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Discussion: Mahler: Symphony No. 4 - Reiner

Posts: 27
Page: 1 2 3 next

Post by peteyspambucket August 25, 2005 (1 of 27)
Nothing like a negative review to get some others to write in about this one. I wish it was a dream, but I really do dislike this performance. I can't understand how it's achieved this sort of "legendary" status amongst historic Mahler recordings. Practically every other performance I've heard of this on recordings is more interesting that this.

Other recordings from Living Stereo are just as puzzling to me why they are so legendary: Reiner's Also Sprach Zarathustra, Reiner's Scheherazade, Rubenstein/Reiner's Brahms Piano Cto #1. (There are others, too) All of which I purchased with excitement and later realized I didn't want to keep them in my collection. If I were someone looking to just build a basic library, I would be very hard pressed to actually recommend anything from the SACD library in-general as the only recording to have of a piece. About the only examples I can think of that are essential on SACD are the Munch Berlioz Requiem, Carlos Kleiber Beethoven Syms & La Traviata, Chailly Mahler 3, and Polaski's Isolde excerpts (and maybe just a couple others that I'm omitting).

All this is a precursor to my question: what is this phenomenon of praising mostly awful performances just because their recording engineers used good equipment or techniques? or just because they are on SACD?

Post by akiralx August 25, 2005 (2 of 27)
peteyspambucket said:

Nothing like a negative review to get some others to write in about this one. I wish it was a dream, but I really do dislike this performance. I can't understand how it's achieved this sort of "legendary" status amongst historic Mahler recordings. Practically every other performance I've heard of this on recordings is more interesting that this.

Other recordings from Living Stereo are just as puzzling to me why they are so legendary: Reiner's Also Sprach Zarathustra, Reiner's Scheherazade, Rubenstein/Reiner's Brahms Piano Cto #1. (There are others, too) All of which I purchased with excitement and later realized I didn't want to keep them in my collection. If I were someone looking to just build a basic library, I would be very hard pressed to actually recommend anything from the SACD library in-general as the only recording to have of a piece. About the only examples I can think of that are essential on SACD are the Munch Berlioz Requiem, Carlos Kleiber Beethoven Syms & La Traviata, Chailly Mahler 3, and Polaski's Isolde excerpts (and maybe just a couple others that I'm omitting).

All this is a precursor to my question: what is this phenomenon of praising mostly awful performances just because their recording engineers used good equipment or techniques? or just because they are on SACD?

I agree with many of your points, this argument has been raised more than once on classical music newsgroups - some of these 'holy cows' have been surpassed in many people's view. The 'Overrated Recordings' threads do cause some controversy! Mine have been Sanderling's mono Rach 2 symphony on DG and just about any Rubinstein post-WW2 recording....

The reissues are interesting from a technical point of view vis-a-vis the history of recording, and many people still enjoy them (nothing wrong with that, they are good performances though for many it's the cult of nostalgia), but the Reiner Mahler 4 (also Szell's) and Also Sprach Z would also be on my list of overrated recordings - and while I'm at it: they should never be awarded 5 stars for recorded sound, irrespective of how good they are for their age. Five stars should be reserved for as good a sound as SACD can provide, which these recordings clearly don't offer.

Doubtless I'll have my head bitten off, but what I find irksome is the allegiance of some listeners to these classic recordings, when one suspects (or they admit) that they haven't really heard any (or enough) of the competition recorded since, say 1970, for their opinion to be too valid: if someone tells me they've owned Heifetz's Brahms Concerto in every incarnation from 78s or LP through reel-to-reel, to CD and now SACD, and it's definitely the best, I seem to suspect they haven't bothered to hear Zimmerman or Hahn.

I concur with your last point to a degree - I don't think they're lousy by any means, but of the classic reissues I've only bothered with the Dorati Rimsky and Respighi SACDs as I don't have that music on any other discs.

I would rate quite a few SACDs as top choices, e.g. Wispelwey/Lazic in the Beethoven Cello Sonatas, or Fischer's Dvorak 8, and Chailly's or MTT's Mahler as fully recommendable among others - but of the 1950s/60s reissues, I agree, there's not one mainstream work there that's a first choice for me.

Just off to don my flame-proof suit now...

Post by Polly Nomial August 25, 2005 (3 of 27)
akiralx said:

I agree with many of your points, this argument has been raised more than once on classical music newsgroups - some of these 'holy cows' have been surpassed in many people's view. The 'Overrated Recordings' threads do cause some controversy! Mine have been Sanderling's mono Rach 2 symphony on DG and just about any Rubinstein post-WW2 recording....

The reissues are interesting from a technical point of view vis-a-vis the history of recording, and many people still enjoy them (nothing wrong with that, they are good performances though for many it's the cult of nostalgia), but the Reiner Mahler 4 (also Szell's) and Also Sprach Z would also be on my list of overrated recordings - and while I'm at it: they should never be awarded 5 stars for recorded sound, irrespective of how good they are for their age. Five stars should be reserved for as good a sound as SACD can provide, which these recordings clearly don't offer.

Doubtless I'll have my head bitten off, but what I find irksome is the allegiance of some listeners to these classic recordings, when one suspects (or they admit) that they haven't really heard any (or enough) of the competition recorded since, say 1970, for their opinion to be too valid: if someone tells me they've owned Heifetz's Brahms Concerto in every incarnation from 78s or LP through reel-to-reel, to CD and now SACD, and it's definitely the best, I seem to suspect they haven't bothered to hear Zimmerman or Hahn.

I concur with your last point to a degree - I don't think they're lousy by any means, but of the classic reissues I've only bothered with the Dorati Rimsky and Respighi SACDs as I don't have that music on any other discs.

I would rate quite a few SACDs as top choices, e.g. Wispelwey/Lazic in the Beethoven Cello Sonatas, or Fischer's Dvorak 8, and Chailly's or MTT's Mahler as fully recommendable among others - but of the 1950s/60s reissues, I agree, there's not one mainstream work there that's a first choice for me.

Just off to don my flame-proof suit now...

Well I won't be biting (your head at least) - my particular bugbear is Klemperer. Some "classic" recordings are worthy of that title IMHO (say Busch or Schnabel in Beethoven) but for Klemperer in Beethoven, life and performance texts (to say nothing of the practices) have moved on dramatically since setting down these recordings.

Doubtless many will say "yes but (s)he gets to the core of the music in a way that doesn't happen now..." to which I repost: the music of whom? A dodgy editors version from 1850ish [say] or a modern, properly edited score of the composers'? [This point is especially pertinant in Bruckner.]

Mind you, this presupposes that one can indeed have a first choice recording rather than a collection of highly recommendable ones...

Some other highly recommendable recordings for me are:
Khachaturian Violin Concerto - Fischer et al
Rachmaninov Symphony No 2 - BFO/Fischer
in addition to those already mentioned.

Also, I'd agree that a 20+ year old recording can't, by definition, be worthy of 5 stars. The transfer may be as good as imaginable but that doesn't equate with, say the Dvorak 8 from BFO/Fischer.

Post by viktor August 25, 2005 (4 of 27)
akiralx said:

I agree with many of your points, this argument has been raised more than once on classical music newsgroups - some of these 'holy cows' have been surpassed in many people's view. The 'Overrated Recordings' threads do cause some controversy! Mine have been Sanderling's mono Rach 2 symphony on DG and just about any Rubinstein post-WW2 recording....

The reissues are interesting from a technical point of view vis-a-vis the history of recording, and many people still enjoy them (nothing wrong with that, they are good performances though for many it's the cult of nostalgia), but the Reiner Mahler 4 (also Szell's) and Also Sprach Z would also be on my list of overrated recordings - and while I'm at it: they should never be awarded 5 stars for recorded sound, irrespective of how good they are for their age. Five stars should be reserved for as good a sound as SACD can provide, which these recordings clearly don't offer.

Doubtless I'll have my head bitten off, but what I find irksome is the allegiance of some listeners to these classic recordings, when one suspects (or they admit) that they haven't really heard any (or enough) of the competition recorded since, say 1970, for their opinion to be too valid: if someone tells me they've owned Heifetz's Brahms Concerto in every incarnation from 78s or LP through reel-to-reel, to CD and now SACD, and it's definitely the best, I seem to suspect they haven't bothered to hear Zimmerman or Hahn.

I concur with your last point to a degree - I don't think they're lousy by any means, but of the classic reissues I've only bothered with the Dorati Rimsky and Respighi SACDs as I don't have that music on any other discs.

I would rate quite a few SACDs as top choices, e.g. Wispelwey/Lazic in the Beethoven Cello Sonatas, or Fischer's Dvorak 8, and Chailly's or MTT's Mahler as fully recommendable among others - but of the 1950s/60s reissues, I agree, there's not one mainstream work there that's a first choice for me.

Just off to don my flame-proof suit now...

Good subject. I have been buying records for over forty years and if you read Gramophone as well, a lot of these "immortal" recordings nag at your consience if you don´t "get it". I have bought many of the RCA on LP, on CD and now on SACD. I still fail to hear what so great about most of them. I also happen to agree with peteyspampucket that far to many of the reviews published here are too favorable. And I am sick and tired of reading things like .." this is the best recording I have ever heard". Well, it is of no good to me if I don´t know how many, and which, you have heard.
But at the same time, where are the marvellous performances then? The simple answer is that they are mostly on EMI, Universal and Sony. I have in my collection only two Telarc SACD´s, no cd´s at all. Why? Because I see no reason to buy music I know well in performances by Paavo Järvi, Kunzel, Spano or any of the other sub par musicians on this overrated label. A new Dvorak ninth is announced from this team - how unserious can you get? But then there are labels who really work hard, like Pentatone. But even here I am seeing a Beethoven SACD with Paavo Järvi. Why? Who needs it?
It is not all black. The Mahler series from MTT is a highlight, and it would have been so even if it were not so well recorded. The same goes for the Chailly Mahler - but it is somewhat surprising that the best performances in that cycle are nos 3 & 9, the only ones on SACD.
Of course there was some great music making in the past, I mean Szell, Barbirolli, Karajan, Haitink etc. Many of their recordings deserve the best sonic treatment possible and I quite like the three channel SACD´s from Mercury and RCA, even if not all of them are as great as history makes out. Also, I don´t think that those Fischer recordings are great in any way, not the Dvorak nor the Rachmaninov.

Post by Daland August 25, 2005 (5 of 27)
I think this discussion is completely pointless. If you don't like these interpretations or their incarnation on SACD, so what? Spare your venom for worthier targets.

Everyone has the right to like or to dislike performers and their interpretations. But please stop discrediting the Living Stereo series.

I, for one, prefer Rubinstein's recording of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 or Reiner's Mahler 4 (where Lisa della Casa is in a class of her own) to most other versions. I can't see why recordings from the 1950s or 1960s which sound better than most modern recordings should not be awarded five stars. Nor do I think that modern performing practice or corrected editions (who can hear the difference anyway?) should come into play.

If I had to choose between analog recordings re-issued on SACD and modern multi-channel recordings, I would opt for the classics.

Post by tream August 25, 2005 (6 of 27)
peteyspambucket said:

Nothing like a negative review to get some others to write in about this one. I wish it was a dream, but I really do dislike this performance. I can't understand how it's achieved this sort of "legendary" status amongst historic Mahler recordings. Practically every other performance I've heard of this on recordings is more interesting that this.

Other recordings from Living Stereo are just as puzzling to me why they are so legendary: Reiner's Also Sprach Zarathustra, Reiner's Scheherazade, Rubenstein/Reiner's Brahms Piano Cto #1. (There are others, too) All of which I purchased with excitement and later realized I didn't want to keep them in my collection. If I were someone looking to just build a basic library, I would be very hard pressed to actually recommend anything from the SACD library in-general as the only recording to have of a piece. About the only examples I can think of that are essential on SACD are the Munch Berlioz Requiem, Carlos Kleiber Beethoven Syms & La Traviata, Chailly Mahler 3, and Polaski's Isolde excerpts (and maybe just a couple others that I'm omitting).

All this is a precursor to my question: what is this phenomenon of praising mostly awful performances just because their recording engineers used good equipment or techniques? or just because they are on SACD?

Petey, legendary and overrated are in the ears of the beholder, I think. I find myself becoming a little less interested in the Living Stereo's as time goes on, but there are a number of them that I think hold up pretty well-Reiner's Bartok, Munch's Debussey and Saint-Saens, Rubenstein's Chopin, and a few others. Having said that, I received a few lumps for my reviews of Heifetz' Beethoven and the Reinder Scheherazade, but like you I hear what I hear.
I do think there are a number of essential items on SACD, and that list is growing. OTOH, I would not agree with your list (sorry)-I increasingly have come to believe that Carlos Kleiber is overrated (now, I've said it)-in the recordings where I've done head to head comparisons (Beethoven, J. Strauss, Wagner, and Verdi)-he always comes in behind others - in my short survey of Beethoven 5ths on SACD, for example - I thought his recording was the least interesting (boring?) of the 4 I listened to. I didn't expect this result, to say the least.
I like the Mercury's as a series better than the RCA's. And, I am finding lots to like on labels like Pentatone and Bis.

Cheers

Post by viktor August 25, 2005 (7 of 27)
Daland said:

I think this discussion is completely pointless.

This discussion is not pointless as there is some sort of consencus (spelling?) about what is great from the past. It is important not to take these "Gramophonisms" for granted. Viva le Bis, le Chandos, le Pentatone.
And then our opinions differ.

Post by armenian August 25, 2005 (8 of 27)
if someone tells me they've owned Heifetz's Brahms Concerto in every incarnation from 78s or LP through reel-to-reel, to CD and now SACD, and it's definitely the best, I seem to suspect they haven't bothered to hear Zimmerman or Hahn.
I am just one such person, I started listening to Heifetz since about 1950, that qualifies me as an old fart. You are entitled to your opinion, no problem there.
I do not want to glorify Heifetz, but couple of comments are in order. over the years I noticed that his admirers were primarily violinists, many tried to imitate his style but did not make it, critics also came down pretty hard on Heifetz, if you are old enough you might remeber one famous remark by an equally famous composer/critic who summed up Heifetz' playing with this remark "silver underwear", do not know what was he trying to say by that remark, but that is what Heifetz was to many critics.
One thing that I can say about Heifetz is his tone, I can recognize him from his tone in a second, do not need anyonme to tell me who is playing. As for Zimmerman, Hahn, Midori, and all the new generation of violonists, the jet age violonist, to me they all sound alike, if you like one you like them all, how can you tell the difference?

Again, I respect you opinion, and I am etitled to mine, so let us agree to gisagree, you listen to Hahn, and I will listen to Heifetz.

Vahe

Post by ramesh August 25, 2005 (9 of 27)
Thanks to Petey and Chris for their nice reviews at opposing poles.
I had rather hoped for this M4 not to appear, as I've always been waiting for the Szell M4 to appear on SACD, and I don't think BMG/Sony will release two M4s in quick succession. In fact, I'd given away my CD of the Szell as a wedding present, assuming it would be released in the new format! I cannot understand the reasoning of the knuckle-headed Japs at Sony HQ who decided to issue Walter's Brahms 4 and Beethoven 6 without their CD couplings, and the Bernstein M1 minus the adagio to the 10th; and not release the Szell M4.

Strange how the often praised Maazel VPO M4 is described either as 'Viennese' or 'creamy'. With both Maazel and Bernstein being Jewish Americans, if music critics were consistent, this would make Bernstein's Concertgebouw M4 single or double Dutch.

I've always thought of Szell's M4 as being cool in the sense of vernal, not detached. I wonder whether, considerations of tempo aside, there are differing opinions as to the worth of musical performances of the Romantic repertoire especially, because of the different weightings listeners give to considerations of phrasing ( horizontal line), versus balance (vertical line). Szell exploited the impeccable technique of the Clevelanders especially in this M4, by the translucency with which he balanced the textures. I never really warmed to the Solti Chicago Mahler, and I've wondered whether this had something in part to do with Szell's superior skill in balancing the orchestra. By the way, what do peeople think of Mengelberg's 1940 version? Karajan and Szell are very steady in the finale, but Mengelberg's wildly veering tempi are closer to Mahler's own piano roll.

Post by seth August 25, 2005 (10 of 27)
akiralx said:

if someone tells me they've owned Heifetz's Brahms Concerto in every incarnation from 78s or LP through reel-to-reel, to CD and now SACD, and it's definitely the best, I seem to suspect they haven't bothered to hear Zimmerman or Hahn.

Hahn? How about one of David Oistrakh's 10 recordings (that includes studio and live recordings for radio).

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