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on 11 August 2011
Mahler's Symphony No. 1 is a work that is full of youthful zest and spirit. As the very first of his nine (or ten) stunning symphonies, it already shows an unprecedented skill of symphonic writing, beginning the Mahler tradition of using huge orchestras in an attempt to incorporate the whole world into a symphony. Interpreters who try to tackle this work should have a feel for the great underlying structure in this symphony. But, equally important, they must pick up on the exuberant love for life and nature that is all throughout this symphony.

How did Valery Gergiev fare in his reading? Well, first off, I'll have to say that he is very successful in recognizing the great symphonic structure in this work. His reading doesn't lack bigness in tone, and there is always a sense of the strong structural backbone present in the symphony. I'm particularly pleased at how well the LSO fares in producing a big tone that can handle the big climaxes in this symphony with a surprising dexterity, something which isn't always present to this extent in other LSO Live albums. The LSO's percussion section is better than I've ever heard it before and the basses dig deep into their passages with a wonderful snarly tone.

But what I find somewhat lacking in this reading is a sense of blissful contentment and love of nature I feel Mahler has sprinkled throughout this work, particularly in the 1st movement. While the LSO woodwinds play the bird calls that start out this symphony with a clear, precise tone, I'm not swept off my feet in the way that I would like to be. And, in general, Gergiev has a tendency to be so caught up with bigness of sound that he misses the charm. This isn't true everywhere: the 3rd movement is full yearning sentiment and a love that makes it a decided success for Gergiev. But elsewhere, I can't quite say the same. The 2nd movement is hardly very folksy and fun, as grand as Gergiev makes it. I'm a bit more sympathetic with Gergiev's look at the finale, as the orchestral thunder he unleashes is so terrifying. Even there, though, I find it a bit impersonal.

Despite this album's setbacks, it is still a good, solid reading. It just doesn't send me into the raptures that one might hope it would.
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on 9 August 2008
Having demonstrated that he is among our foremost interpreters of Shostakovich, eminent conductor Valery Gergiev has embarked on a potentially great Mahler symphony cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra as its new principal conductor for the orchestra's LSO Live label. A musical journey that shouldn't surprise long-time listeners and admirers of Gergiev's conducting, especially when Shostakovich expressed his own artistic debt to Mahler's genius for melody and orchestration throughout his fourteen symphonies. Gergiev's exceptional interpretation of the Mahler 1st Symphony is one that shall be remembered for its great clarity and emotional depth. All Gergiev asks of his new orchestra is superb intonation and fidelity to Mahler's intentions; needless to say we are treated to a sonic spectacular quite removed from the overwrought emotional richness of a late career Leonard Bernstein; instead, in its crisp, steady unfolding, Gergiev's interpretation most closely resembles Bernard Haitink's in its clarity, sonic richness and fidelity to Mahler. Under the exceptional technical stewardship of LSO Live producer James Mallinson and his team, live Barbican concert performances recorded earlier this year (January 2008) truly resemble most closely a well-miked studio recording.

Gergiev adheres to brisk tempi throughout the score, emphasizing the vibrant qualities of the lieder melodies which Mahler borrowed from his own songs, especially heard in the main theme of the first movement, which is taken from the second song in Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfarer" four song cycle. The second movement is a brash, bold landler (a close, but coarse, country kin to the refined Viennese waltz) that borrows a theme from an earlier song. In stark contrast, the third movement is a triumphant funeral march, whose core melody is the familiar Frere Jacques tune from childhood. Finally this too passes in a concluding fourth movement that briefly revisits the main themes from the preceding three in a musical maelstrom, before concluding in a hopeful brass fanfare of almost Wagnerian proportions. It is truly one of Gergiev's great gifts as a conductor that he coaxes refined, quite elegant, playing from the winds and brass, as well as the strings. Without a doubt this latest recording of the Mahler 1st Symphony promises to be a serious contender as a definitive recording for classical music fans, worthy of comparison to relatively recent recordings made not only by Bernard Haitink, but Pierre Boulez, David Zinman, and Claudio Abbado too.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 May 2015
Jascha Horenstein, 1899-1973, recorded Mahler's First Symphony twice, with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in 1953 [heard in much improved mono sound in the Preiser reissue of 2005] and again in 1969, at the Barking Assembly Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra. The work is one of the composer’s most approachable.

The strengths of Horenstein’s performance are his overall conception of the symphony, and his attention to balance and dynamics. Of course, it helps that he is supported by orchestral musicians playing at the top of their form – particularly pointed in the third movement and the stormy final movement. The orchestra’s obvious rapport with their conductor is palpable. Individual details, however ravishing, are never allowed to inhibit the creation of a completely convincing whole. The sound is very good although not up to the standard of a later, apparently illegal, transfer.

Horenstein thoughtful approach and sensitivity to the music is evident in the distant fanfares (clarinets followed by offstage trumpets), the woodwinds’ cuckooing and the Wayfarer song of the opening movement. The overall conception is intensely lyrical, clearly evident in the Ländler-like exultant Scherzo, without this lessening the impact of the third movement’s funeral march that is imbued with a sense of irony. Here and elsewhere the percussion playing is first-rate. The song from the Wayfarer cycle, that Deryck Cooke in a 1969 text links to the death of the composer’s favourite younger brother, achieves an emotional depth that I have not heard bettered.

The devastating opening of the final movement which the composer wanted to sound ‘like a bolt of lighting ripping from a black cloud’ is linked to the following musical ideas through a triumphant arc in which the brass and percussion are to the fore. The conclusion makes the heart race but Horenstein remains completely in control and sensitive to both clarity and shaping, and avoids any hint of becoming bombastic or too rushed.

This 1988 reissue contains Deryck Cooke’s original text on the work together with a brief biography and photograph of the conductor.

Whilst this performance is not quite as impressive as the same conductor’s Mahler 3 it is very difficult to choose between it and Kubelik’s recording, but why should I? It is an immensely powerful and intelligent performance and one of the most enjoyable.
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on 14 June 2013
Every time, when I listen this disc, I see the love story in my mind. Fight, death and victory. The last movement tells it to us. I love this disc - this is absolutely the best performance of this work. London Symphony Orchestra plays gloriously. I haven't heard this disc in SACD format, but I believe, that then this review is useless - I need to give six stars to this disc. Highly recommend, absolutely. BUY THIS DISC, RIGHT NOW!

Permormance: *****
Recording: *****

1. Langsam. Schleppend - Im Anfang gemächlich (14"40)
2. Kräftig bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell - Trio: Recht gemächlich - Tempo primo (8"14)
3. Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu scleppen (10"32)
4. Sturmisch bewegt (19"15)

Total time: 52"42

Recorded live January 2008 at the Barbican, London

Hybrid SACD - Includes multi-channel 5.0 and stereo mixes
Published by Universal Edition AG.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 April 2016
I am generally a big fan of Horenstein's Mahler and have reviewed his Third, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth and "Das Lied von der Erde" glowingly, but just as I found his live Seventh to be undistinguished, I was less than bowled over by this First. It starts well,with a suitably atmospheric "faery lands forlorn" ambiance, the trumpets aptly distanced, the horns ripely mellow and a sense of brooding mystery hanging in the air, but never really goes anywhere, especially compared with more dynamic and positive readings such as those from Solti and the recent superb release from Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

This is a very gentle, pastoral reading of the symphony, more sombre and reflective than I like it to be; the introduction is slow and dreamy and the movement overall is some three minutes slower than competitive versions from Kubelik and Barbirolli. Progress is deliberate and menacing but never very inspiring. The Scherzo is rustic and heavy without conjuring up the humour Barbirolli finds at a similar tempo, the third movement is gloomy and lacking in bite. The attack of the opening of the finale begins to compensate for that but the generally rather distant, ploggy, soft-edged sound diminishes its impact and the playing soon defaults into the same leisurely style which characterises the three preceding movements, culminating in a ponderous climax. As with the first movement, its overall timing is some two or three minutes longer than other,preferred recordings - and a full five minutes longer than Boult's breathless and thrilling account.

Ijust don't feel that for all his experience and expertise, Horenstein has found the spirit or measure of this music; it is all too marmoreal and reverential, lacking the bite,snap and irony which pervades the work.
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Valery Gergiev and The LSO Live give us a dramatic (and that's how Mahler would have liked it surely?) performance of the 1st symphony, which is the second CD release in a complete Mahler cycle planned for completion in 2009. The deft playing matches that of the LSO's Beethoven cycle of 2006, which I believe deserves greater recognition, and no doubt this Mahler series will also be released as a complete box set once all the recordings have been made.

The opening is restrained, while the finale provides all the expected nightmarish angst which typifies Mahler's life and music. Gergiev's LSO promises to provide a cycle which is as inspirational as Haitink's and LSO's Beethoven set.

Great listening which hints at more to come.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2004
This is one of Horenstein's best Mahler recordings. The interpretation, orchestral playing, and recording quality (stereo) form a musical unity that is memorable and musically convincing as well. But due to Horenstein's subjective choices, the interpretation is not, in my view, as consistent as Kubelik's (DG or Audite), Walter's (SONY) or Barbirolli's (Dutton), which I consider to be the first choices. For example, the broad tempo choice at the very end is hardly what Mahler indicates in the score.
Nonetheless, this disc is a must for every serious collector.
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on 17 April 2014
Probably one of the most underrated of the Austrian composers, but this Symphony may change your mind. When you listen to the second movement you can close your eyes and imagine you are in the mountains of Tirol or Carinthia!
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on 4 July 2014
Only heard one movement of this symphony before but then was live at the Bridgewater Hall and so bought the CD. Wonderful
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on 1 October 2015
An excellent recording of this piece.
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