Mahler: Symphonies 1-10/Ozawa

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Seiji Ozawa’s Mahler offers consistently fine playing and much better interpretations than he’s been given credit for. Perhaps this inexpensive reissue will encourage more listeners to sample his way with the music, because aside from the sheer pleasure of hearing the Boston Symphony in excellent form, there are some real gems here. Ozawa’s renditions of the First, Third, Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth all rank among the finest available (Nos. 3 and 9 in particular have seldom been bettered). The remaining symphonies are uniformly good, the single exception being No. 6. Recorded live at the end of the cycle when Philips was shedding artists like flies, it suffers from strangely dull and boxy sonics that rob the music of much of its intended impact.

There also is some very good Mahler from Ozawa outside of this set, his first recording of the First Symphony (for DG) and his newest recording of the Second (for Sony) both marginally surpassing the versions contained here. However, as far as complete cycles go, this one certainly eclipses the bargain boxes of Tennstedt (weak in Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7), Haitink (uninteresting in Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8), Abbado (especially dreary in 1, 3, 8, and 9), Sinopoli (generally perverse, poorly recorded, and surprisingly ill-played), and Solti/Chicago (practically worthless in Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 9). Jessye Norman’s extremely histrionic account of the Kindertotenlieder may be considered a bonus by some, a liability by others, but I incline to the former view. Sonics aren’t current state of the art, but that Sixth aside, these recordings remain very listenable.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bernstein (Sony & DG)

GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphonies Nos. 1-10 (Adagio only); Kindertotenlieder


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