Continuing his survey of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler with the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, conductor Markus Stenz presents the Symphony No. 8 in E flat major, the so-called "Symphony of a Thousand" with extraordinary power and depth. While it's unclear how many performers were lined up for this 2011 session, the sound of the nine vocalists, multiple choirs, and expanded orchestra certainly suggests something close to one thousand, a convenient round number that Mahler never specified but which is usually approached in most performances. Judging recordings of the Eighth is always fraught with peril, because there are several outstanding renditions that have appeared in the wake of the Mahler revival, including versions by Bernstein, Solti, Abbado, Chailly, Tilson Thomas, and Dudamel, to name a few, and Stenz is clearly facing impressive competition. Fortunately, this super audio version on Oehms is impressive in its own right, boasting exemplary singing, precisely coordinated choirs, solid orchestral support, and musical direction that keeps the symphony propulsive and dramatic. Stenz has had great success with his previous Mahler releases, but this is clearly a high point, and this installment in the cycle is well worth acquiring, whether one has been collecting this series already or buying recordings by other artists. While this hybrid SACD plays perfectly well on standard stereo equipment, a multichannel player will provide optimal results. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphonie Nr. 8 in Es-Dur|