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.
I will say straightaway that there is no need for equivocation about this live Eighth; it is, quite simply, the finest thing I've ever heard or seen Dudamel do . . . [throughout, Dudamel is] actively shaping and moulding the performance most impressively and revealing a full command of Mahler's score. He's greatly assisted by an acute response from the combined orchestra. They play with impressive power and unanimity . . . The soloists are very impressive . . . Alexander Vinogradov is an imposing Pater profundus while Brian Mulligan gives an impassioned account of the Pater ecstaticus solo . . . Anna Larsson is very fine while Julianna Di Giacomo excels in the Gretchen role . . . Duffy sings beautifully and the overall effect is wonderful . . . This is a formidable achievement by all concerned. First and foremost it's a colossal achievement by all the performers whose musicality and sheer stamina must be saluted . . . The achievement by those responsible for recording and filming the performance is equally great. The sound is excellent: Mahler's huge climaxes are thrillingly conveyed, without overload, but also a tremendous amount of detail is captured . . . they've managed impressively to convey the sheer scale of the enterprise and also they've been just as good at focusing in on individual performers -- and on the conductor. . . This is a remarkable performance and a record, too, of a special event in the annals of Mahler performance. I urge you to experience it for yourself.
. . . thrilling . . . Not only is this live performance, combining two concerts from February 2012, miraculously coherent when it could have turned into a mob scene, but as a source of shared communal love it's unmatched . . . The glow in the faces of these singers, so obviously proud and filled with promise, makes tears well up in the viewer . . . Dudamel's solo group isn't an ensemble of superstars -- I was familiar with only Anna Larsson and Alexander Vinogradov, both outstanding on this occasion -- but they fit the bill, and tenor Burkhard Fritz must have been having one of the best nights of his career. The tidal wave of sound issuing from the chorus challenged my playback system, but it lacked nothing in the rapture this music is meant to convey . . . [the long orchestral introduction of Part Two is particularly tricky, but happily,] the Dudamel spell doesn't break, and he accomplishes everything he needs to, as do his soloists . . . [in the video filmed we catch] extraordinary glimpses of young South American musicians from impoverished backgrounds sharing desks with veterans of the LAPO on equal footing, and that, too, is among the most touching aspects of the performance.