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Mahler: Symphony No. 1 In D Major, "Titan"

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 27, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

1. Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major: I. Langsam. Schleppend 16:05/ 2. Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major: Blumine: Andante (original second movement) 7:16/ 3. Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major: II. Kraftig Bewegt 7:37/ 4. Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major: III. Feierlich und Gemessen, Ohne zu Schleppen 10:16/ 5. Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major: IV. Stumisch Bewegt 20:54

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As the latest installment in the Mahler cycle of Telarc, Yoel Levi, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra , here is the composer's First Symphony, named Titan. Originally Mahler conceived this work in five movements, but later dropped the second, andante movement. Known as "Blumine," it is often played apart from the symphony, its 7-minute length being just right as a curtain raiser. Here, Levi has replaced it in its original order, and it's good to have; if the listener doesn't want it, it can be skipped or the CD player programmed to play the disc without it. The recorded sound is spotless, and the performance has a great deal to recommend it. Levi is a clearheaded leader, and he rarely imposes a personal agenda on Mahler; it's neither as icy as Boulez's approach nor as gut-wrenching as Bernstein's. In fact, up until the final moments of the work, this is a magical reading--near the very end, just when Mahler goes over the top into the type of ecstasy only he can reach, Levi seems to hold back--a simple uptake of tempi would have driven this CD to the head of the list of Mahler Firsts. As it stands, it's pretty glorious--there's no need to be obsessive about it, really. Highly recommended. --Robert Levine

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. I. Langsam. Schleppend
  2. Blumine: Andante - Christopher Martin
  3. II. Kraftig Bewegt
  4. III. Feierlich Und Gemessen, Ohne Zu Schleppen - Ralph Jones
  5. IV. Stumisch Bewegt


Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 27, 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B00004TWUS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,137 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Karl W. Nehring on July 24, 2009
When I first decided to compare these two recordings, I thought that choosing between them would be a daunting task. I had always enjoyed the sound and performance of the Judd recording, and kept that CD in my permanent collection; when I heard the new Levi recording, I was also quite impressed with both the sound and the performance. I figured that it was going to be a lot of work to pick a winner from these two. Not so, however.

When you listen to the Judd recording, it sounds warm and natural, and there is a nice sense of sonic perspective. But when you actually sit down and compare it to the Levi, the Judd begins to sound dark, distant, and diffuse. In the opening movement, for example, the lower strings in the Levi provide a solid foundation for the structure of the music, while in the Judd, the lower strings seem a bit muffled and homogenized in sound. As the movement goes on, you become aware that not only does the engineering of the Telarc proved a richer sound than the HM, but that the Atlanta forces, particularly the strings, simply have the Florida forces outgunned.

In the "Blumine" movement, Judd's interpretation seems more dreamlike, while Levi seems to bring more ardor to his interpretation. I should point out here that the HM disk places this movement last, the idea being that because Mahler removed it from the work, they have provided it as a supplement that you can program in if you would like, the "default" program being to hear the four-movement final product. The Telarc disk takes the opposite tack, placing "Blumine" second among the movements, thus making the "default" option to hear the work as a five-movement composition. There are advantages to both approaches.
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The recording captures all of Mahler's sound effects splendidly. The orchestra playing is brilliant. The dynamics are wide ranging. Tempos are carefully chosen. Emotion and attention to detail are evident throughout. HOWEVER, my main drawback to this recording is the final movement. Everything seems just right up until that time. Someone in an earlier post used the word deliberate in explaining Levi's approach to tempo here in the last movement. I don't know whether this was deliberate or just how he envisioned the work to be, but the last movement is too slow. To use a metaphor, Levi is the hose that puts out the fire. Perhaps I am just too accustomed to L. Bernstein's approach of burn the barn down and everything within 50 miles too. However, I do know that this recording doesn't have that punch that you hope for in Mahler's First Symphony. Does that make it not worthy of a recommendation? No. It is a very good performance. Just remember as you listen to the first 4 movements (which actually build up quite well to the final movement) that perhaps you won't be as taken as you could be with another recording.
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Yoel Levi suffered the abrupt and ignominious fate of moving from a major recording contract to something like total obscurity. Where is he to be found on the international music scene today? I never quite understood Telarc's faith in him, or why the Atlanta Sym. didn't choose someone less staid and conventional. Maybe they actually preferred middle-of-the-road. They certainly got it in this well-played, gorgeously recorded, but insistently unimaginative Mahler First. The Amazon reviewer lives in fantasy land (or far away from serious music-making) if he thinks that only an underpowered finale causes Levi's reading to fall from the summit of Mahler Firsts. Tell that to Bernstein, Abbado, Bruno Walter, and Rafael Kubelik, all of whom surpass this reading in power, imagination, and authority.

As for the nostalgic 'Blumine' movement, it was correct of Mahler to jettison it from the published score, but its haunting trumpet tune can be effective if played for mystery and longing. Levi's reading, however, is flat-footed and lacking in atmosphere. So unless you are a die-hard Atlanta fan -- I doubt anyone is a die-hard Blumine fan -- this Mahler First can be safely passed up.
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As Levi moves on to the Flemish Radio Orchestra amid controversy, both he and Telarc have left us with a first rate recording of the Mahler 1st, with the rarely included Blumine movement to boot. Though not exactly loved by many of the Atlanta symphony musicians, he has provided a performance that communicates the score almost as well as any of the more revered conductors' efforts. The pacing throughout the orchestra is well-conceived, as it was in his recent recording of the Mahler 4th. Only the last movement seemed somewhat deliberate, but does conclude in rousing fashion literally lifting me out of my seat. Even though you may own many other fine recordings of this work (e.g. Bernstein on DGG, Horenstein, Walter), I wager you will hear more the work than you've heard before, and not just because of the additional movement. Don't delay!
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First off, engineering-wise this is the best Mahler 1ST on record. This is the closest that I've ever heard of **any** recording to bringing the concert hall to your living room. The bass is brought out very well, and when those bass drums go, your may jump, even at relatively low volume listening levels. The clarity is just astonishing, and has the Bernstein version on DG beat by a mile in terms of recording quality. (not an easy thing to do, as the DG version is also an excellent recording.) I'm definitely now on the lookout for more good Telarc "DSD" recordings!
The performance is also very strong, and as a bonus Mahler's original second movement (which he later deleted) is included. I don't think that the restored movement really belongs in the symphony, and it's not one of Mahler's best slow movements anyway, but it's there for the curious. (and if you don't like it, you can program your CD player to skip over it.)
In comparison to the DG version conducted by Bernstein (the only serious digital competition), I perfer Bernstein's version to this one. However Levi does a better job on the inner movements than Bernstein, particularily the 3RD movement ("Frere Jacques") where Levi captures that bittersweet mood much better than Bernstein. However, I prefer the outer movements of the Bernstein recording - the first movement evokes nature more clearly (IMO) in the Bernstein version, though this is splitting hairs, and the final movement is just a heck of a lot more exciting and satisfying with Bernstein at the helm (as another reviewer also mentioned.)
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