What is a good intro to "Mahler"?

I have not listened to any of Mahler's work, but I am a classical fan and would be interested in learning more about his work.

What do you recommed as a start-off symphony? Something with life and fire! Must have great sound and perdormance.

And finally, I am a vinyl fan. Need to have it in that format. Thanks all!

I'm a Mahler fanatic, which makes this question doubly hard to answer.

My absolute favorite Mahler symphony is the 9th. It is very personal and beautiful, but lengthy and maybe not the best "starter".

#1 and #4 are more accessible as "starters". But they'll leave you begging for more. I you like symphonies with big choral additions, #2 would be a great intro to Mahler's style in that vein - lots of fireworks!

Look for any Leonard Bernstein recording on vinyl. The Deutsche Grammaphon series sounds very nice.
got any tough requests :-D normally i would recommend starting with symphony #1 and progressing thru #9. however since you want "life" and "fire" in great sound and performance, i would suggest starting w/#2 the Resurection Symphony, its got it all for a newbie to mahler. I have tennstadt on EMI lp. for cd i would recommend mehta on london. if you can find bernstein on LP give it a listen.
I second the 2nd. One requirement - listen to it without interuption all the way through, on a date and time you will be allowed to do so.

I have about 6 or 7 LP versions, but so far I prefer, as do many other Mahler fans I know, the Bernstein with the NYP, originally on Columbia(?). Hard to find on vinyl, but Sony has just reissued the Bernstein/NYP Mahler symphonies on CD. The press is positive and the price is around $60.

After repeated listenings, I think you will find this a symphony that will stay with you for a lifetime. Enjoy!!
If you really want to appreciate Mahler (a complex and fascinating individual), I would suggest you start by reading about him. A very good reference is "Mahler" and "Mahler: Vienna" both by Henry Louis de la Grange. Personally, I enjoy his music more now that I have an insight into his composing. If you want a great piece to start with, try Symphony No.1 by the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi). It's got it all; from an outstanding performance to - what we crave - sonic gymnastics.
Try any of the Zander recordings on Telarc. They are excellent and include an interesting and informative commentary by Zander.
I've always loved Kindertotenlieder, sung by Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, on DG - very easy to find on vinyl. Gorgeous songs, gorgeous orchestral accompaniment, unlike anything else out there!
If you must have vinyl, then Bernstein, or if you can find it Bruno Walter.

On CD I'll second that a great "introduction" are the recordings conducted by Benjamin Zander. Ben is an excellent interpreter of Mahler. His recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London in particular (on Telarc) come with a second CD, where Ben gives a lecture analysing the whole piece.

Ben is also Music Director of the Boston Philharmonic. There are a couple recordings by them also. Ben's main activity is teaching at the New England Conservatory in Boston.
His star cello student is Yo Yo Ma.

Also a live recording of the 9th by Von Karajan on DG is very good.

Beg to differ - slightly: Mahler 5th is my recommendation for starters (I like the Barbirolli version on EMI -- hard to find on vinyl though) THEN 2nd (can also recommend Klemperer/PSO) then 1st (I like the Walter/NYSO version).

A live Bernstein/Berliner recoding on DG of the 9th is excellent IMO.

Das Lied von Erde & the Kinder should come later, I think -- whenever you feel introspective.

Very powerful music.
Start with the 1st, then 2nd, then 4th, then 5th, then 3rd, then 7th, then 6th, then 8th and finaly 9th. This is the way I think you could appreciate Mahler's symphonies from "more" to "less" accesible for starters. All Mahler's symphonies are GREAT, but my favorite ones are 9th, 2nd,6th and 1st. I would recommend you Claudio Abaddo for the 1st and 2nd, and Bernstein for the 4th and 5th. Finally, the most recommended and perhaps the most known movement (one of the most beautiful adagios ever) for a starter is the 4th movement of the 5th symphony. Good listening.
I agree with Jorge_err. I was never a big Mahler fan, as my Dad never liked Mahler so I didn't hear it much in our home. I've sort of been exploring Mahler the last few years. The most accessible of his symphonies is the First, and the best recording I've heard of it (performance is good, sonics astounding-a Peter McGrath recording) is James Judd with the Florida Philharmonic on Harmonia Mundi. Everyone has a favorite Mahler 2, I have a few I listen to. For the 4th, I'd suggest Klemperer on EMI; for the 5th, Solti on Decca or the new Telarc release with Zander, absolutely spectacular on SACD. Take it slowly, and be prepared for emotion, as Mahler put everything he was feeling into his music, part of what makes it as great as it is.
Greg is right to my mind. I would leave the Lied von der Erde and the Kindertotenlieder for much later. I second his suggestions as for the sequence of the symphonies as well as for the conductors and orchestras. I would start with the 5th and then go to the first and second. The Barbirolli is sonically excellent as well. If you cannot find any of the above, Greg has suggested, I'd go and hunt for the Bernsteins. Forget Mahler on CD. It just does not come across in this format.
I was listening to Das Lied von der Erde last night! Jessye Norman, etal, Berlin/James Levine on DG. Not sure how it compares to others. I bought it cheap from a local record store going out of business.
RCprince, thanks for pointing out that Zander Telarc release on SACD. I'll give it a try, I think. Cheers,
This is just wonderful....thanks for all the responses!

Russ....good to see (read) you again!
Sugar, try K Ferrier/B Walter for Das Liede. Very moving performance... Keep a bottle of Scotch handy, and stay away from windows.
True Greg, as we exchanged notes on another thread, Kathleen Ferrier is not to be beat here. Dieskau is too mannered for my liking and besides it needs a woman to express that kind of grief. One must be brutish, to be not moved by that voice and that expression. Scotch is not enough and it also tends to dull senses too fast. I would suggest half a bottle of Mouton R. before and the rest, while listening. Cheers,
Detlof, can we share TWO bottles? I'll ease you out of the remaining half bottle of Mouton (pity to leave it in the bottle)before, and we can tackle the next one during!
BTW, speaking of Mahler, has anyone heard Neumann's version of the 5th with Gewandhaus Leipzig (Philips LP, Berlin classics cd - I think)?
Greg, your place or mine ?!
Detlof, how about we try both places? No point in abandoning those Moutons in their solitary cellar...
I just listened to the 1st (Claudio Abbatto) and the 2nd....Bernstein! WoW!! I was really struck by these two symphonies. His (Mahler) work is quite interesting. I appreciate all the info you gave me!
Is Mahler's Symphony No. 5 currently available on LP? I've been searching several sites without any luck. I'm looking for a new or sealed copy.

not to my knowledge. look on ebay.
Only Mahler 5 I know of out on vinyl now is the Solti Super Analog Disc version available through Cisco Records, but as I mentioned in an earlier post it is extremely bass-heavy in this format. Try the used record shops or e-bay, I guess.
Rcprince is right, the Cisco is unlistenable, to put it bluntly. Why not get in touch with Mikrokosmos in Toronto. Peter Fueloep, the owner is a Mahler specialist and he deals in LPs an has got first class mechandise at very fair prices.
Thanks for the advice, unfortunately prior to reading this, I found a copy of Mahler's 5th from super analogue and purchased it. I was so happy to find a new copy that I didn't hesitate. Hopefully it wont be too bad. Of the Mahler recordings that are currently available on vinyl, which 2 or 3 would be the best bets?

From used specialist dealers you can probably find:
Mahler 3 Horenstein Unicorn pressing. Not Nonesuch.
Mahler 2 Klemperer EMI pressing NOT Angel.
I'm looking for the LP Mahler #3 Horenstein....difficult to find (so far)!
Ethannnn, try also to get the Klemperer Mahler 4, available currently from the mail order dealers as one of the EMI reissues (Testament?). And hey, if your speakers don't go too far below 50hz, maybe the Cisco will be listenable?
Thanks for the tip, I am new to classical and vinyl so I expected making some mistakes. Can you recommend a good recording of Beethoven's Egmont Overture? I have a copy from Classic records but felt the pace was too slow. I'm looking for pieces that are grand and engaging, ideally with moments of delicacy. The ONLY 2 classical records I own are Beethoven's Egmont Overture and the pending Mahler 5th Symphony. Any recommendations on recordings currently availble on LP that I should try?


By the way, I do have full range speakers with full tube equipment so I'm curious to hear what the Cisco recording will sound like. :)
ethannnn, I realize that your into LP's big time - i don't know what your CD source stuff is - i assume its up to speed, therefor - Unfortunatly, Mahler didn't get recorded a lot before Walter, Bernstein and Abravennel in the 60's. Good vintage Mahler LP's are very hard to find - There are many excellent CD's of Mahler performances that are arguably much better than what you will find on the lp's that are generally available on the used market. If you're into excellent performances of mahler, ask - if you just want lp's currently available, i can't help.
I think you should not limit yourself to vinyl Mahler. I own almost all of the Mahler that was issued on LP since I bought my first Mahler LP in 1964. In my earlier years I made a point of listening to every Mahler symphony recording and I bought most of them.

By 1964 there had been about 30 commercial recordings of Mahler symphonies. By the early days of the CD (1986) the number had grown to 300. As of 1997, the date of the latest Smoley Mahler discography, the number was around 1000!

Probably around 100 are really "must listen" performances if you like Mahler. While for each of the symphonies there is a truly great recording available somewhere on vinyl, many are either truly or practically available only on CD.

Furthermore, without starting another vinyl vs. CD flame, many of the CD reissues clarify Mahler’s orchestral textures over the original vinyl issues. This is particularly true if you only have domestic pressings of European recordings. This conclusion is based on direct comparisons listening with a score.

By sticking to vinyl you cut yourself off from some truly marvelous performances.
Thanks for the advice. Since my recent introduction into analog, I've been reluctant to listen cds. On my system, the differences between the two formats were not subtle. Unfortunately, this doesn't resolve the issue of source material. I love the sound of records but I hate the sound of old noisy records. Perhaps the answer is as you stated, support multiple formats, LP, CD, SACD, etc. My concern is, will my consciousness be listening for the best of performance or the best of sound?
Perhaps you should rethink your position re the music. My CD and my vinyl rigs are both into the five figures and I have many analog-CD duplicates so I think I have a least a basis for my comments.

The difference in sound between CD and analog is non existant compared to sound at the 50+ live Mahler performances I've heard over the years with the world's best orchestras and conductors.

I don't stop listening to recordings just because of the sonic gulf such that no recording is even comparable to well done live Mahler. If I did I would have missed hundreds of musically satisfying recorded performances. By listening only to analog you will be missing many superbly musical performances.
FWIW, i have an excellent (by any standard) LP and CDP set up. As time goes on i find myself listening more to music in my CD collection than the LP's. Everytime i put on an LP i have to do that audiophile ritual of cleaning etc the result is that i then try to justify what i'm doing by critiqueing the "sound" which takes my attention away from the performance itself. with CD's i just select what i want to hear and put it on, sit back and enjoy. I'll admit it didn't happen over night but i'm glad it did. Now the only LP's i listen to are the ones i select for the performance itself. The trick is in finding a CDP that does it for you, sonically speaking. One of the driving forces for me it doing the is the lack of software available for me on LP's, the Mahler situation is just a small example. Hope you find some middle ground.
"Good day. May I please introduce you to Mr Mahler?"
You both make good points, particularly from the standpoint of experience. Speaking with "new-comer's optimism," I'm sure my position will change in time. And you're right, it makes no sense to limit exposure to music due to format prejudice. I'll continue looking for new material, with an emphasis on music.
Wow, this Super Analogue is Super Bassy! It's too bad, it would have been a good recording otherwise. I wonder how they spent so much in the recording process and overlooked this?
I've found that a lot of the Super Analogues sound this way, compared to the originals. It's the remastering process, not the recording process; don't know why they're so heavy handed with the bass, and it's not always done on their reissues, either. If you're thinking of getting some of these, you might call Robert Pincus at Cisco next time you want to order, as he's been honest with me about whether the record I'm curious about is a good transfer and worth getting. As far as the Solti, whose performance I like and the recording of which, if you can listen through the bass level, seems decent enough, goes, see if you can find a copy of the original Decca in the used record bins (make sure its his analog, not digital, cycle). It may be that Speakers Corner or whoever is re-releasing a lot of the old Deccas (and doing an excellent job of it, without jacking up the bass levels) will do this title--they've already reissued the Solti Mahler 1 and 2, and I just got his Sacre du Printemps from them, so maybe...?
I can confidently second Rcprince"s Solti Mahler 1 on analog Decca as possibly the best ever Mahler 1 (but not 2).
It easily outclasses Horenstein's 1 (but no one beats his 3rd) and both Bernstein Columbia and DG cycles. The bumped up bass on the reissues, is reminicent of the heavy handed MFSL work on most of thier reissues........Frank
Further to my earlier posts on the Solti Mahler 5, I managed to get a very nice London pressing of the performance and, while the bass drum in the first movement is a little overdone, the record is nowhere near as bass-heavy as the Super Analog reissue; worth looking for if you like the performance. Also, for Detlof and the rest of you with SACD players, the SF Symphony Mahler 1 and 6 SACDs are well worth buying, in my view, both sonically and interpretively. Plus it helps support the orchestra, in a small way anyway.
I can't believe noone mentioned the Mengelberg recordings!!!??? There are in my book, 2 illuminative Mahler interpreters (owners). Mengelberg- who championed Mahler's music, and Bruno Walter who was Mahler's assistant at the Vienna Phil. If you like Mahler as it should be played, listen to any Mengelberg recording, such as.... the 4th with concertgebouw, the 5th with concertgebouw, and then Bruno Walter's 9th with Vienna which is nothing short of miraculous. They are quite different, I would say the Walter approach is slightly more catholic, but they both get the spirit of Mahler right.
I have the Horenstein/LSO on LP (Unicorn). Although I enjoy the analog sound, but the coda of the first movement is on the side 2! It's irretating to break my mood in the miidle of a piece, especially for Mahler's music. The Solti/CSO No.8 (London LP) sounds congested on my MMF-5 and I am glad I got the CD version. A $10k TT plus $5k cartridge may make a difference. The only exception is Solti/Concertgebouw/Stahlman, the CD is a little bit hash compared to LP. All mentioned are great performances, however.

Defintely check out the SACDs of SFSO/Thomas No 1, and 6. These are the closest to the analog sound you can get from a digital format.

For a intro to Mahler, my order are:

a) 1 and 4, and if you are hooked...
Read some articles about Mahler's life.
b) 7 and Das Lied von der Erde (the first 5 movements).
Read more books about Mahler's life, and browse through some songs from the following (no particular order)
c) Kindertotenlieder,
d) Ruckert Lieder
e) Des Knaben Wunderhorn
f) Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
g) 2 and 3, and if you can sit listening through without stop, then
h) 5, 9, and Der Abschied (last movement from Das lied, and now you can appreciate this whole work from first to last without stopping), and
i) 6, 8, and 10 (get the Rattle/BPO/EMI)

I always think Mahler's music are probably the best to test your HiFi euqipment. He has everything in a symphony, you name it, opera, chamber music, instrument solo, dynamic, soundstage, tone color, pipe organ, guitar, mandolin, celesta, and even hammer!)
Hope this help.
Buxter66 While Mengelberg is one of my favorite conductors, there is a problem with recommending Mengelberg's recording of the Mahler 5th. I doesn't exist. Unfortunately only the adagietto was recorded from the fifth.

Unfortuately, although Mengelberg performed all of Mahler's symphonies, the only recordings or airchecks that exist are the adagietto, the fourth and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.
I was referring to the adagietto. which is worth the price of admission. and honestly, it is the highlight of the piece for me, and I find the rest tiresome to both play and listen to unless I'm really in the mood.
another beautiful adagietto performance is in the movie "death in venice".