- Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski
- Composer: Mahler
- Audio CD (29 April 2013)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Lpo
- ASIN: B00BPV5F9E
- Other Editions: Audio CD | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,193 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 [Vladimir Jurowski ] [LPO: LPO-0070]
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Digital Booklet: Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Digital Booklet: Mahler: Symphony No. 1
London Philharmonic Orchestra - Vladimir Jurowski, direction
Jurowski's grasp of the inherent architecture of the Symphony is very fine. --IRR, May'13
Jurowski hears everything but better yet the reasons for everything. His precipitous way with tempo contrasts creates moments of high drama in the outer movements, as does his understanding of Mahler's very articulation. If ever there was a case for wanting the applause, this is it. --Gramophone, June'13
Everything about the dewy dawn of this Mahler One is perfect: gurgling clarinets, well articulated and perfectly placed distant trumpet fanfares, spirited false cuckoo-calls . I can't wait to hear the same team's very individual Mahler five again. **** --BBC Music Magazine, July'13
Jurowski is one of those worth-their-weight-in-gold conductors whose musicianship you can straightforwardly trust. --Sinfini Music , 19/06/13
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This is an extraordinarily sensitive and nuanced account which eschews the temptation to stick to the sunny-side and run blithely through the score; there are frequent, telling adjustments in the phrasing which never sound fussy or applied. Thus we hear a lovely swing in the klezmer music, echt Viennese Schwung in the waltz section of the third movement, splendid, reckless galumphing in the peasant dances and a really eerie atmosphere to the "Bruder Jakob" interlude.
Of course another reason for hearing this lies not just in the quality of the playing but also in the inclusion of the "Blumine" movement, which Mahler had discarded as redundant by the time of the symphony's fourth performance in Berlin in 1896. Jurowski justifies its re-instatement here by virtue of the sly tension and dynamism he maintains throughout, successfully undercutting any tendency towards sentimentality. It opens with a yearning, melancholy riff for trumpet seemingly lifted from Donizetti's "Don Pasquale", an archetypally Romantic theme underpinned by comforting pizzicato chords from the lower strings.
The opening of the symphony is very relaxed and leisurely, the orchestral textures wonderfully clear and detailed without sacrificing homogeneity. The distant horn calls are as numinous as you could wish, then Jurowski builds inexorably to a terrific climax at 14:08, complete with fortissimo trumpets and whooping brass in a blazing tutti. The closing movement is correspondingly thrilling, with Jurowski giving his players full rein for the first tempestuous three minutes. He is alive to all the moods in this music and doesn't make the mistake of treating it as just a bucolic romp.
The sound is first class, especially so given that this was recorded live in the Royal Festival Hall. The perspective on the instruments is close but there is still sufficient reverb around them and we are miraculously free of audience intrusion. The violins are arranged antiphonally to provide more breadth.
I look forward to more of Jurowski's Mahler with the LPO; this recording is a triumph.
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According to Mahler scholar Jack Diether, Jenny Feld, a lifelong friend of Mahler, reported a bitter fight between the composer and publisher Weinberger, who had cut “Blumine” from his printing. Mahler was “furious” but later “reluctantly gave in” to the cut. After all, he himself had earlier removed the movement, then reinstated it. This off-and-on-again history of the “Blumine” movement parallels Mahler’s off-and-on-again romance with Johanna Richter, his love interest at the time. The Symphony seems strongly tied to his feelings about their attempted relationship. For example, the original fourth movement quotes a melody from “Songs of a Wayfarer,” which Mahler dedicated to her. And, as Jack Diether explains in his 25-page essay on “Blumine,” Mahler reflected on its prominent trumpet part in the last movement through a number of melodic transformations. So to me, the Symphony when performed without “Blumine” lacks the reason for much of the last movement’s pain and nostalgia. In addition, Mahler seemed very comfortable with a five-movement symphonic structure. After the First symphony, he also used it in symphonies 5, 7 and 10 (only symphonies 4 and 6 have the traditional four movements).
If you want to hear the original 1893 edition of the First symphony, which includes “Blumine” as the second movement, plus many differences in instrumentation from the edition usually performed today, investigate these fine recordings: Wyn Morris conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra, Ole Ruud conducting the Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra, and Jan de Vriend conducting the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra. I prefer the one by Wyn Morris, who also recorded Mahler’s second, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth and tenth symphonies. He unfortunately did not live to complete the rest of them.
The Jurowski and Levi recordings do not have significantly different movement timings. Jurowski’s first movement is 6 seconds faster than Levi’s. His second movement is about 20 seconds faster than Levi’s. His third movement is about 45 seconds slower than Levi’s. His fourth movement is 3 seconds slower than Levi’s. His fifth movement is about 1 minute faster than Levi’s. For me the biggest difference between them has to do with the sound. Jurowski recorded the Symphony in Royal Festival Hall, not a huge venue. Instruments (especially woodwinds) sound clear and prominent, but the hall has very little reverberation. On the other hand, Levi recorded the Symphony in Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center, a much larger hall. With Mahler I like a rich, big-hall sound, so Levi gets my vote.
After readings from Bernstein, Tennstedt, and Abbado that each captured the magic of Mahler's Titan in a compelling way, what is left for Vladimir Jurowski to say? A lot, it turns out. One of the keys to Jurowski's success is that he presses forward without attempting to sound delightful or magisterial. In the past, many conductors have seen the symphony as a work of bright, youthful spirits, full of joy. Abbado tended towards this outlook on his recording with the Berlin Phil, making such a rapturous environment of cloudless skies that I wonder if he has ever been matched. Jurowski's view is strikingly different, with little concern for a gentle, bucolic atmosphere, the album art notwithstanding. Propulsion seems to be the main emphasis. We forget that the symphony has become almost too accessible and find the mood more serious than usual.
That's not a bad thing, though. Jurowski is full of intense soul and doesn't let a single bar sound clichéd. I never realized how often this symphony hints at mystery, even suspense. By eschewing the usual pleasant sounds, Jurowski adds incision and a feeling of darkness, believe it or not. It's a pleasure to have the "Blumine" movement included. Its restless mood fits in much better with the rest of the symphony than usual, since the whole interpretation is more enigmatic. Jurowski's special touch enables him to win the listener over while making choices that would seem unwise. For example, the Scherzo is straight-faced and serious instead of romping, but there's such precision and aggressive push that it's still just as thrilling.
I worry my words won't accurately convey my feelings since the tone of this interpretation is so ambiguous, but it's important to state that while Jurowski's passion lends a pensive mood, there are still many beauties, more than usual, actually. The difference is that nothing is purely soothing. There's melancholy to counterbalance every strain of joy. In this way he reminds me of Tennstedt, even though one could never mistake one for the other. (Jurowski is youthful and forward-looking while Tennstedt comes across as an aging man wistfully dreaming about the bittersweet delights of his past.)
Sufficient to say, this is a great new reading that is worthy to sit beside the best versions. It nearly changed my view of a popular symphony.