David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich have received extraordinary praise for their polished recordings of Gustav Mahler's symphonies, and kudos will surely greet the appearance of the Symphony No. 8 in E flat major, the most ambitious work of the cycle and the greatest challenge to a conductor's ability to marshal several ensembles into one immense entity. Hallmarks of Zinman's earlier Mahler recordings and RCA's superb engineering are the crispness and clarity of details, and the ensemble sound is exquisitely balanced between the chamber groupings within sections and the towering orchestral climaxes. The same is true in this recording of the Eighth, a work with such massive forces and widespread logistics that getting close microphone placement is difficult, and finding the proper sound levels for several hundred singers and instrumentalists is crucial. Fortunately, this performance sounds warm and intimate in the sparest sections and heaven-storming at the fullest, all without seeming to be artificially manipulated at the mixing board. Zinman, the nine vocalists, the four choirs, and the orchestra deliver this majestic symphony with exceptional enthusiasm and concentrated energy , so the music never bogs down in sluggish tempos or becomes muddy in tone. The high level of excellence of this performance will remind experienced listeners of some of the finest recordings made of this work, and it surely matches any other rendition released on SACD. The power and passion of the singing and the playing matches the depth and spaciousness of the reproduction, thereby making this a delight for both Mahler fans and audio buffs. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Symphony No. 8 in E flat major|