Free Mahler

Free Mahler


norman lebrecht

May 06, 2010

The Orchestre de Paris is offering free streaming of the complete symphonies of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) as its centennial gift to the world. The details are announced on his website by its outgoing chief conductor, Christophe Eschenbach, and is being operated in conjunction with Medici TV and the Arte channel.

There appear to be no hidden traps or constraints. Once the orchestra has performed each symphony, it will remain available online until July 2011. All the details can be read, in English, at

There is just one shortcoming. I have a problem, and I am not alone, with Eschenbach conducting Mahler. Every symphony I have heard from him – tenth, second, first and sixth – has been rhythmically idiosyncratic to the point where I felt the conductor was imposing an irrational personal imprint on the music. I came out neither uplifted nor outraged, but mildly irritated by the conductor’s wilfulness, which seemed to me remote from Mahler’s intentions.

In my forthcoming book Why Mahler? I have a section that discusses close to 2,000 interpretations of the works. I am unlikely to listen to another Eschenbach interpretation when there are such thoughtful and fulfilling new releases from, among others, David Zinman, Paavo Järvi, Peter Vronsky and – I never thought I’d find him on the leaderboard – Roger Norrington, whose recent ninth lingers tenuously in my ear.

So try free Eschenbach by all means. Just don’t expect too much.


LATE EXTRA: The London Philharmonic are streaming the season’s final concert, containing Liszt’s seldom -heard Faust Symphony. Catch it here:


  • I can think of many other conductors whose Mahler I would prefer to have for ‘free’… but Norrington would not be among them. The recording of the ninth is nothing if not “idiosyncratic to the point where I felt the conductor was imposing an irrational personal imprint on the music”. Or, as one comment on my posting ( put it… “not so much a performance as a polemic”.