Recordings of Mahler's 7th

Started by Montpellier, December 15, 2007, 01:13:34 PM

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Ok, this feels weird, asking for recommended recordings.  One of the problems is that works are SO over-recorded these days that it's difficult to sort out something suitable.  Even if I go up the library I probly wouldn't find half what's available.  So please could you let me know any well-recommended versions. 

Is Abbado any good?  Bernstein?   It doesn't have to be a recent recording but a good performance.



My favorite is Bertini. Marvelous warm sensual playing and a deep rich sound. You can't go wrong.

not edward

I've not heard Bertini, or the highly touted Gielen, but it seems to me that there are a lot of Mahler 7s out there that merit recommendation. I grew up on Kubelik (and still like it greatly), but I certainly wouldn't want to be without Abbado's lucid Chicago account, Bernstein's intense Sony version, Zender's placing of the work in a 20th century context, Chailly's magical reading with the Concertgebouw, Scherchen's demonic (and sometimes chaotic) Toronto version, or the constantly insightful Kondrashin I've discovered recently.

I'd think any of Kubelik, CSO/Abbado, NYPO/Bernstein, Zender or Chailly would make a good starting-off point. No doubt other posters can add to these (or oppose them).
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
-- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music


I have Solti's, it's perfect so i recommend that one. I've tried Tilson Thomas, but it was so horrible i couldn't enjoy it. Haven't heard anything else after that...


I'm not a big fan of Abbado. His Beethoven cycles are meh, but he made the best Mahler 7 recordings ever. His CSO recording owns Bernstein and you know what's even better? His recent Lucerne recording on DVD probably has the best technical playing of that symphony ever.


Lenny late DG cycle's 7th if you don't mind the Celibidachean tempi.


I recommand the Abbado 7th with BP, because that was the first recording that "spoke" to me, also it holds personal significance, because it might've been one of the earliest Mahler recordings i have heard. Other than that, my memory is a little fuzzy, but I can remember that Bertini 7th was quite well played.


Of the 6 or so recordings I own I always return to the Abbado CSO account. Haitink's live Christmass recording with Concertgebouw is also fine.

BTW: For a truly mysterious account of the Nachtmusiks, Sinopoli's Philharmonia is exceptional

enjoy  :)


ironically, stay far, far away from Boulez' Cleveland recording though. It's one of his really clinical (albeit boring) recordings he made...considering I'm a huge Boulez fan.


1) Bernstein/NYPO/Sony  (later DG version is slower)
2) Kondrashin/Melodiya  (like this better than the highly touted Tahra version)
3) Kubelik/Audite  (live version that tops the version in complete DG studio set)
4) Abbado/CSO/DG  (still Abbado's best 7th on CD, have not heard the new DVD Lucerne version)
5) Solti/CSO/London or


My recommendations:

Barbirolli 1960 (Hallé/BBCL)
Bertini 1991 (RSO-Köln/EMI)
Barenboim 2006 (SK. Berlin/Warner)
Boulez 1998 (Cleveland/DGG)


Quote from: MISHUGINA on December 16, 2007, 01:43:16 AM
ironically, stay far, far away from Boulez' Cleveland recording though. It's one of his really clinical (albeit boring) recordings he made...considering I'm a huge Boulez fan.
This makes me want to play one of my favorite recordings of one of my favorite Mahler symphonies, the under-appreciated 7th performed by Pierre Boulez and the glorious Cleveland Orchestra. 

To the OP: others I enjoy include Abbado/CSO, Chailly, Zender, Bertini, Kubelik, and even Lenny's NYPO outing. 


Solti I like.

Abbado I like maybe a hair's breadth more.

But it's Halasz's account on Naxos to which I keep returning. Something about the horns in the second movement just clinches it for me.


Most conductors get the first and last movement pretty much spot on. Few makes the middle 3 movements convincing. For example, the 2nd Nachtmusik, most conductors play it way too soft, too much like chamber music. I suppose they see a serenade and automatically think it should be all hush hush. Bertini plays this movement pretty much forte all the way and it really holds together well. Now it has weight, all the melodies stand out and is really an embarassment of riches.

As alternatives I like Barenboim/SB and Gielen on Hanssler.


The Solti 7th never did it for me. My top choices would be Barenboim/Staatskapelle Berlin (truly involved, living, breathing performance) and Kubelik/BRSO (a fine sense of phrase and a lilt that always keeps the proceedings interesting).


I have a soft spot for the Boulez/Cleveland recording...I saw his live performance of this piece in Cleveland at the same time as the recording and the live performance was thrilling and solid. The recording (done a few months later) captured most of that, so the "gaps" I can fill in w/ my memories.

Am currently listening to the Bernstein/NY recording.  He starts that 2nd movement slower than any I've heard.

M forever

The Solti recording is horrible. The whole cycle isn't that distinguished (apart from the very convincing 8th), but of all the recordings in it, the 7th is by far the worst. I hesitate to say things like that because I respect Solti's many achievements on record (and I also saw him live a number of times in Berlin and these concerts were usually very good and enjoyable), but he obviously didn't understand the music at all. His interpretation doesn't make any musical sense. He and the orchestra hack, slash, blare, honk and fart through the piece without any concept or musical line and not even technically that good (one of many low points is that complicated bass trombone solo halfway through the 1st movement which the player here simply can't play, it sounds like some animal regurgitating a smaller animal). That piece is just too complex and elusive for Solti's black-and-white approach. I wonder if they had ever played the piece before. It certainly does sound like they are sight reading.

The same orchestra made much more sense and music and sounds worlds better under Abbado's much more insightful and reflected direction a decade later. Interestingly, they had also recorded it under Levine in the meantime. That performance is much better than Solti's but it lacks the sense for color, texture, and the musical line that Abbado's has. The latter was for a long time my "reference" recording for this symphony. One of Abbado's great achievements as Kapellmeister here is that he actually manages to make the brass play musical lines instead of single notes one after the other and that he even manages to build up some multicolored layers where the CSO sections usually play against each other instead of together. I haven't heard his later BP recording yet, nor the one with the LFO.

I was bitterly disappointed by the Boulez recording with the Cleveland Orchestra. Probably because I had expected something very special from that team. But the recording is just a competently prepared playthrough without much character or atmoshpere. A whole lot like the cliché says a lot of Boulez' interpretations are, but many of them really aren't (including some outstanding ones he made with the CO, e.g. Le Sacre du Printemps or La Mer).

A rather special trip of discovery through this complex musical soundscape is Sinopoli's recording with the Philharmonia which brings out a lot of inner detail which some other conductors apparently haven't even discovered in the score yet. With a lot of readings, you wonder what is going on, this one makes you understand how this piece in particular foreshadowed a lot of the music of the Second Viennese School. It also has a very special half-lit but glowing quality in the treatment of the colors to it which is very apt for a mysterious nightly journey of discovery.

The Barenboim recording simply astonished me. Barenboim is not the kind of conductor who I would expect to make sense of this really complicated and sometimes apparently incoherent score. He is often content to make everything sound nice and maybe a little serious. But he totally does make sense of the music here. He said something along the lines of that he found this symphony a challenge to figure out and because a lot of conductors who do a lot of other Mahler shy away from it, he wanted to confront himself with the score. And he did with very convincing results. Plus the playing of the Staatskapelle Berlin is extremely good and transparent, the slightly old-fashioned sound of the orchestra is very apt for the music and captured extremely well by the recording. The recording quality belies the idea that making good recordings in the Philharmonie is difficult. It isn't, it's just that the DG engineers who did most of the recordings there in the past like to fiddle with the knobs too much.


Thank you for all your insights - gatefully received as Mahler is new territory so I didn't want to be deterred from Marhler by a bad interpretation.  I must have heard chunks glancingly but not made a deliberate attempt to sit through a symphony.  The DVD looks a good bet.  I've been happy with what I've heard of Abbado and Bernstein so I'll choose between them.  The Chicago recording is still around but it's a bit of a hope to get it by Christmas.   



It might be too late, but I say go for Barenboim or perhaps Abbado's most recent recording.  But mostly Barenboim.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya


Thank you for that,  Naturally I'm always happy to listen to the Waco Kid.  ;)

It's probably too late to get an order in before Christmas.  Download is always possible but I'll go to the library tomorrow with some of these suggestions and see what they have.  Another problem with Mahler is time to make comparisons so it's probably better, assuming I can get on with Mahler at all, to take his work in over a period of time.