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Mahler: Symphony No. 1

September 1, 2012

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Product Details

  • Original Release Date: September 1, 2012
  • Label: Naxos
  • Copyright: (C) 2012 Naxos
  • Total Length: 54:51
  • Genres:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,815 Paid in Albums (See Top 100 Paid in Albums)

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Eder on October 2, 2012
Format: Audio CD
Marin Alsop has sometimes generated surprises as a recording artist and conductor, and this is one of those times -- her recordings of pieces too well known and well-represented on CD have proved unexpectedly attractive. Her Dvorak 9th was like that, in its straightforward simplicity and the breezy playing of the Baltimore Symphony -- it was all refreshing and renewing. One can't go quite that far with this Mahler 1st, but it is a rewarding listen (in beautiful sound, incidentally).

The lack of any extreme distinction is both understandable and inevitable, given the competition. Thirty years ago there were perhaps a dozen recordings of the Mahler First Symphony available, almost all from absolutely top-flight (i.e. world-class orchestras and then some -- in fact, the only real gap there was the absence of one from the Berlin Philharmonic, due to a combination of history and disinterest on the part of the orchestra's two postwar music directors); but today there are probably over 200 available, including all of those outsized contributors of yesteryear. If the strings of the Baltimore Symphony can't match the playing of the New York Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic, to name just two rivals, it's not as though they were ever expected to. They do their job, as does everyone here -- the brass extremely well -- in a basic reading, and one was prepared for that. But this recording, from a live performance, does reach an unexpectedly magnificent and beautiful, very affecting peak in the third movement -- one that's worth the price of the CD. The recording won't replace recordings by Bruno Walter, Leonard Bernstein et al, but it has a worthy place on this listener's shelf.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 17, 2012
Format: MP3 Music
Whether or not Marin Alsop records a complete Mahler cycle - I suspect she will, since the catalog of Naxos Mahler is old and inadequate - she is breaking new ground. She joins Simone YOung as the only women who have recorded any Mahler, so far as I know, and the Baltimore Symphony becomes the first American orchestra in decades to launch a commercial cycle, assuming that one unfolds (the San Francisco cycle under Tilson Thomas appeared on their house label).

Alsop's career has been on a rising arc; she has been greeted rapturously in Sao Paolo and brought a recording contract to their excellent symphony orchestra. Her discography is big and growing all the time. Musically, I find myself having a moderate reaction, however. I've never heard an Alsop recording that was best in class, and rarely one that I'd put in the top ten when she records standard repertoire. So it was a open question how good this Mahler First would be.

Although she was a protegee of Leonard Bernstein's, this reading isn't in his style - my memory goes back to Seiji Ozawa instead. There is little dynamic tension in the first movement but instead attention to detail and a style that is poised and balanced. The orchestra itself plays beautifully, and Naxos has recorded them well. But the Baltimore Sym. strings cannot hope to compete with the likes of Vienna, Berlin, and other premier ensembles. They sound sweet, but alsop's measured, moderate pace doesn't ignite any sparks. It would have been better if she had come closer to Bernstein's thrills.

The rest of the symphony follows in the same vein, delivering a dutiful reading that falls well short of what Mahler should be in terms of emotional excitement. That's a personal slant, and anyone who enjoys more "classical" Mahler may be better pleased.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By drdanfee VINE VOICE on December 2, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I've liked Marin Alsop's releases, or at least, have liked hearing many of them so far. Her Brahms series was very good indeed, though partly sabotaged by Naxos' producer/A+R choice of recording venues. One would like to hear her do Brahms again in a few years with a venue that is consistent across her redo of each of the four symphonies.

Her Dvorak late symphonies with Baltimore SO has been well worth hearing. Strong on lyricism, vital rhythmic life, and an unfussy, direct way with Bohemian-rooted colors and sounds that serves the composer with musicality and compelling alertness. One could wish Naxos would let her complete that Dvorak symphony cycle, then.

Now we get the Mahler first symphony. From the opening, it's audible that all players are on their toes. The high and low string sections have a discipline to them that one does not always hear from this level of USA bands. The atmosphere is conjured, but differently from many other conductors. The well worn musical path is to conjure up dark midnight, full of mystery, hinting at things that go bump in the night. For better or for worse, Alsop hears it otherwise. Her Naturlaut is wide open, fresh air. The scene is sunlit, though when the familiar woodwind calls take wing, we get anticipatory musical hints or prefigures of that High Summer's Panic that Mahler will express more fully, more deeply in his third symphony yet to come. Surprisingly enough, my ears took to the different scene right away. I like lots of ambivalence and angst in my preferred Mahler readings, and I guess it was those opening woodwind flourishes that passed muster with my hearing. Something is hovering around the shadowy margins of all this sunlit, open countryside.
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