Hartmut Haenchen

Mahler: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8

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Because Gustav Mahler's symphonies are extraordinarily long, it is highly unusual to find one serving as filler on an album with an even longer work. Yet such appears to be the case with this ICA Classics twofer of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major, which is paired with his gargantuan Symphony No. 8 in E flat major. The first disc contains all of the Symphony No. 1, which takes just under 45 minutes to play, as well as Part I of the Symphony No. 8, the "Veni, Creator Spiritus," timed at just over a half hour, yet nothing is unduly rushed or squeezed in. (Some may quibble with the brisk tempo in the Scherzo of the First, but there is no reason why it should be played heavily, or that the Trio needs to be played at a lugubrious tempo.) The second disc contains Part II of the Eighth, which, at just under an hour, is a conventional timing. Considering that the Eighth usually takes up a double-disc set by itself, getting these two works together is an extraordinary value, and considering that Hartmut Haenchen and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra turn in first-rate live performances of both symphonies, bargain hunters should definitely consider this set. Haenchen's pacing is steady and consistent, and his avoidance of excessive rubato keeps the interpretations from sounding sentimental or self-indulgent. His handling of the multiple vocalists and choirs in the Eighth also seems rigorous and disciplined, so the "Veni, Creator Spiritus" is ecstatic while also being highly propulsive, and the Final Scene from Faust holds together admirably, despite Mahler's episodic structure and long stretches of soft, mystical music. While these discs are conventional stereo CDs, the music is quite clear and detailed, and the reproduction gives the orchestra full sonorities and reasonably spacious sound.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 8 in E flat major "Symphony of a Thousand"
1 6:43
2 3:14
3 4:44
4 1:45
5 4:35
6 3:00
7 1:54
8 1:19
9 4:13
10 5:02
11 5:04
12 1:42
13 2:24
14 1:10
15 5:11
16 5:16
17 2:26
blue highlight denotes track pick