Normally on first listening of a new CD (in this case an SACD) the first thing that grabs my attention is the music-making, and I try to understand from the beginning the initial steps of the composer’s creative process as a means to an end. However, with this SACD the first thing that grabbed my attention from the very first note was the recorded sound. The recording chain utilized multiple Neumann KM130 and Schoeps MK2S microphones.
Indeed, the present recording sets the tone of this quasi-mystical musical poem from the beginning with a pianissimo A note seven octaves deep on the first violins that gradually fade away (not die) after nine measures. The first violins are thus accompanied from the first measure on this eerie surge and fade of sound by the violas which keep on playing that same A note still seven octaves deep until they also fade away after seven more measures. This is Mahler’s way, the poet and his music-making. We hear clear, pure, precise and noble (yes, noble) sound from then on.
These long sixteen measures slowly fade away and thanks to the nobility of the recorded sound we actually do not hear the last note that well either on the first violins or the violas as the sound becomes almost an almost inaudible pianissimo, and as Mahler himself put it at one time that represents “Nature’s awakening from its long winter sleep”, that is, nature and the child, and the mystic poet speaking through his music.
The end result is such that from the first note I was captivated by the recorded sound and that was a pleasant surprise; moreover the sound on this SACD became almost addictive from the beginning. I believe that Mahler, who was very concerned and aware of orchestral and nature’s acoustics intended that as an end result (in live concerts) and Mariss Jansons truly conveys all the inherent passion and drama of that conception in this recording. We can truly sense his total commitment and conviction in communicating that to his ensemble, the renowned Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; the rich tonal architecture and chromatic articulation of the music comes to life in the process clearly and transparently with sublime attention to orchestral and instrumental balances – SACD at its best and definitely a spectacular achievement. [As with all the RCO SACD series, the highly-esteemed acoustics of the orchestra’s home hall are beautifully communicated via the 5.0 channel surround…Ed.]
— John Nemaric