Sunday, 3 January 2010

Gustav Mahler: his SACD time will come?

The Mahler anniversary bonanza of 2010-11 (that’s 150th birthday followed by centenary of death) seems of be off to a quiet start, but I can’t help the feeling that we will have had more than our fill of the man 24 months from now. I say that as a passionate Mahlerian myself, but one who is struggling to think what else the orchestras of the world can possibly do with his work, having spent the last 20 years or so more than making amends for their previous neglect.

One thing they could do is fill the gaps in the composer’s SACD discography. His are symphonies that make great showpieces for recording technology, and just as the composer’s centenary in 1960 ushered in the era of stereo recordings of his work, so the 150th looks set to mark the start of the SACD era of Mahler recordings. Or so I hope. Could it be, in years to come, that folks look back on these years and think first and foremost of the David Zinman cycle with the Tonhalle? He is my top choice among the current Mahler heavyweights, but perhaps history will judge him too mainstream. Mariss Jansons could yet become the Mahlerian of our times, although on the evidence of his recent BRSO 7th Symphony recording, his interpretations are likely to remain on the peripheries for some time yet, if only for their bold originality. Then, of course, there is Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. It is unlikely that they are going to get as far as a full symphony cycle in the near future, but it is a tantalising idea. I have to say that I am itching to invest in one or all of these propositions, but perhaps I’d better wait until the end of next year and see what, if anything, the industry has up its sleeve.

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