What is the best sounding Mahler symphony cycle?

Folks... I love Mahler but my two versions of the 5th sound very low-fi. I am looking for a well --- really well --- recorded 5th on redbook CD --- or better still... a whole mahler symphony cycle that is audiophile (or... near audiophile quality.

Any help would be appreciated
I'm going to go with Maris Jansonn/Concertgebou for the 5th. Very good performance and very good sonics. I don't have a complete cycle that is uniformly good. I do like the David Zinman on RCA, especially the 3rd and 10th.
MTT on SFSO (SACD) His 5th is excellent.
Abbado on EuroArts and Accentus (BluRay) #8 yet to come

Many (perhaps too many) excellent Mahler sets but you get to choose.
If you like Bernstein, "Mahler: The Complete Symphonies" box set has Lenny and the NYP at their best. It contains performances from the 1960s and has the most amazing remastering of any classical CD I've ever heard.
(DSD-remastered, 2008).

For a single 5th with good sound, try Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic (1993)
Abbado is one of the greatest interpreters of Mahler for sure. I don't know if his most recent recordings with the Lucerne Festival are available on CD, though, they might be just DVD.
Bernstein and Abbado are great Mahler conductors for sure, but the recordings are not really audiophile quality. I still like Abbado best of all on the first, Bernstein on the 2nd, Zinnman on the third, Solti on the 4th, Jansons on the 6th, Bernstein then Abbado on the 6th, Zinman again on the 7th, no favorite on the 8th or 9th, and Zinnman on the 10th. I have not heard any of the MTT recordings.
Thanks to each of you! The Bernstein box sounds like a good place to start. Abbado for an independent 1st and 5th seem to be reasonable to purchase as well. Again.. thanks.
I can, unabashedly, say that I have heard most of these and find something appealing in almost all of them. However, the OP was asking for "audiophile quality" and, for me, that means a well-balanced and high resolution recording. This eliminates all the Bernsteins, unfortunately.

However, the Abbados on BluRay are superb in every way as are the MTTs and many others on SACD (Chailly, Boulez, Jansons, etc.) Zinman doesn't move me and the sound is only OK, imho.
If you are looking for high quality audiophile approved recordings, MMT's performances are easily some of the best CD's available. As with everything else, however, his performances may or may not be your cup of tea, but I too can recommend his 5th. Zanders performances of Mahler on Telarc are also excellent recordings and include a CD in which Zander discusses the symphony.

Performance wise, if you like your Mahler a little more expressive, consider either Bernstein cycle. You can't go wrong, except with the Vienna Phil set on DG you may want to substitute out the 9th for his recording of it live with the Berlin SO recorded live in 1979, an outstanding performance I think!
To me the Solti/Chicago set is better than Bernstein.
To my ears the best sounding set, at least on redbook. is the Phillips Haitink/Concertgebouw. He also has the great Maureen Forrester and Ely Ameling not to mention the Amsterdam Chorus.
Haitink is less "sturm and drang" than most which I like better myself. YMMV
Off subject I know, but I am just listening to a wonderful live BBC Promenade concert of Mahlers 2nd by the Bavarian Radio Symphony, conductor Mariss Jansons. I don't know if you colonials can get quality internet feeds or Radio transmissions of the Proms. If you can, this Summer series of 7 day a week daily concerts on BBC Radio 3, is not called the worlds best concert series for nothing.

The Complete Ring cycle in Concert performance by Barenboihm 2 weeks ago, was just magical. CD and LP get a break when these concerts are on every year from July to September.
Best sounding Mahler cycle? It is a question very difficult
to answer.

Since Haitink is mentioned here, should Kubelik, Tennstedt,
Sinopoli and Boulez be nominated for a fair comparison?

Also for East European interpretations, there are cycles of
Neumann and Kondrashin available.

Happy Listening!

Yu11375 wrote:
Best sounding Mahler cycle? It is a question very difficult
to answer.

I would put none of the ones you mention in the category of "best sounding" although they each have their felicities with regard to performance.
Brownsfan and I really like our classical; just want to clarify one thing. The Bernstein box set is a technical achievement in remastering, but not audiofile. But the old style of mic'ing and mixing the orch and great sonics makes it more pleasurable to listen to than many modern recordings.
The Lenny/VPO is early digital with terrific sound. The soundstage is very open with lots of detail. I say both are worthwhile.
Wow! I don't know the comment can be this definite ("....none of the ones....") and critical in this forum. For a person posted more than 1850 answers in all categories, the person must be extremely knowledgeable.

Please discard my naive suggestion.

But it is nice to see Newbee and Brownsfan are here.

Let me retire from this conversation. Excuse me!
Robsker, I didn't realize you wanted reco's on Mahler #1. There are a lot of excellent #1's, in fact I think it is one of the easier to perform, record, and listen to. But, that said, if you haven't already pulled the plug on this, do consider Zander's #1 on Telarc, and not just because of it's recording but because of it's disc mate Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen sung by Christopher Maltman, a fine performance of one of Mahler's orchestral lieder.

While I'm sure there are quite a few recordings of either piece that folks might prefer, none will be found together on CD that I am aware of, and to my ear both pieces fit together as if there were meant to be heard as recorded here. It gets a lot of play time at my home.

And, if you are late to come to Mahler's lieder, its is a great piece and recording to start out with.
Newbee, thanks for opening the door on the Lieder! My hands down favorite is the Bis recording (Malkki& Karneus) of Kindertotenlieder, RuckkertLieder, and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Oh my, I do love this recording!
I agree with the BIS, if they ever made a bad recording I've never heard it and BIS is always my go if sound is primary.

Who ever produces this label is the very epitome of good taste.
Schubert...BIS is very mysterious; their website says that Naxos is their distributor. Have you ever made a purchase?
Just saw the Zander is recording the Mahler 2 on Linn. Called a "new partnership." Not really a huge fan of Zander, but a Mahler 2 on Linn is going to get my money. Late September release in GB, probably a little later in the US.
Hey, Yu11375, I was trying to keep this on-topic and was not criticising your general recommendations.

My love for Bernstein's Mahler knows few bounds. His NYPO M2 turned me on to Mahler and his late 6th DG is, imho, unsurpassed. I will never forget his last performances of the M2 and Das Lied von der Erde with the NYPO.

I also treasure the Sinopoli, Kubelik, Neumann and Boulez recordings (and I did mention Boulez' more recent ones on SACD).

However, aside from the recent Boulez SACDs/BluRays, I would not recommend any as "audiophile quality" and that was what the OP asked for. If he had not made that qualification, I would not have commented on your post.

BTW, there is a spectacularly-recorded set being made by Marcus Bosch on Oehms. Some are, also, excellent performances. And I second the recommendation of the Zander/Maltman recording.
A definitive answer to the OP's question of audiophile quality is any of Zander's Mahler releases on Telarc. Although, I wouldn't consider Zander a top Mahlerian conductor, the Redbook CDs sound superb.
Lowrider, Yes I have about 40 BIS CD's -Naxox distributes doesn't make. Buy most in huge used store in St.Paul.

I look for current Nordic composers, stuff coming out of Sweden, Estonia and esp. Finland is fascinating to me.
thanks Schubert. I guess I'll have to use Google and Naxos. (BIS has a catalog).
Lowrider, Bis is available from all the usual on line outlets. As Schubert indicated, the artistic and sound quality is uniformly good, Very good label!
Just remembered, If you want the definitive Mahler 1, Jascha Horenstein with the LSO is it.
It was on Nonesuch LP for a long time, last time I saw one I belive it was on Unicorn CD.
All his Mahler is fab,I don't remember the sound, if you do find one I bet it ain't cheap.
You're right, Schubert. Prices for the Unicorn CD at Amazon range from $46 used to $52+ new, with one seller asking $130.

-- Al
Hey, is anyone interested in reviving this thread?  There have been an awful lot of Mahler recordings released since it petered out and I haven’t heard most of them.
  I used to be enthusiastic about the MTT/SFSO cycle, but as I have upgraded my system, I am now more air of its sonic limitations.  The Hall is pretty dead and airless.
  The reissue of Bernstein  first cycle is a revelation.  Some of those records sounded so bad, particularly the Seventh.  I read that the producer of those recordings mixed them with the thought that people would be listening to them on AM Car Radio.  Ugh.
  The as yet incomplete Vanska cycle sounds great as High Res download, but the performances are execrable.  Otoh the Honeck M5 is superb sounding and moving.
  Ivan Fisher Budapest cycle on Channel Classic Is the best sonic Mahler cycle
that I have heard, but as I mentioned at the top, there is a lot that I haven’t heard out there.  His brother with the Düsseldorf band lags far behind, imo.
An excellent series so far is Francois Xavier-Roth on Harmonia Mundi, sonics and performance.
For fans of the Fischer cycle, try the live recordings of Tennstedt with London Philarmonic — in many instances, simply breathtaking!
I really enjoyed listening to the 
Tennstedt/LPO on Qobuz. It's a very limited selection, so I think I'll go for the cycle that's available on Amazon.

Valery Gergiev's Mahler cycle with the London Symphony is available in a 10 SACD box. LSO - 0730. Live performances! I have it!
I haven’t heard Gergiev in Mahler, but I really dislike the sonics on all of the LSO Live recordings with which I am familiar.  There is only so much that can be done with that Dead Concert Hall, the Garbage Can.  Let’s hope that Simon Rattle succeeds in getting a new Hall built.
  I really like the Berlioz that I have heard from Xavier Roth with his period group.
   Tennstedt Mahler is something that I have never quite developed a love for.  I do have his Fourth, with Lucia Popp as the soloist, but while I’ve had some people praise his live performances to the skies, for me he sounds sternly Teutonic without the leavening Irony or sufficient Viennese Gemutlich.
@schubert , I'm listening to the Fisher via Qobuz. Really an excellent reading of Mahler. And the sound is outstanding; very well mic'd with ambience of the hall. 
Thanks for the recommendation. Possibly the best I've heard in years.

@schubert .  Len, I picked up the Fisher 4.  Struck me as good but not great.  Still like Solti on 4 though it is not great sonically.  What would you say are Fishers best Mahler efforts.   The next time you miss on a recommendation will be the first.
@mahler123.  Agree on the Gergiev LSO sonics.  Since the thread started I've picked up 3 and 6 Haitink/Chicago.  Great sonics, decent performances, especially the 3rd.   I have high standards on the third, having heard Welser-Most at Severance Hall in Cleveland live.  Otherworldly.
The Fisher recordings are great if you haven’t heard a top tier orchestra play Mahler. It’s more an “audiophile” recording than great performances. As for a recent recording there are so many excellent ones from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Berlin, and Concertgebouw. 
@mayoradamwest , @schubert 
The Fisher/Mahler are certainly audiophile quality recordings, and maybe that's one of the reasons for my enthusiastic response to them. I do think Fisher has a good grasp of Mahler from what I've heard. But since there's no compilation of the cycle, I'm exploring the symphonies one at a time.
It's a joy hearing symphonic music recorded with great care using proper microphone placement.

I think it's Grammaphone who lists the Budapest as a world class orchestra, currently rated at number 9.

To add to other's comments, I agree that Haitink/Chicago is top-class Mahler.

I think we are spoiled for choice in Mahler.  The greatest Orchestras —in no particular order, the Berliner Philharmoniker (the fashionable way  to refer to that ensemble), Vienna Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Chicago Symphony)—have all recorded multiple Mahler cycles. The Cleveland, London Symphony, Philharmonia have all had significant Mahler recorded histories.  The New York Philharmonic cycles with Bernstein (I am more familiar with the sixties cycle) and the London Philharmonic live recordings with Tennstedt represent two cycles with excellent ensembles /Conductor combos with particular Mahler affinities. 
  As I alluded to in my first post, lately there has been an explosion of Mahler recordings, many with Orchestras that perhaps aren’t thought of conventionally as ready for prime time.  Witness Fisher brother #2 and his hardworking Dusseldorfers.  I haven’t heard many of these although the reviews are excellent.
Regarding Haitink/CSO, I live in Chicago and was present at some of the concerts from which the aforementioned recordings were made.  My favorite Haitink/CSO Mahler concert was the First, and for some reason I never acquired the recording that was issued, because I don’t think it could match the experience of that night.
  I was a bit disappointed with the recording of the Third, which as I foreshadowed above, dulled the memory of a fine evening in the Hall.  To me the sound of the recording is a bit dry in places, and not consistent with my aural memory of the evening.  Curiously I don’t feel that way about the Haitink/CSO Sixth, but otoh the Sixth doesn’t really play to Haitink’s strengths (his Amsterdam recording is relatively blah, but his Amsterdam cycle on BluRay is a sonic treat).
Regarding Fisher and Budapest, I heard them in concert here this year on tour.  Their Channel Classics recordings strike me as being faithful at capturing their sonority.  They have a lean, finely chiseled sound.  Their woodwinds have great character.  The brass is finely tuned.  The CSO   brass would undoubtedly blow them halfway to Milwaukee if they had a shootout, but the Budapesters aren’t trying to win a testosterone war.  The Orchestra that they remind me the most of is the Czech Philharmonic, but the Budapest has a bit more heft in the strings.
@mahler123 that’s just the point with Budapest. They are a fine orchestra but really not at the same level as an orchestra like Chicago. While interpretation is a part, at some point it’s closer to a professional sport and some teams just have more talented players. Perhaps I am showing my hand, but as a player in professional orchestras, I find Budapest’s playing quite dull. 
As for that recording of Mahler 3 with CSO. I’m assuming you’re talking about the Resound release? That’s actually my favorite recording of the work. Maybe the “recording” sounds a bit dry, but the sound is there. The opening with the horns is intense and bright, with great attack. The posthorn (cornet is this case) solo in the 3rd Mvt is as wonderful as it’s ever been performed.  The strings and winds throughout play with emotion that comes through on every note. Really my only criticism is the trombone solo in the 1st being a bit too herky jerky, having heard it performed in Philadelphia by the wonderful Nitzan Haroz. 
I offer another example where most orchestras including Budapest just can’t match the top orchestras. Mahler 9. It is such a wonderful work, but must be treated with care. Budapest plays the notes on the page, but that’s not enough. In contrast, the more recent recording of Dudamel and Los Angeles is divine. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but it feels like they play every phrase just a bit longer than the page says, giving it this sweet, flowing character. Everything is rounded, and this brings a connectedness not found in other recordings. 
Like I said, if you’re just listening to a recording for how closely it matches the live performance, you’re an audiophile. I get it. When it comes to orchestra I care about that too, but I care far more about the performance. I want to hear how the very top musicians perform these works. The conductor is but one person. The manager, for sure, but an otherwise much less talented team is not going to perform a miracle. 
Sorry, hit the wrong button above.
I am not just an audiophile.  Most of my favorite recordings, of Mahler or any other Composer, would not win audiophile awards.  However, this is an audiophile site, and I would like to get feedback on what people think are the best sounding recordings.  I post in a few Classical Music sites, where audiophiles are routinely ridiculed as we are elsewhere.  So here I would like to indulge my love of sound and not be censored for it.
I think that you are being hard on the Budapest Festival Orchestra.  I am not claiming that it can equal Chicago or Vienna , etc.,for lung power, and I thought I made that pretty clear.  What they have done, however, remarkably well, is create a MittelEuropa type of sound, that may have been what the finest Orchestras that weren’t Berlin or Vienna may  have sounded like in Mahler’s day (and let’s not forget that GM worked quite a bit in the Hungarian Capital).
  If you wish to limit your listening to “how the very  top Orchestras perform these works” be my guest.  To imply that the Budapest is some kind of semi pro outfit that is out of their depth, however, is engaging in hyperbole.  I agree that the Fisher /Budapest Ninth isn’t competitive, as a performance with the very best, nor have I heard any Mahler recording by them that displaces any of my favorites.
This isn’t because the Budapest cycle is bad, but because the bar is so incredibly high.  Look how many Mahler recordings are out there!  Most of the greatest Conductors of the last 50 years are represented, along with quite a few “Who?”  What the Channel Classic recordings, are, however, are the most realistic reproduction of how the actual Orchestra sounds that I am personally familiar with.  They represent a fine Orchestra faithfully reproduced.  The performances are at worst passable.
Why stick to one conductor and one orchestra? You can compile your own favorite cycle.
Here’s mine:
#1: Bruno Walter / Columbia Symphony (columbia USA)
#2: Otto Klemperer / Philharmonia Orchestra (emi/columbia UK)
#3: Zubin Mehta / LAPO (decca)
#4: Georg Szell / Cleveland Orchestra (columbia UK)
#5: John Barbirolli / New Philharmonia Orchestra (hmv)
#6: Georg Solti / Chicago Symphony (decca)
#7: Leonard Bernstein / NYPO (DGG)
#8: Georg Solti / Chicago Symphony (decca)
#9: Bruno Walter / Columbia Symphony (columbia USA)

This is almost exclusively based on the original vinyl issues (except the Bernstein 7th), but I’m sure these performances are all available on cd or SACD. Don’t know about the quality of the digital transfers, but the sound quality on vinyl is mostly excellent (exceptional in the case of the Mehta 3rd).


Of course no one is restricted to just one cycle, and not every conductor has an equal affinity for each piece.  So here goes.
#1 Horenstein/LSO
#2 Abbado/Chicago 
#3-Bernstein/NYP first recording. Abbado/Lucerne 
#5-Honeck/Pittsburgh or Walter/NYP (mono)
#6-Karajan/BPO. #7 Bernstein/NY Phil (Sony)
#8 Solti
#9 Karel Ancerl/Czech PO

Das Lied-Reiner or Walter (stereo)

#10. Without getting into the question of which edition—Dausgaard/Seattle 

I like your choices, all of which I have in my collection, except the Mehta (had it on  vinyl but sold off my analog rig a few years ago).
Re:Budapest. I didn’t say they’re terrible. Just way way overrated. 
Good choices above from both of you. The Mehta LAP Mahler 3 for me is a bit polite. Very well done played but the recording itself strikes me as being from just a bit too far away. It looks like the preferences for both of you skew to older recordings perhaps hints at your generation. My preference skews towards many of the newer recordings from the big 5 plus LA with notable exceptions for Chicago and LA from the mid 20th. 
I have many of these on vinyl as well (not the most recent ones of course which aren’t on vinyl)

It seems both of you like the Bernstein #7. An excellent performer, but I never felt the brass in the NYP from that era up to the task of the very brass-heavy 7. I’d recommend the Cleveland (Boulez - 1996) recording. It’s simply stunning. 

My choices have to do with vinyl being my primary source, but I guess they date me as well 😕

On original vinyl the Mehta #3 has no rivals sonically, although as a performance the Bernstein (both the CBS and DGG recordings) may be superior.

I forgot to mention Das Lied von der Erde, but here Klemperer on HMV Angel has my preference (yep, another oldie). As for #10 (Cooke version), I like the Rattle on EMI, but I'll admit that I haven't heard any other performances.