Gary Bertini died recently, largely unheralded by the classical music establishment. That's a shame, as the Israeli conductor left a monumental Mahler cycle to his memory. EMI, after years of fooling around with the release, has finally put his 1-9, 10th Adagio, and Das Lied von der Erde out in one set. Is this the best modern Mahler?
Probably. It was recorded with the Cologne RSO by WDR engineers both in Germany and in Japan. The sound is about as good as I have heard for Mahler. On my Grado SR225s, which probably aren't the best for absolute neutrality, the sound has a transparency and a sparkle that is hard to explain. It is well-balanced and very detailed. If you complain about the sound here, you probably would complain about seeing brushstrokes on Guernica.
Bertini's interpretation is the best of both worlds. He never descends into overt, sloppy emotion like Bernstein, but he is far more engaged than Pierre Boulez. He pays attention to the score and the architecture. It doesn't seem like he is interested in dissecting Mahler, but he isn't interested in putting his own feelings and neuroses into the score. His fifth movement of the 2nd is a good example of this. He isn't ripping this apart, but he isn't wallowing in it, either. The grandeur of the score is allowed to breathe on its own. I found that time and time again in his recordings. They seemed like Mahler, not "Gary Bertini Presents Gustav Mahler."
For a man largely shut out by the British press, this is as good a resurrection as one could hope for. Simon Rattle could conduct for a thousand years and never get it. Gary Bertini got it, and kept going for a while.