'This performance is still hailed as something of a benchmark - spinetingling and electrifying.' BBC Music Magazine
'Now at last Mahler's "Symphony of a Thousand" can be heard on record at something approaching its full, expansive stature. Here is a version from Solti which far more clearly than any previous one conveys the feeling of a great occasion. Just as a great performance, live in the concert hall, takes off and soars from the very start, so the impact of the great opening on "Veni, creator spiritus" tingles here with electricity ... Solti, characteristically, refuses to accept half measures. This is as near a live performance as the dynamic Solti can make it. At times the sheer physical impact makes one gasp for breath, and I found myself at the thunderous end of the first movement shouting out in joyous sympathy, so overwhelming is the build-up of tension.' Gramophone
Solti's recording of Mahler's gigantic Eighth Symphony is justly acknowledged as being one of the great triumphs of the gramophone. Sir Georg Solti was a keen Mahlerian for most of his long career. One of his first Mahler recordings was the First Symphony (with the LSO, 1964 - also to be released on Decca Legends at a later date) and this, as with the Eighth, is also regarded as a gramophone 'classic'.
This recording was made in Vienna (with famous Viennese Choirs) when Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were on tour in 1971. Mahler's Eighth Symphony is a Choral Symphony in the true sense of the words, and one would be hard put to find another composition which can offer such overwhelming tiers of vocal and orchestral sound than the great first-movement Hymn 'Veni, creator spiritus' - an experience, especially in this Solti recording, which leaves the listener stunned and emotionally drained.
Recording location: Sofiensaal, Vienna, August & September 1971
Producer: David Harvey
Recording engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson, Gordon Parry
Remastered at 96kHz in 24-bit stereo from the original analogue mastertapes.
Heather Harper soprano I (Magna Peccatrix)
Lucia Popp soprano II (Una Poenitentium)
Arleen Auger soprano III (Mater Gloriosa)
Yvonne Minton contralto I (Mulier Samaritana)
Helen Watts contralto II (Maria Aegyptiaca)
René Kollo tenor (Doctor Marianus)
John Shirley-Quirk baritone (Pater Ecstaticus)
Martti Talvela bass (Pater Profundus)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Sir Georg Solti
Extract from the original sleeve notes by Michael Kennedy:
Sir Georg Solti was a devoted Mahlerian for most of his career from the 1950s. He conducted (and recorded) all the symphonies except the Deryck Cooke performing version of the Tenth which he thought lacked 'the contrapuntal element in Mahler's writing'. One of his unfulfilled projects was to put together the different available reconstructions of this symphony and add points of his own, a fascinating 'might-have-been' ...
In the Eighth he was in his element, as this famous recording shows ... Solti's view of the work is set down in his autobiography: 'I think of the Eighth as Mahler's last great nineteenth-century work. For the conductor, most of the problems in this symphony stem from its massiveness. In a sense, the Eighth is a vast opera whose visual aspect remains in the imagination. Opera conductors have a tremendous advantage in conducting this and other big choral-orchestral works'. Certainly this advantage shows in this recording where the energy, drive and breadth of vision are on a truly dramatic scale. The recording also has an elegiac aspect now, in that it preserves the solo performances of three great singers who died too young: Lucia Popp, Arleen Auger and Martti Talvela.