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Solti - Mahler Symphony No.8 - Audiophile Audition

13 June 2012
Audiophile Audition
Peter Joelson
4 Stars

Recorded in the Sofiensaal, Vienna during August and September 1971,  Sir Georg Solti's orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, together with the various choirs and some of the top soloists of the day were captured in excellent analogue sound.  Conductor and orchestra were on a European tour and it seemed a very good idea to add to Solti's Mahler cycle a recording made in a venue famed for its sonic splendour.  It's now over forty years ago that the tapes were running; the problems of getting one and all together for the sessions have been well documented, and were almost as fraught as for Klemperer's recording of Das Lied von der Erde.  Solti, though not the most loved of conductors in some quarters (including the Vienna Philharmonic's chairman and committee members at the time - see On An Overgrown Path), was able more than most, I think, to conjure up the excitement of a live performance in a studio recording, and this recording is no exception.

For years enthusiasts have hoped for a better-than-CD release, opining that the double-LP set sounded so much finer.  Universal's foray into the world of SACD came and went, so, after all these years it is a pleasure to welcome this old friend as part of an initial release as 24/96 flac (or wma).   The sound-stage is clearer, instruments delineated, and ambience far more discrete than on the most recent CD release.  While the performance retains its five-star and star-studded status, recording quality and method have moved on and while some releases may be technically superior, they don't quite have the buzz of Solti's fizzing energy.

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Mahler: Symphony No.8 in E flat - 'Symphony of a Thousand'Mahler: Symphony No.8 in E flat - 'Symphony of a Thousand'