Sunday, July 13, 2008

What I am Listening to Today

Mahler Symphony # 8

Barbara Kubiak, Izabela Klosinska, Marta Boberska (soprano); Jadwiga Rappé, Ewa Marciniec (alto); Timonthy Bentch (tenor); Wojtek Drabowicz (baritone); Piotr Nowacki (bass)

Warsaw National Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra; Polish Radio Choir (Kraków); Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University Choir; Warsaw Boy's Choir

Antoni Wit Naxos- 8.550533-34

What can one say about the so called "Symphony of a Thousand"? Huge forces, with choruses, orchestra and soloists, easily add up to the magic 1,000 mark. Mahler attempted something truly novel in the 8th, a melding of sacred and profane, a huge symphonic/choral canvas in two huge movements, hardly related to each other. The first is a massive setting of the hymn in Latin "Veni Creator Spiritus", complex sounding but really almost a textbook sonata form. The second is an almost hour long setting of the final scene of Goethe's Faust. A tribute to the eternal feminine, inspired by his devotion to his beloved and complex wife Alma. Here the textures thin out, even with vast forces, they are rarely used all at once, but more of a huge palate of textures and colors to paint his vision of the "ever-womanly".

Although costly and complex the work is no stranger to performance and recording. This one, on the budget Naxos label is a pure joy. Fine voices, excellent choral work, good pacing, excellent sonics giving the massive forces the clarity needed and a certain spritual furvor that is often lacking.

This, along with the wonderful Colorado MahlerFest version from 1995 conducted by Robert Olson (Available on line) remain my standards for this compelling and unique symphony.

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