Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 in E flat major (also known by its unofficial nickname as the "Symphony of a Thousand,"), has received increased coverage in the modern age, not only because advances in recording technology can accommodate the massed sonorities of multiple vocalists, several large choruses, and an expanded orchestra, but also because demand for the work has grown dramatically since the late 20th century, along with the rest of Mahler's output. This 2016 recording by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra marks the centennial of the Eighth's premiere performance in the United States under the baton of Leopold Stokowski, and while recording the work wouldn't have been feasible in 1916, Nézet-Séguin's tribute is more than sufficient to suggest the impressiveness of that major event in the Philadelphians' history. Even though this live recording on Deutsche Grammophon isn't in direct imitation of Stokowski's style, particularly in Nézet-Séguin's driven tempos, powerful dynamics, and vibrant tone colors that make this disc especially exciting, but one imagines Stokowski taking some liberties with rubato and pacing that Nézet-Séguin carefully avoids. Instead, he charges ahead in the "Veni, Creator Spiritus," bringing an aggressive edge to the trombones in the "Hostem repellas," while building to an ecstatic culmination in the "Gloria Patri." The closing scene from "Faust Part II" has a more operatic than symphonic character, so the pacing and sound are accordingly oriented to the solo voices. However, the "Chorus Mysticus" at the conclusion is an ending to rival the profound conclusion of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection," with its compelling vision of heaven and spiritual transformation.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 8 "Symphony of a Thousand"|
Part II: Chor der Engel: Gerettet ist das edle Glied der Geisterwelt vom Bösen, Chor seliger Knaben: Hände verschlinget euch
Part II: Dir, der Unberührbaren, Chor der Büßerinnen und Una poenitentium. Du schwebst zu Höhen der ewigen Reiche