- Conductor: Iván Fischer
- Composer: Mahler
- Audio CD (20 Aug. 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Hybrid SACD
- Label: Channel Classics
- ASIN: B008975XDU
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,718 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Symphony No.1 in D minor, Titan Hybrid SACD
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Right from the beginning, Fischer combs through every nuance in Mahler's score, his brilliant rendering of orchestral sonorities - both individually and blended - deftly recorded by Channel. The first movement alone confirms Fischer's growing credentials as a major Mahler interpreter...Though this performance has much to offer - poise, intensity, dignity - we shouldn't lose sense of what it is not: impulsive, folk-like, impetuous. --Gramophone - Sept 2012
Fischer's exhilarating recording of Mahler's First with the Budapest Festival Orchestra dispels the sick-room air that hung inevitably over last year's centenary commemorations... the closing peroration is spine-tingling. --The Independent on Sunday - Aug 2012
Immediately gripping and very special...The playing is lean and clean, not quite stylish but brilliantly transparent, as if the conductor is shining a strong torchlight on every corner of the score. Sometimes the performance lacks rhythmic lift, but the galvanising climaxes of the first and last movements are thrilling. --The Observer - Aug 2012
Top Customer Reviews
I've yet to audition the other three symphonies, but I should first get one thing out of the way regarding this symphony: it is beautifully recorded, even the CD layer of the disc benefits, and the dynamics are handled with aplomb and the acoustics of the hall come across clearly. For its audio quality, I would award it 5 Stars, easily. However, for me, there are certain aspects of the performance that just rob it of a full five stars.
Unfortunately, the interpretation got off to a bad start almost from the off, and I confess that this put me in a frame of mind that I wasn't going to enjoy the performance and this, little by little, kept being reinforced at various stages throughout the performance where Fischer makes an effect, seemingly to distance himself from other conductors. Early in the first movement, for example, at the point where Mahler scored beautiful bird calls in the winds, Fischer lingers far too long seemingly admiring the sounds and sights of nature, forgetting that he should be moving on. This will be one of those idiosyncratic interpretations that you will either enjoy or find irritating. For me, it is the latter.
But as an admirer of the old school of Mahler conductors, including Bruno Walter and his 1959 NYPO recording of this work, I find Fischer's view of Mahler's sound world is certainly different. It is Mahler, but is it echt Mahler?
Don't get me wrong, there are lots of things to enjoy in this recording and maybe it will grow on me in time.Read more ›
The wayside gamble of the first movement has a loucher gait than many of Fischer's competitors, but he invests this evocation of the natural world with real buoyancy. Charting a vast dynamic range, not a note is left unturned. High points are over-emphasised, but it's all part and parcel of a symphony that seems to photosynthesise before our very ears. The Ländler is similarly feral, with its hunting-cum-Rosenkavalier horns teeing up a deliciously sensual waltz. Clearly Fischer rejoices in extremes.
Such contrasts become schizophrenic in the funeral march, where a desolate opening turns decidedly caustic. Balmy Budapest strings scatter portamento over the cortège, before pungent Klezmer clarinets take over the mourning duties. Playing on that bipolarity yet further, Fischer answers his languid opening movement with a savage finale. Strident, with bite to the brass and ferocious attacks at the heel of the bow, the symphony builds to a dynamic conclusion. Fischer's choice to delay the penultimate climax may irritate some, but the fanfares that follow will blind any listener.
After Alsop and Chung's recent unassertive performances, this recording is dizzyingly fresh. Fischer is an interventionist and, for that reason, this recording may not attain an award-winning benchmark spot. But for sheer theatrical guts and gall, this is unbeatable stuff.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The first movement is excellent, an ideal blend of mystery and vibrancy, perfectly paced (not too fast or slow), with moments of unique phrasing. Although some aspects of the orchestral play and sound are not consistent (or strangely dim on the recording) movement is as good as any, and worth the price of admission. The second movement is also very good. The energy dims just on the third and fourth movements, a slight lack of edge, and lack of bite and power.
It is a tall order, virtually impossible, to match the insight and depth of some of the legendary interpretations of past generations (Jascha Horenstein's 1970 recording with the LSO is a leading example), and this new offering is not revelatory on that caliber.
Also note that this is not even the best Mahler First from Fischer with this orchestra. They have performed the same work better than what is represented here.
But overall, this CD is good. Familiar ground is handled with polish,and a few twists along the way, making this one of the better Mahler Firsts in years. Which unfortunately is not saying much, in an era of increasingly austere, clinical, characterless, unsatisfying Mahler. None of that here. In its best moments, there is a personal quality to Fischer's interpretation, most notably on the lyrical passages, and that is welcome.
This is a thoughtful, warm, intelligent treatment handled with affection and care. Well worth hearing.
Update: Following this release, the first in the cycle, Fischer has proceeded to the other Mahler symphonies. I have been less enthused about the subsequent releases (Mahler Sixth, Fifth for instance)because Fischer chooses to perform Mahler light and dispassionate. (In fact, these have turned out to be the kind of " austere, clinical, characterless, unsatisfying Mahler" that I grouse about above.) This approach may be effective on the First and Fourth, but not the weightier ones.
In the case of the Mahler 1, my first exposure to it was life-changing -- the Minnesota Orchestra (during the years when their playing was truly so-so) with Maestro Klaus Tennstedt. This happened to be a coffee concert, so one rarely anticipated experiencing a performance that shattered all preconceptions -- but this one did. I also had the opportunity to thank Maestro Tennstedt for the performance, a privilege I still hold dear to my heart.
So, most every recording of the "Titan" has brought with it, first, the fact that it is a recording and not a live performance and, second, that it will probably not begin to measure up to the Tennstedt/MO concert. And so it was with a lot of trepidation and a hint of excitement that I popped this CD into my car stereo for the first time. Within minutes I found myself saying, "oh my." IMO, the most persistent problem with performances of this piece is that the players already know it by heart. It is a 'warhorse' and can be played with a ho-hum attitude that can cause the sound to become trite. Not this recording. Everything seems fresh, as though it were being experienced for the first time. In some spots there are no edges to the notes -- it is though they are created as strokes of a brush of a watercolor painting.
So, for those of you ready to yawn at the thought of yet another Mahler 1, take a deep breath and listen to this one. It is lovely. (I can only give it 4 stars out of 5 because, when it comes to Mahler, 5 stars would have to include Mahler conducting.)
The lead reviewer speaks positively of Fischer's "no-nonsense, straightforward" conducting. I'm not sure this is a blessing, but the reviewer certainly nails the description. Fischer isn't out to make a big statement or burn the house down. He prefers cozy, warm-sounding Mahler that puts elegance ahead of emotional impact. There's none of the personal involvement that Abbado, Bernstein, and Tennstedt incorporated into this masterpiece. Some listeners seem to prefer the missing dramatic flow, but I'm not among them. But to be fair, Fischer finds more interest than Gergiev on his LSO Live release (strange given the high level of the rest of Gergiev's cycle) and someone had to create the well-balanced orchestral playing before the engineers arrived.
Actually, I believe Fischer's Mahlerian ideals are purposely anti-sentimental. He's not cold, but there's a move to transfer Mahler to a world that's less threatening and radical. He achieves his goal, but why is emotional aloofness better than all-out commitment? In the end, I don't find enough contrasts to foster enthusiasm for a second listen.
I worry that reviewers will find me a crank for being the first negative reviewer. I'm entering controversial ground: is there a place for efficient Mahler that avoids the usual flood of desperate passion? You can decide. If you answer in the affirmative, here you go. You couldn't ask for better sound and Fischer doesn't do anything "wrong" from a technical standpoint.