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Mahler: Symphony No. 1

30 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 13, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Folks who generally shy away from Boulez's Mahler ought to hear this performance. It's a whale of a good time, plain and simple. Far from being cold and analytical, the first movement positively glows with romantic warmth. Boulez is especially generous with the big retard leading to the first movement's climax, where the Chicago brass literally whoop it up, just as Mahler demands. The second movement is fast, but never lacking in charm, while the funeral march of the third movement has the right quality of cartoon ghoulishness. Good klezmer-like interludes, too, if not quite up to Kubelik's incomparable standard. Best of all, the finale positively blazes--no dragging, no underplayed climaxes--simply a blast from beginning to end. Indeed, it's hard to dismiss the notion that the usually cerebral Boulez is simply getting a naughty thrill letting his Chicagoans play the pants off of this most colorful of romantic symphonies. They've recorded it at least four times previously (for Giulini, Tennstedt, Solti, and Abbado), but this really is Chicago's best. Great sound, as well, with room-shaking bass. Take this to your local stereo store, play the last five minutes, and see if you can dim the lights in your neighborhood while you blow out some woofers. --David Hurwitz
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Pierre Boulez
  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Audio CD (April 13, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00000IIX2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,307 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By madamemusico on August 19, 2007
Format: Audio CD
It is often said, with justification, that Mahler's Seventh Symphony is the most difficult to perform properly. One must get behind the notes to enter fully the spirit of grotesquerie that Mahler wrote into them, and only a few conductors have been able to do so, among them Rafael Kubelik, Claudio Abbado, and - Pierre Boulez.

Boulez is an anomaly among Mahler conductors, just as he is an anomaly among French conductors. Most French conductors who preceded him did not like rehearsing, and in fact found it an impediment to the "sirit of improvisation" that they wished to arouse in performance. But when Boulez came to international prominence in the late 1960s, he brought with him a composer's mind and a fastidious approach to score preparation and rehearsal. His intent has always been to try to give exactly what the composer put on paper. Sometimes, most notable in his recordings of Webern's orchestral music and Berg's "Wozzeck," he surprisingly failed to do so, but in most other cases he has been successful.

The problem with Boulez has not generally been one of veering away from the score as it has been with expression. His orchestral sound is warm but not passionate. His strict attention to detail and structure sometimes leaves the listener wondering if Boulez EVER feels passion about any score he conducts. Most of his performances, live or on records, are emotionally cool to the point of complete emotional detachment.

Mahler's First Symphony, to judge by the large number of recordings available and the equally large number of failures, is almost as difficult to pull off as the Seventh.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 13, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Pierre Boulez continues to amaze us with each new recording. Listeners long on skepticism as to whether this conducting master of intellectulization of details - the modernist approach - can bury that old data storage. Boulez has managed to breathe life into Bartok, Stravinsky, and now he continues to rediscover Mahler. This recording of Mahler's Titan Symphony is a revelation - in the best sense of the term. The Chicago Orchestra has rarley sounded more brilliant and seems to be totally in synch with Boulez. The result is a sumptuous sounding romantic marvel. Mahler's symphonies can ramble and be disjointed and even sound bombastic in the wrong hands. I feared Boulez would opt for the note perfect, cerebral dissection of Mahler: yes, the score is thoroughly studied and rethought, but the penultimate Romanticism is very much here. Listening to this disc is a sonically, spiritually, and emotionally thrilling experience. And I thought I knew this work before.........! Fasten your seat belts a jump on for a mighty experience.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Rarely does one come across a recording as good as the performance, and vice versa. Boulez has done a remarkabke job, and Deutsche Grammophon's 4D audio recording is a landmark in audio recording technology. The thunderous 4th movement of the 'Titan' will knock your socks off !
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By VonStupp on January 22, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Gustav Mahler is well known for his symphonies. Most know that they are usually lengthy, but there is more to it; each of his symphonies are an experience, rather than enjoying a simple artistic musical work. Mahler's sense of dramatic timing is evident in his liberal use of tempo, dynamic, and articulation directions. His music also contains inventive and memorable melodies, along with colorful and imaginative orchestrations. His first symphony, subtitled Titan, is a youthful and energetic first foray into the symphony genre, a work that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with his mature symphonies.

The first movement (of four) is marked: like a sound of Nature, and the movement is very pictorial in that regard. Chirpings and warblings can be heard on the clarinet and flute, while distant trumpet and horn calls give a forest-like locale. The searing high strings hovering over the various mutterings, evoke a calm morning. Nature, however, gives way to a rustic dance, one which is quaint and happy. All of the elements come together at the end for a brilliant close. The rustic dances with drones and horn calls are carried over into the second movement, but in a waltz time. The opening basses, unrelentless in their highly repeated rhythms, underplay the woodwinds charming and tuneful motif. The trio section, in opposition, is rather stately, but is taken over by a dashing restatement of the opening; another brash ending. The famous third movement is well-known for its use of "Frere Jacques" in a minor mode, set as a funeral march. In addition, there is a frightful, mocking clarinet counter-melody which squawks at the procession.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By The Man in the Hathaway Shirt on August 29, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Pierre Boulez's Mahler cycle is both frustrating and puzzling. Some of the performances are intense and some are underpowered and uninvolved. This is the most passionate so far, with the mighty Chicagoans blazing away, especially in the brass, which hold back nothing for their conductor. (Just listen to this recording and you'll hear why Bud Herseth is considered one of the greatest trumpet players ever.) The first movement opens suitably mysterious, though I would have preferred a bit slower. (I think Giulini's OOP recording, also with the CSO, is terrific here.) The off-stage brass sounds terrific. In fact, the sound throughout this recording is concert-quality, with a strong you-are-there aspect. This first movement comes off wonderfully, though I must revisit Bernstein's DG recording with the Concertgebow again, which impressed me tremendously when I last listened to it ten years ago. The second movement is a letdown--too smooth and "waltzlike" and not rustic enough. These are country peasants after all. Glib I guess would be a good word for this movement, and compared to some other greats (Kubelik, Horenstein, even Bernstein) this is lightweight. The third movement has the appropriate Yiddish quality, though maybe not enough; it's not as good as Kubelik's incomparable interpretation. Again, there's something glib about Boulez here. He always seems to be above the music he conducts rather than down with it. Because of that, movements that require a certain "humanity" or "spiritual" quality always come up short. But also because of that, movements like the finale of this symphony are right up his alley.Read more ›
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