A do-it-yourself Mahler boxed set -- and Happy Birthday, Gustav


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If you are a Mahler buff who always wanted to play the role of the Mad Programmer, Universal Music is giving you a shot at it as part of its massive outpouring of recordings commemorating the composer’s 150th birthday (which occurred on Wednesday).

Anyone with the time and interest can go to and submit a “dream cycle” of the 10 Mahler symphonies, choosing from some 180 in-print and 46 out-of-print recordings from Universal’s Deutsche Grammophon and Decca catalogs (the latter also includes Philips releases). The recordings with the most votes will then be released as a boxed CD set, “Mahler – The People’s Edition,” sometime this fall. So far, the early tallies favor well-known conductors like Leonard Bernstein, Georg Solti, and Zubin Mehta, but there is also a dark-horse cult item from 1955 by Mahler recording pioneer Hermann Scherchen among the leaders.


Earlier this year, Deutsche Grammophon released an 18-CD set of its own choosing containing all of Mahler’s works – including rarely recorded fragments such as the discarded “Blumine” movement from the First Symphony and “Totenfeier,” the tone poem that in greatly revised form became the first movement of the Second Symphony.

Not to be left out, rival EMI just put out its own “complete” Mahler edition on 16 discs. The latter set is less thorough – lacking, for example, “Totenfeier” even though at least two recordings of the piece exist in its Virgin Classics archives. But for the hard-core devotees, it does offer seven different renditions of the song “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen.”

– Richard S. Ginell


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