Mahler, Symphony No. 8, LSO, Choral Arts Society of Washington, V. Gergiev (live)
Mahler, Symphony No. 8, BSO, S. Ozawa (available as an MP3 download for $7)
Mahler, Symphony No. 8
Though this somewhat downsized force still produced a wall of sound when they needed it, it was hard not to miss the panoply and spectacle of a larger ensemble -- unwieldy, to be sure, but visually and sonically overwhelming. Worse, Gergiev drove and lashed the performers through an amped-up rendition of the work, by my count lasting only about 71 minutes (shorter than Gergiev's London performance with the Choral Arts Society). The pacing of Part I was relentless, viscerally exciting at times but not always holding together, and even Part II was often breathless and rushed, allowing no sense of timeless expanse to unfold, even in the sublime Chorus Mysticus from Faust. This fell far short of my favorite recording of the work, recommended some years ago by Jens Laurson, with Seija Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (now available very cheaply as a download). Part of this is because of the impetuous, often mercurial approach of Gergiev, but it is hard not to think that a performance that bordered on perfunctory could be related to the fact that Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra have been performing Mahler symphonies everywhere this fall. Gergiev's hurricane Mahler tour was in Michigan and Chicago earlier this month, and more recently in New York, New Jersey on Saturday, and back at Carnegie Hall this weekend, all scheduled around Gergiev conducting performances of Boris Godunov at the Metropolitan Opera.
Anne Midgette, Valery Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra at the Kennedy Center (Washington Post, October 21)
Tim Smith, A brisk, bracing Mahler 8 from Gergiev, Mariinsky Orchestra in Washington (Baltimore Sun, October 20)
---, Orchestras, concert presenters need to learn from opera and add supertitles (Baltimore Sun, October 21)
Alex Baker, Two Mahlers (Wellsung, October 20)