I remember buying this as an L.P years ago. It was then (early 1970's) one of the very best Mahler discs around. But memory plays tricks, and would hearing it again on C.D. be as rewarding? You bet! It is a wonderful performance, where orchestra, conductor and engineers all came together to produce a classic. The L.S.O. is on superb form. The woodwind and brass sections in particular are special. Solti keeps the music moving, but is not as ruthless as he could be in some later Mahler recordings. The second movement Landler dances along, and the third, with its crazy clarinet interjections, is as bizarre as it should be. The finale is terrifically exciting, but relaxes where it should (wonderful string playing here). The engineering is amazing for 1964; recorded in the Kingsway Hall, with John Culshaw producing, the sound is tangible in places, particularly the brass and percussion. There are a number of fine Mahler 1's; but there are none better.
Solti's 1964 recording of Mahler's mighty First Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra is a fabulous performance which brings out the colours and the emotion of the music. Being interested in how the themes keep returning and being able to conjure a performance in which the emotions and ideas behind the notes are communicated are parts of Solti's genius as well as creating a soft yet warm and gritty colourful sound world. The first movement is so lovingly played and the atmosphere of Spring is here in its warmth and beauty. The second movement is very exciting; and then the way the third movement changes the whole mood is expertly done. The end of the third movement leads fluidly into the crashes of the fourth movement in which the theme of Fate destroying the happiness of the first two movements is played out against the wailing is terrific and the way the theme is transformed into humans wanting desperately to live and take on Fate and overcoming terrible feelings of death wiping out love of Nature and life is glorious. This is a fierce Mahler's First conducted by a genius conductor who really understood Mahler so well.
I have quite a few versions of Mahler's First Symphony ( as do most Mahler afficianado's , I guess ) , but this one is right at the top of the pile , in my opinion , along with Kubelik/Bayern Rundfunks , and ahead of most others. The sound is still good in absolute terms , and the performance is terrific . Lively and vibrant when needed , and refined and subtle also . Solti has somewhat of a reputation as being a bit unsubtle at times ( totally unjustified from my point of view ), but this performance has everything . Certainly better than Bernstein's critically acclaimed efforts . It certainly deserves the legends tag it is labeled with here .
This disc is another successful re-mastering at 96kHx and 24 bits of impressive analogue recordings coupled to impressive performance from 1964. There are dedicated collectors who would assert that this period of time represented a peak in Decca’s technical achievements in the field of analogue recordings. This disc will add support to those views.
Solti had achieved an amicable working relationship with the LSO by this time and had yet to forge his later career in Chicago which was still recorded by Decca into the digital age. This change, although commercially and musically successful, was not always superior to earlier achievements. This recording was one such occasion.
Much of the difference lies in the nature of orchestral personnel as well as the change in recorded perspectives to suit. The LSO had always prided itself on promoting the individual talents of its members – the very antithesis of the BSO under Karajan for example. The Chicago orchestra under Reiner and continued through into Solti’s time was more interested in their combined skill as a corporate body.
These characteristics were allied to their choices of conductors. The LSO favoured conductors who were inclined to allow orchestral members to express themselves within the conductor’s overall concept. Examples such as Monteux, Kertesz and Abbado spring readily to mind. The Chicago orchestra was happier with a strong lead that was more dominant - Reiner and Solti being the obvious examples at that time.
Decca favoured a closer balance in Chicago which underlined the corporate virtuosity of the members and the power of the whole body of the orchestra. This was at the expense of a more generous ambient glow which is utterly apparent in this earlier LSO recording. It is one that allows far more individual expression within a kinder acoustic.
Not surprisingly it is in these aspects that the LSO recording differs from the later Chicago one. There is nothing to choose between the essential technical capabilities of the two sets of players who all rise wonderfully to Solti’s demands concerning the symphony.
The first Mahler symphony is by far the most pastoral, more simply lyrical and more Slavonic / Bohemian in its content with numerous references to nature easily sharing space with sounds of a garrison town, all done without real conflict or his later expressions of conflict and angst. The LSO recording and Solti’s more relaxed approach, for Solti that is, is more in tune with those elements of the symphony as described above. That warmth of context is less apparent in the Chicago version which points more strongly to Mahler’s future compositional directions.
Choice will come down to whether listeners see the symphony as an early or late work emotionally at the point of composition. Those who favour the early approach will prefer this LSO account while those who see this early work as emotionally connected to later works will prefer the Chicago account. Both are equally fine in their really quite different ways while still being readily identifiable Solti interpretations.
In summary, this LSO Mahler disc stands out in the Solti discography and is well worth seeking out before supplies cease.
This is one of Decca's great recordings with Solti and the LSO on top form. The Decca sound of the sixties is quite extraordinary and the Solti electricity finds an ideal vehicle. Strongly recommended.
This recording is the stuff of legend, having dominated the recording catalogue for decades. The opening is hauntingly, sensitively, atmospheric, captured in glowing sound and the ending is as powerfully projected as one could wish for. The recording sonics belie the age of this Classic disc, and even though I also have the digital Solti CD from Chicago, which is spectacular, the magical atmosphere of the earlier LSO recording is just so special. An exceptional achievement in the Mahler discography!