LABELS: New York Philharmonic Special Editions
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6; Symphony No. 7; Symphony No. 8′ Symphony No. 9
CATALOGUE NO: New York Philharmonic Special Editions (available from tel +1 317 781 1861, or web site: www.newyorkphilharmonic.org)
Following the warm reception of its monumental set of broadcast performances issued in 1997, the New York Philharmonic has taken the next logical step in historic reissues: documentation of the orchestra’s living tradition in the performance of Mahler, who was its music director from 1909 to 1911.
As with the previous set, a great chunk of performance history is embodied here, from Das Lied von der Erde with Kathleen Ferrier and Set Svanholm conducted by Mahler’s protégé Bruno Walter in January 1948, to Zubin Mehta’s blazing March 1982 performance of the Second Symphony with Kathleen Battle and Maureen Forrester.
Rarities abound, such as John Barbirolli’s performances of the First and Ninth Symphonies (1959 and 1962 respectively, neither released before), Mitropoulos’s 1955 account of the Sixth (only the second time the score had been played in the US), his 1960 performance of the Andante-Adagio from the Tenth and his 1958 performance of the ‘Purgatorio’ movement.
We have Tennstedt’s Fifth (1980), the only available recording of Tennstedt conducting this orchestra, and Pierre Boulez’s Third (1976), a work he has not yet recorded commercially. Among the revelations is Georg Solti’s 1962 broadcast of the Fourth with soprano Irmgard Seefried, stunning for its uncharacteristically gentle touch.
Typically, history is not without its flaws, some ragged solo singing, for instance, mars Stokowski’s 1950 performance of the Eighth, though the miraculous immediacy of the moment comes through loud and clear, thanks to a newly discovered tape source.
Typically, too, these recordings are accompanied by superb background material – 500 pages of essays in two volumes. Among them is Henry Louis de La Grange’s essay on Mahler in New York, and there is a detailed, logical explanation of why no Leonard Bernstein performances are included.
In addition there are recorded interviews on Mahler with Bruno Walter, Stokowski and Barbirolli, as well as extensive portions of William Malloch’s 1964 oral history broadcast, ‘I Remember Mahler’. Warts and all, this is a ‘must-have’ for any serious Mahlerphile.