Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986

By Lewis M. Smoley | Go to book overview

SYMPHONY NO. 1 IN D MAJOR
("TITAN")
Movements:
1. Langsam, schleppend/Im Anfang sehr gemächlich
"2. "Blumine" - Andante" (omitted by Mahler
from original version)
2. Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell
3. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen
4. Sturmisch bewegt

ABBADO, CLAUDIO/Beriin Philharmonie - DG 431 769 (1991) "54:43"; DG video 440 072 273–2 (1991/1992) "55:05" "Abbado in Berlin: The First Year." *+ Nearly ten years after his recording with the Chicago Symphony (see Vol. 1, p.3), Abbado's approach seems less frenetic, exaggerated and self-conscious. His more stable and comfortable reading is enhanced by iridescent brass and radiant strings, especially compelling in the ethereal opening and heroic close. A warm, summery atmosphere is established immediately in soft, whispy high strings, a mere hint of distant fanfares and sparkling woodwinds. The main theme is mellower, even tender, and remains at pp until the rollicking close of the exposition. Characteristic of this more relaxed demeanor is the way the celli ease up ever so slightly at the end of the main theme's first statement during the repeat of the exposition. Playing generally flows more comfortably, with more liquid legato, lyricism and charm. This easy manner continues at the start of the development, yet with a gentle underlying momentum. How beautifully the BPO horns intone the bright fanfare theme at #15. One senses a slight tug-of-war thereafter, as Abbado tries to control the tempo yet moves it forward ever so gently. Pacing is more easy-going than unnervingly agitated. While the closing section is energetic enough to sound youthful, one comes away feeling less exhausted than one did in Abbado's CSO recording.

A strict reading of markings sometimes can cause more problems than it resolves. For instance, Abbado takes the metronome marking at bar 5 of the second movement to mean that the previous four measures should be in a different, presumably slower tempo. Consequently, the opening whoops in strings are in one tempo and the theme in another. Aside from this quirk, the main theme has sufficient bounce, even if it seems slightly harried for a country dance. Abbado shows off the subtleties of the BPO in soft shadings (at #11). Some slight hesitations creep into an otherwise brisk Trio section, making it sound too sophistocated for its bucolic character. The ländler returns with a will, closing in racy and rough-hewn style.

-1-

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Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Symphony No. 1 in D Major ("Titan") 1
  • Symphony No. 2 in C Minor ("Resurrection") 33
  • Symphony No. 3 in D Minor 59
  • Symphony No. 4 in G Major 81
  • Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor 107
  • Symphony No. 6 in a Minor ("Tragic") 141
  • Symphony No. 7 in E Minor ("Song of the Night") 167
  • Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major ("Symphony of a Thousand") 189
  • Das Lied Von der Erde 205
  • Symphony No. 9 in D Major 225
  • Symphony No. 10 in F-Sharp Major (Unfinished) 255
  • Bibliography 268
  • Index to Conductors 269
  • Index to Orchestras 284
  • Index to Soloists 298
  • Index to Choruses 322
  • Index to Record Labels 334
  • About the Author 355
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