4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Ignore Hurwitz. Consider Boulez.,
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No. 1 (Audio CD)
It really is tragic that David Hurwitz has the monopoly of Amazon "expert" reviews of Mahler symphonies. Here he is again with a crude, snarky, subjective, not helpful and incomprehensible take, even pimping Rafael Kubelik's "incomparability", which is hogwash.
Like all of Boulez' Mahler interpretations, his First is a work of distillation and clarity, but also a subjective one. The "objectivity" and "neutrality" of the interpretation are disguises.
It's important to know what you're getting with Boulez. You will not get fascinating expressiveness in every note or phrase. There is always a somewhat straight, square, odd feel to it. Tempos are very uniform, for better or worse, if he chooses a tempo you don't like. And he does indulge in unusual tempos here. Are they in the score? You decide.
Boulez' Mahler is as much about Boulez as it is about Mahler. Boulez is worth hearing but he is not for everyone. Although interesting, none of the Boulez Mahlers are appropriate standalone choices.
In terms of the overall finest performance and interpretation, Jascha Horenstein's Mahler First (with the London Symphony Orchestra) stands alone above all of the rest. There are many others that comprise a large pack of reasonable options that do not rise to this level, including some very famous ones. Boulez is in this also-ran group. David Hurwitz' other favorites, the crude Kubelik and the erratic Bernstein are overrated.
If you are reading this, I might guess that your primary objective is to find a highly detailed, precise, deathly clear, clinical, austere Mahler First. You may be one of the "no neurosis/no excess" crowd. If that is the case, you should find a copy of the 1989 recording by Christoph von Dohnanyi with the Cleveland Orchestra. Dohnanyi's is the ultimate Mahler First "x-ray" that outdoes Boulez at his own bloodless, surgical game, with Sibelian ice-water clarity.