Composer Pages

Mahler, The Complete Symphonies on EMI Classics

Perhaps you've just discovered Gustav Mahler and want to sample more examples from his symphonies, or perhaps you're like me. I have all Mahler's symphonies on vinyl but over the past decade or so have been buying CDs exclusively and wanted to move over entirely to the more reliable, better quality digital sound of the CD. Buying 9 or 10 single CDs can be quite costly, so a low-price complete collection is an attractive option. I took a chance on the Tennstedt collection and it turned out to be a good choice.

Gustav Mahler - The Complete Symphonies conducted by Tennstedt CD cover This is a budget set and can be found at the price equivalent of 2 or 3 normal price CDs. The packaging is quite basic, consisting of a box containing a total of 11 CDs in cardboard sleeves. However this is more than compensated for by a comprehensive set of programme notes in English, German and French including the words of all the choral sections. One irritation is that some of the symphonies are split over two CDs, even though their length is such that they would fit onto a single CD. It would also have been great if a completed version of the 10th symphony had been included in the set, such as the well-known orchestration by Deryck Cooke. Instead we have only the first movement fully completed by Mahler. However, these are small niggles.

On the whole Tennstedt has produced excellent interpretations of all the symphonies. His approach is solid and traditional, with none of the extremes sometimes shown by conductors who wish to take a fresh and perhaps controversial look at a work. This is not the place to go into lots of detail for the Mahler expert. For that you are referred to Tony Duggan's comparative overview of several different recordings of Mahler Symphonies found at Classical Music on the Web. You may be aware that Mahler frequently made alerations to his works over time. A much noted instance of this is the order of the 2 middle movements of the 6th symphony. In this recording the Scherzo is played before the Andante although Mahler changed his mind and reversed this order and (the programme note by Barry Millington claims) changed his mind again later.

If you are about to add Mahler symphonies to your CD collection, or only have 2 or 3 at the moment and want to complete the set, then this Tennstedt set can't be faulted as a low cost way to achieve that objective. The set can be purchased online from the UK site, or from the US site