MAHLER Symphonie No. 8 Dudamel Blu-ray 0734890
. . . the musical values of this performance are very high . . . Although there are some moving instrumental passages, it is the rich and enthusiastic sounds of the chorus that makes this an overwhelming experience to see and hear . . . [somehow with the gargantuan number of performers assembled on the stage] as well as the non-stop enthusiasm of Dudamel himself, it all seems to work. It's dramatic to the extreme, awe-inspiring, and very moving. I see it's also available on Blu-ray with even superior surround sonics, but the visual portion looks excellent on the DVD. There are hi-res SACD versions available by Bernstein, Tilson Thomas, Kubelik, Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink and Kent Nagano, but . . . I don't think any can equal the astounding visual aspect of this video production.
With the most reliable attention-getter in the symphonic repertory, Dudamel sees Mahler's New World and raises him a continent . . . [Dudamel] sets a standard for cross-cultural music-making. Few events have been as primed for the camera yet prepared with such precision for the microphone . . . [Dudamel's charisma] also proves photogenic. So too does the camera take the viewer to the most interesting vantage points . . . Rarely has a chorus come off so perfectly balanced, even in the softest sections . . . Dudamel's concept of Mahler has deepened noticeably . . . The simple logistics of assembling these forces is laudable, as are the results.
This Symphony of much more than a thousand, with nearly 200 in the combined forces of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Simón Bolívar Symphony, maximises the advantages of group spirit and minimises the problems of monstrosity. The beginning, middle and end of Mahler's first-movement hymn to the creator spirit blaze with unsurpassable, open-toned fervor . . . guess it's the fervent Simón Bolívar strings who bring true intensity to the tremolos and heart to the soarings . . . most transponing are second soprano Julianna di Giacomo and baritone Brian Mulligan . . . [the event] is unique; enjoy it for what it is.
[Dudamel] wanted this occasion to be "as big as can be"; and certainly there can be no complaints about its sheer scale . . . Surely, this is the Real Thing . . . Add to this the political dimension -- an act of music-making that . . . bridges sharp political divides. Then add the almost palpable joy in music-making evident in both the performance (watching the children's chorus is almost worth the price of admission) and the unusually engaging bonus feature: clearly, an occasion well worth memorializing on Blu-ray . . . if you simply listened to this account, without the background, without the video, you'd rate it as very good . . . you're most likely to remember this Eighth for its energy . . . for the inevitability with which the players march into the recapitulation, for the jauntiness of the orchestra . . . in the second movement, and for the overwhelming build of the final chorus . . . [Dudamel] manages to boost the energy of the passages where they call back and forth to one another, just as he brings out the spirited interplay of the orchestral soloists . . . [this reading is not] simply a high-tension operation: There's plenty of quieter beauty here, for instance in the wonderfully colored opening to the second movement (Dudamel is especially good at balancing the passacaglia like aspect of the passage to create a sense of vague expectation) or in the gloriously transparent music featuring harps and keyboards toward the end of the second movement, especially when they accompany the Mater Gloriosa, luminously sung from on high by Kiera Duffy. Orchestral playing is excellent from first to last . . . when you're in the mood to immerse yourself in the sheer grandeur and humanity of the Eighth, this tremendous and life-affirming reading will win your heart. All in all, a cause for celebration.