The Berlin Philharmonic want to change the sound of Mahler

The Berlin Philharmonic want to change the sound of Mahler


norman lebrecht

September 28, 2011

Specifically, they are inviting anyone to submit a remix of their recording of the first movement of Mahler’s first symphony. As radical as you like. The site’s here.

Personally I have no problem with Mahler retakes by the likes of Matthew Herbert.

But this competition lacks focus. What, exactly, are the Berlin Phil trying to achieve – except, perhaps, to seem trendy?


  • Anonymous says:

    Hasn’t that always been Rattle’s shtick — to seem trendy? They lucked on a good one with the web simulcasts, but I wonder if that project’s clear conceptual merits are being borne out in DCH’s revenue.

  • Tony says:

    Sounds like a tautology to me. They have already changed the sound of Mahler if they recorded it in a way which can be remixed to such an extent as to change its musical nature.

    Call me old fashioned but I always thought classical recording was supposed to be a fair representation of what happens or at least might happen live in a good concert, maybe with a few embarrassing warts airbrushed to protect the performers and listeners.

    • Richard Hertz says:

      I will call you old-fashioned, and also, for god measure, dumb.

      Firstly, all tautologies are false. The very word itself defines it as indefinable.

      Number two – if you you take the raw audio of any classical music recording these days, they can all be remixed. A remix can be any amount or number of edits. Re: suffix meaning to do again. Mix: to combine. Everything with an edit be called a remix already.

      C) Who cares? We already know what Mahler sounds like live in a good concert. It sounds like Mahler. See Amazon or iTunes, or even something I’ve been told is a “record” store, and you can find hundreds (maybe millions even) of recordings of the symphonies. Why not add something new to the world?

      Classical music: damned if you do (try something new,) damned if you don’t (try something new.)

      At least they’re not playing the Blumine version of 1. Now that would be stupid.

      • Tony says:

        I may be old-fashioned, but you are incorrect in the detail. Remixing in this context has nothing to do with editing, which is a completely separate issue. In this context the term ‘remix’ means using a lot of microphones close to individual instruments and messing with the musical balance of the performance with knob-twiddling some time after the event. Composers go to a lot of trouble to write down their instructions. Conductors and performers go to a lot of trouble in rehearsal and in concert to communicate the score to the live audience. For it to become a source of entertainment after the event to meddle with balances ignorant of and indifferent to the wishes and intentions of the composer and performers is both crass and I assure you most certainly not universal in our industry.

        Your “who cares?” comment is much more relevant for me and ironically tends to confirm how I feel. We are confronted with so much unbelievable recorded material that fewer and fewer people are interested in paying for it any more because the phoneyness tends to make it all sound pretty much the same and equally uninteresting. The market for ancient archive live performances remains significant, and I believe that is because they are believable. Norman’s link to Mravinsky’s Shostakovich 8 is an obvious case in point.

  • rk says:

    Is the Berlin Phil trying to create a “guitar Hero” (Nintendo game) for classical music? It will not work: they should make music and have it recorded by professionals, this is what people want to hear and buy. There are thousands of good recordings of Mahler already, commercially it does not make sense to redo and “remix”: what is the point ????
    Technical gimmicks without sense do not make the performance better.

    • Gerhard says:

      Obviously Berlin Phil isn’t trying to “make the performance better” with their little contest, and why should they? The PR aspect aside they seem to look for a witty, interesting response to Mahler’s music, perhaps in the very best case even with some artistic merit. Whether really anything worthwhile will come up this way is left to be seen, but what is so terrible about giving it a try?

  • Paul Mann says:

    Quite agree with Gerhard. Mahler’s music is bulletproof anyway, so the worst that can happen is that someone could do something interesting.