Michael Tilson Thomas / San Francisco Symphony / Michelle DeYoung

Mahler: Symphony No. 3; Kindertotenlieder

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Michael Tilson Thomas' audiophile recordings of Gustav Mahler's symphonies have garnered much critical approval, and his SACD of the Symphony No. 3 in D minor and Kindertotenlieder must be counted among the most praiseworthy. Tilson Thomas has long been a leading authority on Mahler's music, and his deep understanding of his favorite composer goes a long way toward elucidating the complexities and contradictions in this enormous symphony, particularly through his transparent communication with the San Francisco Symphony, which skillfully translates his joyous interpretation into wondrous sound. The martial airs, folk-like melodies, tragic dirges, lyrical meditations, elevated chorales, and ecstatic evocations of nature are all of a piece in this massive work, which conforms to Mahler's dictum that a symphony should be like the world and embrace everything. Shaping all these incongruous elements so they make sense is Tilson Thomas' responsibility, and he excels in assigning them their proper places and meanings; with a thorough communication of Mahler's intentions, he directs the orchestra to create sonorities and effects with an authenticity and liveliness that few groups can match. The more compact and mournful Kindertotenlieder is a perfect foil, insofar as the seriousness of this song cycle provides a sobering balance to the sheer happiness of the symphony. The live recordings have DSD and multichannel sound, so the orchestra, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, and the women's and children's choirs receive a fully dimensional sound and clear reproduction that shows them to best advantage.

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