MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E-flat, “Symphony of a Thousand” – Soloists/ Wiener Staatsoperchor/ Wiener Singverein/ Wiener Sangerknaben/ Chicago Sym. Orch./ Georg Solti – Decca 00289 478 5006 Pure Audio stereo-only Blu-ray (PCM 2.0, DTS MA HD 2.0, Dolby TrueHD, 24-bit/96K), 79:46 [Distr. by Universal] *****:
I am referring everyone who reads these new DGG Blu-ray Pure Audio reviews to my review of the Kleiber Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7 reissue for comments and details on this series in general. This is another disc, like the recent Handel Messiah that I reviewed that easily falls into the “indispensable” category. This recording, from 1972, took the CSO on a Vienna holiday to put Solti’s vision down on vinyl in the incandescent acoustics of the Vienna Musikverein. From all reports, especially those of the members of the Vienna Philharmonic who were able to sit in the audience during the rehearsals and recording sessions, the experience was mind-blowing; the Vienna players were simply astounded at the virtuosity of the CSO at that time, surely one of the finest, though not the best, orchestras in the world during that age. Over the years there have been many more recordings of this piece, though it’s not on the “frequently recorded” list, and surprisingly, not that many are spoken of with anywhere near the reverence that this one receives in those quiet coffeehouse moments where collectors share their memories (okay, maybe that just happens on Facebook these days…)
I can think of just a few that have made an impression on me, though all flawed in one way or another—Tennstedt was the first, then Shaw (who did not duplicate the experience of his live concerts on disc in this work), Colin Davis in a robust SACD treatment, Tilson-Thomas, Gergiev, maybe one or two others I am forgetting, but that is about it. Bernstein is great but that takes us out of the audiophile spectrum. But Solti has held up over the years as a disc that, like his Wagner Ring, really sets so many standards in so many departments. And since this was not a surround sound issue to begin with, this is the perfect treatment for this re-release, sounding better than it ever has—and it was always good. For me another desert island pick, obligatory.