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  Esoteric -
  Mahler: Symphony No. 9 - Bernstein
  Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Berliner Philharmoniker
Leonard Bernstein
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 8 show all

Reviews: 2

Review by acousticsguru December 11, 2014 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I only have the DG Originals redbook CD to compare to, compared to which the improvement in sound quality is nothing short of astonishing. If I had anything negative to say about Esoteric releases in general (apart from availability and price, not to mention the selection), then that I've sometimes found them to err on the thick/fat, full-bodied side, similar to many JVC XRCD releases of the past that I'd bet were equalized (sensibly/tastefully for the most part) - but for recordings like this one, I wonder if this isn't what every audiophile secretly wished for in the first place? It also sounds more transparent, colorful, spacious, warm and incisive, and for lack of a better word, realistic. In absolute terms, it still sounds a bit murky and veiled, with limited dynamics and impact, not to mention occasional coughs from the audience, as well as some stomping and humming along on the podium (neither of which, in a live performance, I mind at all). Even so, I wish all remasterings of old favorites proved to be so much worth the investment as this one. As to the performance, after I'd remained undecided which I like better, this 1979 BPO live concert or the 1965 NYP studio recording (which has always had the advantage of better sound, never more so than via Andreas K. Meyer's DSD remastering for SACD) for so many years, thanks to finally being able to hear it all in greater detail and enjoy the experience in equal measure, I feel the studio version conveys Bernstein's vision of Mahler's 9th even more decidedly and coercively.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.

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Review by mwgfrg December 30, 2014 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I have a slightly different view of this unexpected SACD release of this famous, even indispensable performance. The Esoteric SACD is easily finer than either the original two-CD DG release or the subsequent single disc in the Originals series, which was an improvement. However, while it has all the expected SACD virtues of depth and richness of sound, it lacks the clarity of the Universal Japan SHM-CD issue, prompting the probably futile hope for an SHM-SACD release sometime in the future. All things considered, this Esoteric SACD is probably as good as it will ever get, and is an extremely valuable addition to the SACD catalogue.
Which brings up the question of the performance. It is brilliant, but frustrating, the old question of what will happen when the irresistible force (Lenny) meets the immovable object (Karajan's Berlin Philharmonic). It is a wonderful struggle, but it remains unclear who the winner is. Of the five Bernstein Mahler 9ths I know, I don't have much affection for three--the late in life Concertgebouw performance, which sounds a bit like a taffy pull, with Lenny stretching the symphony in all directions; the Israel performance, which is similar but lacks the Concertgebouw's orchestral distinction; and the New York studio recording, which, to me, sounds like Lenny trying to master the symphony but not quite inside it yet. For me, that leaves as a clear choice the DVD-only, sonically excellent Vienna Philharmonic concert performance of 1971 (oddly enough, recorded in Berlin). The Vienna could play at the same exalted level as the Berlin, and knew Lenny very well, and the result is a stunning performance that is easily recognizable as Lenny's Mahler, the Vienna's Mahler, and maybe even Mahler's Mahler. (Did I really say that? Sorry, I lost my head.)
Final thought: the original DG packaging indicates that this Berlin recording was of the first of two performances. Probably the second wasn't taped, but I can't help wondering what THAT sounded like, after Lenny and the BPO had had an evening together, and the trombone section had rejoined the orchestra. Guess we'll never know.

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Works: 1  

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 9 in D major