MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan." Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
Sylvia McNair, soprano; Jard van Nes, contralto; Ernst-Senff Chor; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Bernard Haitink, cond.
PHILIPS DVD VIDEO 074 3131 TT: 152 min.
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor.
Florence Quivar, contralto; Tölzer Knabenchor; Women of the Ernst-Senff Chor; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Bernard Haitink, cond.
PHILIPS DVD VIDEO 074 3132 TT: 106 min.
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G. Symphony No. 7 in E minor.
Sylvia McNair, soprano; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Bernard Haitink, cond.
PHILIPS DVD VIDEO 074 3133 TT: 140 min
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Mahler lovers, rejoice! These are stunning DVD issues of five Mahler symphonies with one of the world's great orchestras conducted by a master of Mahler—and sonically magnificent. Bernard Haitink has been conducting Mahler for about a half-century. He recorded all of the symphonies and other works with the Concertgebouw Orchestra for Philips, which are still available. DGG issued CDs of recordings made in the early '90s of symphonies 2, 3, 4 and 5 from a projected—but aborted—series with the Berlin Philharmonic, well played but unexceptional in performance and sonically disappointing. Now we have live recordings of five symphonies from the same era. Symphonies 1, 3 and 4 were recorded in 1991, No. 7 in 1992, No. 2 in 1993, and No. l in 1994. No. 4 was recorded in Berlin's Schauspielhaus, the remainder at the Philharmonie. The live performance atmosphere makes a world of difference. It is a pleasure to watch Haitink's assured, unexhibitionistic style of conducting—no phony histrionics here, just heartfelt communication with the orchestra and audience. These new Mahler recordings were directed for video by Barrie Gavin, who did a superb job; the camera always is in an appropriate spot. Audio producer was Stan Taal and he, too, did a terrific job. The sound picture is broad and spacious but detailed as well, with wide dynamic range and the kind of percussion shimmer audiophiles want to hear. It seems the Ambient Sound Imaging process was used here to produce "surround sound," and the result is most effective in spatial balances. It is unfortunate the remaining Mahler symphonies will not be forthcoming, equally unfortunate that most DGG recordings of the BPO don't sound like this. Terrific releases! Get them all!

R.E.B. (September 2006)

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