Mahler 8th Symphony

Who conducts your favorite performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony?
I know it’s hard to get into and over all the counterpoint and screaming in Part I, but
who does that best?   
And how about the divine Part ll?  Who holds it together best?  
Of course SQ plays a big part in Mahler’s symphonies most especially in this one.  
You might want to comment on that as well.

I have an opinion, but I’d like to hear your’s first






You describe the 8th quite well I think. You could have convinced me that  Part I and Part II were composed as separate symphonies:-) FWIW, and I’ll admit that its not much as I haven’t explored it much, if at all, subsequent to my discovering Solti’s performance with the CSO. At least this version seemed to me to hold both Parts I and Part II together. Sonics were fairly good, so I stopped. I think I’d as soon go to hell as to do a comparative analysis of this work.


  I’m not planning a comparative analysis of the work.  Just informally based on past listening.








Excellent choices above notwithstanding, I recommend the following exceptional performances:

- Horenstein / LSO from 1959

It is an exciting performance, intensive, and keeps you focused throughout. Part 2 begins in a measured manner and builds up dramatically. I also like the tempo in Part 1 - it helps create a continuity throughout the piece. Note the mood created by the childrens’ choir...

Reissued in BBC legends, the sound is OK, I’d call it well above average.

- Mitropoulos / Vienna Philharmonic - Choir, etc / LIVE, Salzburg festival (1960)

Long story short, part II is an emotional powerhouse. Not a reviewer, so I cannot wax lyrical about it; you need to listen to it.

The sound is mediocre -- but, that’s all we have, so we have to live with it.

Reissued on Orfeo



Although I admire many of the above choices, for me the performance that gets to the heart of the symphony is the Solti from 1971, mentioned above.
Part ll is especially moving and holds together magnificently. Some performances tend to wander aimlessly.

I know Solti’s Mahler is looked down upon by some connoisseurs, but he does it for me.

The art of musical performance is for me and for psycho-acoustics anyway still a mystery ...

This mystery is not a simple objective mystery as of many question in science which anyway are sometimes without end but at least the question can be clearly ask and the beginning of an answer given valuable for everyone ; spiritual questions in art are a mystery resembling a mysterious galaxy whose parts speak to someone but not to everyone , because nobody access all the mysteries meaningful  parts and planets but access  fully his own corresponding part ...

Wholeness is a speaking gestures who speak differently to each of us .... and each of us is a galaxy too ...

Then Solti is the one for you ....Bernstein for me ....😊



“You could have convinced me that Part I and Part II were composed as separate symphonies”

Perhaps having that in mind, Mahler directed that in performance, there be a five minute break between the two Parts.

I like the Solti a lot, but, I have not listened to it in a long time because I have it on LP and I rarely listen to classical on LP these days.  The Horenstein mentioned above is also very good, it just slipped my mind.

I guess that the five minute pause between parts is to give listeners time to go to the restroom given the nearly hour long duration of the second part.


I have CDs of the Sinopoli and Inbal (and many others) you mention above, but haven’t listened to them in years.

I believe Mahler really comes into his own in Symphonies 7-9. Of course the early “Wunderhorn” symphonies are magnificent as well, but there is a definite maturity in the last three (I’m not mentioning the unfinished 10th or “Das Lied…” (but they certainly apply) because they’re not complete symphonies. One could make an argument for each of the last three as being the “best.”
I prefer them over the first six, wonderful as they may be. As I’m listening to the 8th right now it’s the best for me , but that changes with each different one. The variety in Part ll of the 8th staggers the imagination.
‘ All his symphonies are so different. You have to marvel at the creativity of the master.

RV, for the most part we agree I think. I cut my teeth on Mahler with Levine's 7th. I still prefer it but there are several versions out now that are pretty good. I do like MMT's version with the SFO. FWIW I attended a different performance of it live in SF, sat in the lower balcony, and was very disappointed, either me or MMT went to sleep! I love the 9th, many excellent recordings but I remain very partial to Bernstein's performance with the Berliner Phil, a 1979 live recording that just blows me away! If you have never heard it try to.

We probably disagree on the importance (to ourselves, of course,) of Mahler's 8th, and I would have to replace it with the 6th. It's got some real meat on the bones both in the lyrical portions and more dramatic ones, and the ending is to die for (couldn't resist). 

And, speaking of dying, or rising as it might really be, the last movement of the 2d is a lease breaker except, thank God, I don't have a lease to break. Emotionally speaking, for me at least, it falls into the category of the 1st act of Puccini's La Boheme performed by Freni & Gedda and conducted by Thomas Shippers. 

All good stuff!


It took me many years to get into the 7th. It was a vast wasteland to me. Finally, an Abbado recording did the trick. Now whenever I hear it I think it’s the best.
The finale of the 8th in the Solti recording emotionally blows me away and is a lease breaker as well.
The 1st movement of the 9th may be some of the most profound music ever written.

i’ll give the Bernstein recording of the 9th another listen.

It’s the one Mahler Symphony that I play infrequently.  Solti/Chicago for the thrills.  This work doesn’t respond to subtlety 


There was a time when it was impossible for me listen to the 9th without tears coming to my eyes. The wistful longing of the 1st movement  was unbearable. Unfortunately I’m not able to reach that level of emotion these days. It is however still shakingly beautiful to me.
The Bernstein recording definitely rises to that level. His approach is a little over the top to me. I’m used to a more stoic presentation.
Believe it or not my first encounter with it was from a Russian conductor: Kirill Kondrashin. It changed my life. Since then I’ve gone through a myriad of performances including a live one by Solti in Carnegie Hall.
The Bernstein is right up there with the best.

Some interesting thoughts on Mahler’s 8th from this gentleman. I agree with his top pick. Recommended.

Antoni Wit cond. Warsaw Philharmonic on NAXOS.


This new recording by the Minnesota Orchestra under the direction of Osmo Vanska of Mahler’s 8th should not be missed. 


Solti - Chicago - 1971

Stunning performance and unbelievable (for 1971) recording that is still stellar in 2023. Oh my goodness. 

I’m going to attempt to start a thread entitled “My favorite classical records”.    
  I don’t know if there’s much of an audience for it, but the response to this thread is encouraging.