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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 3 - San Francisco/Michael Tilson Thomas

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Reviews: 7

Review by rsbeck June 8, 2003 (0 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is the only recording of Mahler's 3rd to which I have listened, so if you want to hear
comparisons to other renditions, I cannot help you. I can tell you that this is a wonderful performance that is only marred by some slight background hiss and crackle, which is most disturbing in the quiet moments when the volume is at reference level. Despite the troublesome background hiss, the sonics are fine, benefitting from SACD, and I keep going back to this performance.

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Review by snaftilan July 18, 2003 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
i do not understand why the other reviewer claims there is hiss. i hear great sound, good ambiance and soundstaging. the performance by Thomas is 1st rate, a bit more studied and perhaps less passionate than some, but very revealing of Mahler's use of the orchestra. Sound balance and frequency extremes are very good too.

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Review by peteyspambucket July 21, 2003 (2 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
While MTT's interpretations aren't the best ever, you can tell what he's trying for, and I can really appreciate that. The sound on this SACD is very good. I can appreciate the placement of the violins antiphonally. The sound is very realistic but from a distant perspective. This means that certain details can be masked when things get loud. I've heard this piece live about 7 times and I think while it could use even greater dynamic range, this SACD captures a live sound very well from about the 25 row back from the stage.

This interpretation is mostly limp and lifeless, with tempi often on the slow side and the playing not exhibiting playfulness where required. I don't mind when tempi are slow, but you have to play it with character to sustain the feeling. There isn't enough character even where it's so clearly needing more.

It's not the best Mahler 3rd recorded, but with the Mahler 3rd from Chailly recently released on SACD, there's little reason to get this one (or the Boulez one) unless you have to have an unidiomatic American symphony sound or if you're a MTT fan. The VPO plays better than the SFO on the Boulez, but I would say it's a toss-up for runner-up to Chailly at this point.

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Review by stvnharr December 2, 2003 (4 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
The Mahler 3rd symphony is such a wonderful piece of music. Through the years I have listened to many different recordings of this symphony, enjoying them all. But this one by MTT and SFO is just superb. The sound is really something else, clearly a few notches above the old cd sound of other recordings. And the sound just sweeps you away for the full 108 minutes. Oh, if only all recorded music could sound so good!!!

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Review by Monteverdi January 22, 2004 (2 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Another wonderful MTT/SFO installment in their Mahler Series. Although the final movement is pulled and stretched to the point of impending collapse, the performance and DSD recording are worth exploring.
©DAE 2004

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Review by Dr. O August 7, 2005 (6 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This Symphony by Mahler is a difficult one to pull off. Here we have expansive first and last movements. The "middle movements" tend to be more conventional, except for the charming 5th movement with it's playful children choirs.

The first movement is powerful. The lines drawn by Mahler and the realization of them by MTT and the SFS are spectacular for both their clarity AND their resolute conviction. The finale offers perhaps the greater challenge. Here the orchestra moves from peaceful mystery to an emphatic affirmation. MTT pulls this off with remarkable skill!

When the score calls for playfullness, MTT and the SFS ARE playful. But here is a symphony that calls for so much more! Mahler seeks to listen to and encompass Nature itself - the flowers and the animals - humanity and the angels - even Love itself - within the lines and notes of the score. And so there is a sublimity here as well.

Mahler's scope is vast in this 3rd Symphony. The listener should be left with a sense of the "unlimited" - and I believe that in this recording this sense has been magically captured. Congrats once again to MTT and the SFS for a job superbly done!

As an added PLUS, the five-movement Kindertotenlieder is included. The mezzo-soprano voice of Michelle DeYoung is extremely expressive, and each movement is lovingly handled by MTT and company.

Winner of the 2004 Grammy for Best Classical Album!

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Review by Luukas February 6, 2014 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Michael Tilson Thomas' Mahler cycle with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra is excellent: I have his recording of Mahler's Second Symphony, and this performance of Third Symphony is outstanding: this SACD got Grammy Award.
First movement's great funeral march is effective. San Francisco Symphony Orchestra plays powerful, and 5.1 multichannel recording sounds very cool. The second movement is also good and gentle: oboe's beautiful melody is sensitive and bright. Third movement's off-stage posthorn solo is stunning and movement's begin is much faster than Gergiev's (LSO Live) or Nott's (Tudor) recordings. Michelle deYoung's soft voice is excellent in symphony fourth movement and third movement's choirs sings beautifully. And, then comes great finale: the nature awakes. Strings beautiful thema is performed quietly (maybe pp (piano pianissimo)), and it grows in great power. Symphony's masterful end sounds very cool: timpani's strikes and orchestra's noisy D major chord sounds very cool in SACD: it surrounds the listener. All in all, outstanding recording and very grand listening experience. I can say that Michael Tilson Thomas' Mahler cycle is the best ever! You see below my personal Top 5 recordings list of Mahler's Third Symphony:
1) Michael Tilson Thomas (Avie)
2) Benjamin Zander (Telarc)
3) Jonathan Nott (Tudor)
4) Leonard Bernstein (DG)
5) Valery Gergiev (LSO Live)

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