When evaluating a recording, several criteria for consideration come to mind: naturalness of the recording itself; quality of the performing artists; cohesiveness and balance of ensemble (ensemble playing); and the interpretation. These are listed in inverse order of importance with the last and most important two being largely under the purview of the conductor. With so architecturally massive a work as Mahler 3, a significant commitment of dedicated listening time must be allocated in order to better, if not fully, appreciate Mahler's intellectual and spiritual soundworld. To paraphrase Mahler, "people may need some time to crack these nuts." It's a real challenge for a maestro to unify the large forces involved and produce a logical and successful musical experience for the critical listener. For such a work to be considered successfully performed, the huge final Langsam movement MUST present the continuously evolving melodic line effectively to a satisfying culmination in the D Major coda. It is interesting to consider (and hear) Mahler's original plan of 7 rather than 6 movements for this symphony...the final movement of the 4th symphony being originally composed as a 7th movement for the 3rd. symphony. (Try appending it yourself to hear the resulting effect). Considering the disrupting influence which this seems to have upon the structural balance of the total work we can easily appreciate Mahler's wisdom in revising his own design. So how do we measure a great performance? Ideally, it would be successful in all of the first mentioned characteristics. But is this too much to ask? I think so. Granted, on average orchestras are better today and recording technology, when done well, is very much improved. Yet one can ask, does this generation of maestros have more to offer than those who were closer to or contemporaneous with Mahler himself? What of Mengelberg and Barbirolli? And I would like to have heard what Furtwangler's Mahler might have sounded like given his sense of the grand scheme. Do we like a performance because it just pleases us, or because we have studied and hopefully understand Mahler and it please us? Is it because we appreciate the brilliance of the orchestra or the reputation of the maestro? Or perhaps because a particular recording makes our audio system sound better than anything else we've heard? The investment of enough time should provide the appropriate answer for each of us.