Nicknamed "Symphony of a Thousand," Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 in E flat major requires eight vocal soloists, multiple choirs, and a mammoth orchestra, including an organ, though the large number of performers seldom approaches a thousand. Even so, the needed forces once made performances of the Eighth something of a rarity, and significant recordings were scarce until the second half of the 20th century. Since the turn of the 21st century, however, the growing crop of recordings and reissues seems to suggest the increased popularity of this symphony, and Bertrand de Billy's 2011 release on Oehms shows that the enthusiasm level for this work is high. This is a vigorous and muscular live performance, and the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna gives dynamic support to the Wiener Singakademie, the Slovak Philharmonic Choir, and the Wiener Sängerknaben, who overlap marvelously and create a glorious choral sound that is at times heaven-storming. The soloists deliver their parts with accuracy and control, and their ensembles have balance and clear counterpoint, especially when their lines are set against the choruses. One might notice occasional and miniscule inaccuracies in entrances, but when the difficulty of coordinating these groups over a large performing space is added into the equation, the results are actually quite good. While this recording may not be everyone's favorite Eighth -- among so many excellent recordings on the market, that would be asking a lot -- it is an exciting offering and highly recommended, especially to newcomers.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 8 in E flat major|