Peter Fülöp Mahler Discography (Second Edition 2010). Kaplan Foundation / Mikrokosmos Comp.
Hardcover: 586 pages
Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.58 x 1.73 inches; 6.48 Pounds
A Mammoth Mahler Monument
Originally posted on Amazon.com, November 2011, revised on 24 January 2014; reposted on this website 22 April 2021
January 2014. Finally! It’s here, sold on Amazon.com. When it came out, in 2010, this new edition of Peter Fülöp’s Mahler discography could be acquired only from his website, MahlerRecords – and it cost 180 $. That’s what I paid for it, and I was none too happy to see that, a few weeks later, Fülöp cut the price by half (I must have been his only buyer). I did feel short-changed – but then, to look at things positively, I considered that this was my contribution to this phenomenal monument to Mahler, something like half-payment, half-donation.
The new edition replaces the 1995 edition. 1995 was already impressive. To give an idea of its achievements, the previous, most comprehensive discography, published by Jerome F. Weber in 1974 (it was the second, revised and enlarged edition) contained 342 entries. Fülöp’s had 1,168. Mahler’s most recorded symphony, the first, had 34 entries in Weber, 106 with Fülöp, back in 1995.
But the new one is mammoth, humongous. 8.5 wide, 11.8 long, 1.6 thick (21.5 x 30 x 4 cm). They say it weighs 4.5 pounds (2kg), but it sure feels like more, and I don’t have a scale to check. The book is lavish and now comes with color reproductions of the covers of some of the early recordings, on 78rmps and LP, and even on CD when the release was a belated one, as with Scherchen’s live recording of the 7th from June 22 1950, which pretaded Rosbaud’s first studio recording (and Scherchen’s own, made for Westminster in July 1953) but was released first on AS Disc AS 302 (no barcode) in 1988 (says CD’s copyright, see entry on Discogs.com; Fülöp says 1990) – and the photo is of Orfeo’s later and “official” release from 1992, C 279 921 B, barcode 4011790279121. The Discography lists a phenomenal 2774 recordings, and has added Laser Disks and DVDs. Entries for the First Symphony now amount to 271. The number of recordings of arrangements and reorchestrations by Mahler has jumped from 30 to 80. The author of the preface, Zoltan Roman, also points to the enormous increase of recordings of arrangements of compositions of Mahler. I already had the 5th Symphony played on the organ by David Briggs on Priory PRCD 649 (1998), barcode 028612206498, or the Adagietto in the beautiful arrangement for a cappella chorus sung by Accentus under Laurence Equilbey (Naïve V 4947, barcode 822186049471), but I must ABSOLUTELY find the complete symphony arranged for digital orchestra (Yasumichi Kurotaki on Studio YANA SC 8850), or its first movement only arranged for Klezmer band (by the Shirim Klezmer Band on Tzadik TZ 7195), and I’d also be very curious to hear Monserrat Caballe singing the Adagietto on lyrics after Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice (from the album “von ganzem Herzen”, RCA 74321 62975, barcode 743216297528).
What the new edition does NOT do, though, is list the downloads only – for instance the complete cycle available from the New York Philharmonic and recorded live by Maazel between 2003 and 2009, or the Boston 6th under Levine from October 2008. So in a way, given the evolution of the “modes of consumption” of recorded music, the discography is already outdated. You see that Fülöp is a man raised in the era of “real” media (as opposed to “virtual”), when music was engraved upon and contained in physical objects that you could store on shelves. Speaking of which: the book comes with an inserted sheet of paper, in which Fülöp issues a call “seeking an organization” capable of maintaining and providing financial resources for the further development of his Mahler archive of “approximately 1000 LPs, 3000 CDs & CDRs, 150 DVDs and Laser Discs and 250 78rpm records” (staggeringly, the collection “lacks only 7 recordings known to exist”; “most of the recordings are represented by their first editions, and many of the early performances are represented in several formats, such as 78rmp, LP and CD”). Reading this, my first thought was: where else than in Vienna? Vienna let Mahler go in 1908 and sorely regretted it afterwards (not everybody of course); wouldn’t it be time, over a century later, to get him back?
Back to the discography: jumping to the different sections (listing by performers, labels and table of timings) has been made easier thanks to a color marking on the edges of the pages – but, for the next reissue, Fülöp must consider the same kind of color marking for individual symphonies and Lied cycles. As it stands, you need to flip through the pages to find the end of the previous symphony and the start of the next one, and it is made even less wieldy with the song cycles, because unlike the symphonies the ordering is not numerical, and the logic is not apparent, neither alphabetical nor chronological (Das Lied, Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Rückert-Lieder, Klagende Lied, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Kindertotenlieder, Three songs for voice and piano). There is a detailed Table of Contents, but it would be more practical not to have to go back and forth.
With a monument of such magnitude, there are bound to be some errors of details. Fülöp’s recording and release dates can’t be considered always entirely trustworthy. One example is with Scherchen’s studio recordings of Symphonies # 5 and 7 for Westminster. In the new edition, he has added the recording date of July 53 (the previous edition just stated “1953”). This is indeed the date provided by Scherchen’s daughter Myriam, the owner of the label Tahra, which has just reissued Scherchen’s Westminster recordings (Tahra Tah 716-718, barcode 3504129071615 , so recent in fact that it is not listed in Fülöp), and as I inquired with her on this Mrs Scherchen indeed confirmed that these dates were inscribed in Scherchen’s diaries. But Fülöp STILL gives (as in the earlier edition, which had prompted my enquiry with Tahra) 12-52 and 5-53 as release dates for these original Westminster LPs: NOT COMPATIBLE! [Addendum 23 April 2021: but this leaves opened the question of which is right, recording date or publication date? Since writing this review in 2010 I was inclined to trust Myriam Scherchen and the conductor’s diaries. But I’ve just checked on High Fidelity (eternal gratitutde to worldradiohistory.com for making them available online): Scherchen’s Mahler 5th was reviewed in the March-April 1953 issue of the magazine (see here and here). As for the 7th, I haven’t found any review on High Fidelity or the other magazines hosted by worldradiohistory, but you can find online a review in The New Records vol. 21 No. 6 from August 1953 (see here and search “211”): not entirely incompatible with a recording from July, but, given the processes of editing, approving, pressing, sending to review, listening, reviewing and publishing, very unlikely. Mrs Scherchen, or Scherchen’s diaries, or Mrs Scherchen’s interpretation of them, can’t be true, and july 1953 as recording date must be crossed out, certainly for the 5th, probably for the 7th.]
Also, as I was compiling a complete discography of the CD reissues from the Vanguard catalog, I realized that Fülöp was far from complete in listing the various CD releases. In an exchange of mails he did confirm that he hadn’t been systematic at compiling all CD reissues of previously released performances. In the same exchange he also presented me with a riddle – a Vanguard 78s for which, in forty years, he had never been able to find confirmation. Well, there’s nothing you can’t confirm in 15 minutes in the age of the Internet and immediate access to ALL the information. And in the process I spotted two more early recordings of Mahler songs which his discography failed to list; I find this story so telling on the incredible new research (and finding) possibilities offered by the Internet, that I am taking the liberty to reproduce that correspondence here.
The closing date of the discography is April 7, 2010, “exactly 3 months before Gustav Mahler’s 150th birthday” – wonder why Fülöp didn’t wait three more months, it would have been so perfect.
I notice that one of the features that I am now using most, whenever I am on a Mahler listening spree (as right now) is Fülöp’s table of timings. It is not always entirely accurate (some of the timings he obviously took from the LP version, and they show a few seconds’ discrepancy with those of the CD reissue, and I even spotted a blunt mistake, in the timings of the first two movements from Abbado’s Chicago 5th), but I find it great fun to locate the fastest and slowest versions EVER recorded of such and such symphony, overall and in each movement (and Fülöp signals those in bold type). It’s not just trivia: it shows what extremes of music Mahler’s notes can yield, and getting a complete view of the music requires, in my opinion, listening not only to the “middle-of-the-road” versions but also to its extremes. Like, instant quizz: who recorded the slowest ever and the fastest ever Adagietto from the 5th?
An INVALUABLE bonus is also the inclusion of the reissue of one of the rarest Mahler recordings ever. It is the 4th Symphony performed by Paul Van Kempen conducting the Hilversum Radio Orchestra in 1949. For many years Fülöp wasn’t even sure that this 78 rmp had even actually been released, because he could find no one who had ever seen or heard it; when he was finally able to ascertain that it had indeed been published, he wasn’t able to find it, until he located a copy held in a Dutch radio library. He was only able to obtain a non-professional transfer of the 11 sides onto CDR made by the library personnel, and it is that copy that has been restored and is published here. The side joints are jarring, there is surface noise, the sound is somewhat muffled and/or distant and some sides are worse than others – but sufficient orchestral details come out and, although soprano Corry Bijster doesn’t have the youthfully radiant timbre required, Van Kempen conducts a performance that is both firm and full of character. The “jump” to the final explosion of the third movement is the most strangely phrased I’ve ever heard, with the second note articulated as a very short staccato.
And now for the answer to my quizz:
Fastest Adagietto: Mengelberg, in May 1926, at 7+ minutes.
Slowest Adagietto: Scherchen in a live concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra from October 1964, reissued on Tahra Tah 422, barcode 3504129042219, at 15+ minutes. See my review on Amazon.com (pending repost on this website).
And a post-script: I was finally able to hear Caballé’s Adagietto, someone has uploaded it on You Tube (addendum from April 2021: apparently it’s now gone). It is grotesque, sirupy and sentimental, and she doesn’t even sing very well, with a large vibrato and a lack of purity of tone (it was a late recording, made in 1998, and you can hear it). Oh but I see that Sarah Brightman has also recorded it (on an album titled “Symphony”, published in 2007 by the label Manhattan, barcode 094634607827)…
PS 2. Well, I’ve heard Brightman as well (someone has uploaded it on You Tube – addendum 2021: apparently it is gone too, what appears under the title “Schwere Traume – Sarah Brightman (orchestral instrumental)” is an uncredited version of the normal Adagietto. Further research shows it here – a video so grotesque that I am warning you to view it at your own peril). Help. Sure, the voice is purer sounding than Caballé’s, so that’s that, but it is also so high-pitched you’d think she was a Chinese folk singer. And the sirupy arrangement! the artificiality of the “pop” sonic perspective! Why does this evoke the image the poodle leaving its poo on your favorite Rembrandt painting? Mahler once said: “my time will come”. He’d never have wished so, had he known what they’d subject his music to. What the lust for success and money will make people do. At least poodles have a better excuse, they are just satisfying natural needs.
Anyway, Mahlerites, don’t let it deter you. At the new price, this monument is a steal, and worth every penny. At 4.5 pounds and number of entries more than doubled in 15 years, I don’t anticipate that there is going to be a next, augmented edition in 15 years’ time. You can also order it directly from Fülöp’s website, at MahlerRecords dot com.
[November 2014 addition: apparently Fülöp has dropped the MahlerRecords website, but the discography is still sold by his Toronto company Mikrokosmos.com. Go to the advanced search tab and it appears direct in the “category” box. Fülöp has cut his price even more, radically even, and you can now get the discography for less than 40 postage included. No need to feed the Internet vultures here.]
[April 2021 addendum: in various exchanges of correspondence from 2012 and 2014, Mr Fülöp informed me that his new Mahler Discography venture had not been commercially successful – “The Mahler years are over”, he wrote – and that he had even sent the copies he had in Toronto to the dump. The world is, we know, terribly unfair, and where Mr Fülöp should have had statues erected in his honor, he only got huge financial losses and a Mahler bottle thrown in the ocean… and sunk. As I could find no trace of the Discography on Mikorokosmos.com, I inquired with Mr Fülöp whether the book was now sold out. Here is his answer:
“Finally the Mahler Discography was a very unsuccessful from the business point of view. I still have hundreds of copies in Hungary.
On he other hand I still collect the Mahler records. The experience of collecting and my business have a result, which is my new venture: Classite (https://www.classite.com/). It is community site and marketplace for classical records only. You can find the up-to-date Mahler Discography there (4591 items) and many other discographies, from Argerich to Walter (60 outstanding musicians). Anybody can catalogue their collection for free, buy and sell classical records. What is available now is the experimental version, it will be improved by a UX design to use the site more easier.
I sill would like to sell my Mahler collection, which is about 6000 pieces and everything which is in the book I have. (I got the last LP I was looking for a few weeks ago from New Zealand). I ask €100.000 for the Mahler collection and I offer 10% contribution fee from this amount if someone find me a buyer.
All the best