Various Artists

Mahler: Symphonies Nos. 1, 5, 9; Lieder

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In most cases, four discs provide more than enough space to give a representative sample of a composer's work. But it's a tight squeeze for Gustav Mahler's exceptionally long masterpieces, and this box set barely holds the shorter Symphonies Nos. 1, 5 and 9, and the vocal works Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Taken from recordings made in 1987 and 1990, the set is a combination of good performances by five conductors and four orchestras, previously released in different configurations on earlier Virgin albums. This amounts to a glorified collection of "Mahler's Greatest Hits," if his vast works could ever be reduced to that; but, thankfully, the symphonies and song cycles are presented complete, and the readings by Libor Pesek, Andrew Litton, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, David Litton, and Sir Charles Mackerras are respectable renditions. Fine as a starter kit for budding Mahlerians but a little uncompelling for experienced listeners, this compilation offers no amazing high points or devastating lows, just solid playing, intelligent conducting, and attractive singing from mezzo soprano Ann Murray and baritone Thomas Allen. Be sure, though, to try several other recordings to understand the variety of Mahler interpretations and why this set only offers glimpses of his cosmic vision.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 9 in D major
1
29:07
2
16:04
3
14:03

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
1
11:45
2
13:44
3
18:43
4
9:22
5
14:38
blue highlight denotes track pick