Before purchasing this Chailly Mahler 7, I had acquired the Abbado/Lucerne and the Boulez/RCO versions quite some time ago. Abbado's was very good for a 2005 recording, but today's technical advances have afforded Chailly notably better results. Boulez's version suffers from poor video quality.
I agree with almost all of Ian Giles' review regarding the Chailly performance, so I will restrict my comments to what I perceive to be fairly dramatic benefits of Chailly's version over the Abbado.
The sound recording sounds clearer and cleaner to me - in fact I hear more things going on from individual players than I did with Abbado. I use 5.1 DTS HD surround. If anybody's interested, I use a NAD surround receiver, Samsung blu ray player and Mirage Omni top end speakers, so my opinions are based on that system. The audio also sounds more impactful.
I'm a big fan of divided violins. Mahler, as well as most composers before him, has the first and second violins playing totally different things at the same time. Abbado lumped them all together, with the violas to the right side, which eliminated the ability to hear these contrapuntal differences.Chailly, as he has so far through his whole Mahler series, uses the split setup with the Leipzig Orchestra.
The other thing I liked better was the prominent role given to the timpani, both aurally and visually, much more so than in Abbado's set. At one point in the last movement, Chailly has the timpanist "get a little help from his friend"' as they both belt away two-handed on two adjacent timps. Quite an impact!
Directors and cameramen are now getting much more precise at following the composer as he passes the themes or lines from one instrument to another. These are usually split second moves as the video migrates from one camera to another. The other key to success here is to focus in on the most important instrument when the particular passage is being played by several participant diverse instruments. Chailly's engineers and director do a much better job than Abbado's, but then, this is ten years on, so this is to be expected.
So I do not agree with Ian that there's not much to choose between Abbado and Chailly. I still enjoy the Abbado, and watched it through again after watching the Chailly twice. My advice would be that if you have neither, get the Chailly, and if the you have the Abbado, get the Chailly as well. Chailly still has 1,3 and 10 to go. I generally have preferred Chailly to Abbado, except in #6, and I prefer Boulez's # 2 to both of theirs, mostly because of the magical way the soprano Diana Damrau rises imperceptibly out of the chorus in the finale.
Amazon is still asking $40 for this disc, but it is usually available from one of their third party vendors for $30 delivered. In any event, a great disc, beatifully played and conducted, with absolutely state of the art audio and video.
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