MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor
Anne Sofie Von Otter, mezzo-soprano; Vienna Boys' Choir; Women's Chorus of the Vienna Singverein; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Pierre Boulez, cond.
DGG SACD 474 298 (2 CDs) (F) (DDD) TT: 59:40 & 35:48 (5 channel) (HYBRID)

MESSIAEN: Turangalila-symphony
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, pianist; Takashi Harada, ondes martenot; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
LONDON SACD 470 627 (F) (DDD) TT: 76:54 (5.1 channel) (HYBRID)


One winner, one loser. Many have admired Pierre Boulez's Mahler for his honest adherence to what the composer wrote. Bernstein, Haitink, Solt—and most others— are far more expressive. I find this new recording of Symphony No. 3 to be sterile and quite unimaginative. Recorded in Vienna's Musikverein Grosser Saal in February 2001 with five different individuals as various producers and balance engineers (plus "New surround mix & new stereo mix" by Rainer Maillard), we have here an antiseptic sound picture with little resonance and limited low bass. The imporant bass tromone solo in the first movement is louder than the eight French horns playing fortissimo to open the movement. In spite of the 5.l channels there is little concert hall presence—the orchestra is in front of the listener, rather like in a vacuum. Another problem is that the symphony is spread out onto two CDs, with a total playing time of less than 96 minutes; surely there should be a filler for a set of two premium-price CDs. Who ever would have thought this early in the SACD multi-channel era there would be two recordings of Mahler's Third and Sixth symphonies? Michael Tilson Thomas' San Francisco recording of No. 3 is far superior sonically to this new DG issue (see REVIEW), a far more interesting interpretation as well.

Chailly's 1992 recording of Messiaen's massive Turangalila-symphony had been praised ever since its initial release. It sounded quite spectacular in regular stereo; now with the benefit of the sonic improvement of SACD, it is even better. Producer Andrew Cornall states when they examined the original muti-track recordings of the sessions they found they had tracked many instrumental groups separately: celeste, vibraphone, mirimba "and the like" stretched behind to the left, the ondes martenot behind to the right, the massive percussion behind and to the left of the orchestra, horns and brass center back and to the right, strings and woodwinds in their normal positions. The result is a huge mass of gorgeous sound—but don't have the level too high or the piercing sound of the ondes martenot might be too much for you. The only other multi-channel recording of this music is the DVD Audio version with André Previn and the London Sympony (REVIEW); this one is better in every way.