2 DDD
Masterful is the only word for it: even the most fervent of anti-Sinopolites (and I am sometimes among them) must be humbled at the way he strides towards the pearly gates of Mahler’s Faust finale, bursting them open resplendently at an overwhelming choral climax with every assistance from DG engineers. Whether sympathy and atmosphere come into it is another matter: only there can Sinopoli match Bernstein’s or Tennstedt’s fire-drunk rapture, and only at the craggy start of Part Two does the sense of awe sound fully human. En route from rocky ravines to celestial heights, between Allen’s fervent Pater Ecstaticus and Blasi’s hallowed, hovering spirit of Gretchen, you will find some less involved singing (including that of Studer), as well as poker-faced angels in fast cars – no winged Wunderhorn creatures these.

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In short, that essential naivety that makes sense of Part Two is nowhere to be found, though it’s hardly needed for the first-movement ‘Veni, creator spiritus’: with fine distinctions between the moods of the Latin verses, moving-as-one contributions from Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra, and the first recording to deal manfully with vast forces, no-one has any right to quibble over that 25-minute CD 1. Definitely Sinopoli’s most burnished Mahler so far, though a world of its own rather than the Mahlerian universe. David Nice