Universal, i.e. Deutsche Grammophon & Decca, are celebrating Mahler in style by opening their catalogue and archives to the vote, letting visitors of their “Create your Dream Mahler Symphony Cycle” website chose their favorite recordings of the 10 Mahler symphonies (Das Lied is not included, for some reason). The winners after the final tally will make it into a specially produced cycle (“Mahler, The People’s Edition”) which will be available for purchase.
Universal’s Mahler catalogue is huge, larger than any other company’s. Even without a few items* that, presumably for current licensing issues, are part of their archive but not among the choices, a really exciting cycle could be created. Could is the operating word here, because the worst case scenario is that where the People’s Edition merely mirrors the fame of recordings and ends up something where all included symphonies are already readily available, and/or are already in Universal’s big box “Mahler, Complete Edition”. That would be a terrific opportunity completely gone to waste.
Your vote—and you should vote—will therefore determine the difference between “Yawyn” and “Wowsers”. The difference between a cycle no one needs, because it just duplicates what we already have at home, or one that everyone will want to run out and grab. The key to that, apart from finding enough willing supporters of this idea, is to pick the most interesting, difficult-to-get, and out-of-print albums that DG/Decca offers us. Let’s not pick Kubelik’s Bavarian First, great though it is. Let’s definitely not pick Solti’s 8th, which will always be around and is in case a horrible, glorious, failure. Let’s not pick Abbado’s much touted, but completely pussy-footed 6th. Or Bernstein’s 5th, which has been re-released more often than I can count. I understand the tendency toward’s Mehta’s 2nd, but that, too, is readily enough available and a commonly (and rightly) well thought-of recording.
Together with a fellow Mahlerian a few semesters my senior, I looked at the possible choices and we came up with these suggestions:
Sy.1, Kubelik / WPh
Sy.2, Ozawa / BSO
Symphony No.2: There is no perfectly obvious contender, but we think that it’s time to bring Ozawa back out; his Mahler cycle with the Boston SO has been looked over for many years and there are gems among them. Not just the 8th, the best interpretation ever, but the Second, too, is supposed to be pretty good.
Symphony No.3: We weren’t able to find a candidate who really obviously needed or deserved the push; Haitink is available enough. I might vote for Abbado’s Berlin recording, but here, too, Ozawa could be interesting.
Sy.4, Dohnanyi / ClevO
Sy.5, Kubelik / BRSO
Sy.6, Solti / CSO
Sy.7, Scherchen / WStOpOrch.
Sy.8, Ozawa / BSO
Sy.9, Giulini / CSO
Sy.10 (complete), Chailly / RIAS
*Mengelberg’s Fourth, Neumann’s Leipzig Fifth (one of my current favorites)…