Seattle Symphony's Superbly Recorded Mahler 10

You will have to hunt far and wide for a finer-sounding recording of Mahler's final Tenth Symphony than this one of the Deryck Cooke completion from the Seattle Symphony under Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard. Captured in 24/96 hi-rez by Dmitry Lipay and Alexander Lipay, and available as both a 5.1 surround sound and stereo 24/96 download as well as in 16/44.1 on CD, the recording stands apart for the richness of its lower midrange, the impact of its bass drum thwacks, and the supremely saturated colors.

The live recording, made in Seattle's Taper Auditorium in Benaroya Hall and edited down from three performances that took place in November 2015, is ear-opening. When heard as a 24/96 stereo mix, its transparency and breadth of soundstage far surpass those on a musically excellent 1999 recording from Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker. That earlier, highly praised recording, once available on a DVD-Audio that included both a 24/44.1 stereo mix and Red Book-resolution 5.1 presentation, was auditioned in hi-rez stereo via an Oppo BDP-93 NuForce Edition's transport feeding the very same dCS Rossini through which the Seattle Symphony files were auditioned.

With at least 19 versions of Mahler's Symphony 10 available in various completions, sound quality is but one of many factors to consider when making a purchase. But do keep in mind that midway through the symphony's gorgeous long opening adagio, irresistibly tender waves of sound that are profoundly sad and frequently heart-breaking are suddenly interrupted by a piercing, inherently dangerous 9-note orchestral scream. With the exception of the startling sustained high E in the final movement of Smetana's first String Quartet—a sound meant to signify the sudden onslaught of infernal ringing in the composer's ears that progressed into deafness—there's little or nothing else like it in music written before 1910.

The symphony's scream, and the finality of its equally startling, repeated muffled drum thwacks that come later on, set it apart from anything else Mahler wrote. Their root, as with so much of Mahler's music, is autobiographical. Mahler had been in emotional and spiritual crisis before, of course—anyone who endured years of anti-Semitic libel, as well as accusations from his wife that his Kindertotenlieder (Songs of Dead Children) cycle for voice and orchestra was somehow responsible for the death of his infant daughter, would be under great stress. But the heightened state of dread that came upon him when, toward the end of his life, he intercepted a letter from architect Walter Gropius to his wife that invited her to flee with him, was only exacerbated by newfound knowledge of his potentially fatal heart condition. Add to that the impact of his psychotherapy sessions with Sigmund Freud, and you have a man so stressed out that he did not live to complete the symphony.

Rattle may offer greater soaring intensity and drama around the screams and thwacks, but the sounds themselves are viscerally less startling than Dausgaard's. Given their central musical importance, the more powerful they are, the more the recording succeeds. That gives Seattle Symphony's version a major advantage.

The most startling sounds on Rattle's recording are his far too frequent extra-musical grunts and heavy breathing. Nor is his rendition of the symphony's lyrical and occasionally pastoral passages as heart-touching as Dausgaard's. It is the beauty of the symphony's lyrical unfolding, and the gut-wrenching contrast between it and the elements that break it apart, that make Seattle Symphony's recording of Mahler's magnificent farewell a must-hear.

Axiom05's picture

Where can you purchase the 24/96 download? I looked at Presto Classical and HDTracks with no success.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

As mentioned in my Primephonics article, HDTracks' search engine leaves something to be desired. If you simply type in Mahler Symphony, it comes up as the top selection of 82. If you type in Mahler Symphony No. 10, you get nothing. If you type in Mahler Symphony No.10 without that space, you get one choice.

Regardless, I searched under Seattle Symphony and found it here:
AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, or WAV for $17.98.

I struck out equally on Primephonic until I typed in Mahler, and then scrolled to the bottom of his page. That's where I found:
24/96 FLAC for $17.95

In other words, persistence counts.
BTW, HDTracks is having a Callas hi-rez sale.

CarterBro's picture

Find HD music searches a lot of the sites and gives a good breakdown of regional availability:

For instance in the US, here's a site with it for $15

Jason Victor Serinus's picture


Jason Victor Serinus's picture

In response to my criticism, HDTracks is currently in the process of revising its search engine so that if you look for Mahler Symphony No. 10, Mahler Symphony No.10, Mahler 10, and hopefully even Mahler Symphony No 10 or No10, you will discover - yes - every version of Mahler's Tenth Symphony in their catalogue.

Anon2's picture

For CD enthusiasts, one might also check another Seattle-based place to make a purchase:

If you, like me, want to help the little guy, look here; it's one sale here:

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

those sites only sell the CD and, in the case of ArkivMusic, mp3.

Kal Rubinson's picture

AFAIK, the multichannel files are available only from Primephonic.

dalethorn's picture

I too searched HDTracks for the 10th before finding the specific advice here. So, since I didn't even have the 10th in any version, it's quite the bargain to get a great recording/performance in 24/96 for a mere $18. I've bought albums on a dozen recommendations here in the past couple of years - no disappointments.

SteveG's picture

I don't think Primephonics has the multichannel version yet. At least I can't find it. We were supposed to hear this last November 11, but had to cancel because our cat was attacked by a dog and was in emergency surgery.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I have been in contact with Primephonics and, in response to this particular issue, they stated on July 7:


We’re uploading these albums into our database as we speak. We had some problems with these albums on our side but they are in the loop! They should be online in a 1-2 weeks.

SteveG's picture

Thanks so much! I'll wait for the multichannel download to become available.

edincleve's picture

Unfortunately, I don't really like Mahler's 10th, but I do like many other symphonies and concertos.

Can anyone suggest other classical works that were recorded digitally, not just analog recordings converted to digital.

Maybe even a good vocalist recorded digitally.


Jason Victor Serinus's picture

There are thousands. To concentrate on hi-res downloads of digitally recorded vocalists, one top pick would be Jonas Kaufmann singing Wagner. Any of the Cecilia Bartoli or Joyce DiDonato downloads on HDTracks is equally recommendable.

edincleve's picture

Thanks Janson for your response, but although I love most classical music, I do not like opera in the least. Also, where do you obtain digitally recorded music. The fact that you can download digital files on HDTracks and others doesn't mean these works were recorded digitally. Unless I'm missing it, no indication of recording method is mentioned on the HD websites. If you can suggest a few true digital classical recordings, I would greatly appreciate it. And of those, how do you know the recording method used?

Thank you

Kal Rubinson's picture

I've posted my recommendations in the "Recordings in the Round" adjuct to my column over the years. Many can be found on this site.

N.B.: My selections are based on, and include only, multichannel tracks.

Allen Fant's picture

Thank You- JVS. I will check this recording out.

cpoole17's picture

The multichannel surround versions of the more recent Seattle Symphony releases still don't appear to be available on Primephonics. Any update on when they may be available?

Kal Rubinson's picture

I downloaded it from here: