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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Guts, No Glory, 14 Sep 2012
By 
Entartete Musik (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 (Naxos: 8572207) (Audio CD)
Balancing posts in Baltimore, Bournemouth and, now São Paulo, Marin Alsop has made a name for herself across the Globe. She's notched up esteemed recordings of Bartók and Bernstein, as well as Copland and Dvořák. So it's only natural that Alsop would want to stamp her authority on other totems of the orchestral repertoire. Her latest recording with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra sees her at the start of Mahler's great symphonic odyssey. But with many other considerable efforts already on the shelf, her hasty and oddly phlegmatic performance falls short of the mark.

Conducting Mahler is something like alchemy. It needs a breadth of tone. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has that in spade fulls - even if the string phrasing can be a little ragged. But Mahler also requires something caustic, something cruder. When the cellos take on the 'Ging heut Morgen übers Feld' theme in the first movement, it sounds passive. There's pastoral joy here, but no bite or rhetoric.

Dudamel went a step too far with the second movement in his opening concert with the LA Phil (on DVD and download), but you need something of that muddy hoedown when delivering a Ländler. Alsop keeps things far too polite, which may suit the ensuing waltz, but undermines Mahler's propensity for irony. Even the flashback to his Jewish upbringing in the third movement proves too tame.

Part of the problem is the capacious acoustic of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. It can often steal the players' thunder, particularly in the finale, though here Alsop is prone to haste, where heft would communicate so much more. Mahler screwed his guts out for this piece, constantly revising it, facing vilification whenever it was performed. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra makes it sounds all too easy and, in so doing, they and their music director fail to enter the arena.
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 (Naxos: 8572207)
MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 (Naxos: 8572207) by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Audio CD - 2012)
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