WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Mahler: Symphony No 1 / Jurowski, London PO

Mahler / Jurowski / London Philharmonic Orchestra
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Lpo   Catalog #: 70  
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Vladimir Jurowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

MAHLER Symphony No. 1 (incl. “Blumine”) Vladimir Jurowski, cond; London PO LPO 0070 (60:51)

This is one of the better Mahler Firsts available on disc at the moment. For starters, the London Philharmonic Orchestra plays with complete unanimity of purpose and notable polish, especially the woodwinds and solo trumpet. The latter gets more of a chance than usual, because this performance includes the rejected “Blumine” movement (placed second), where the trumpet carries the melody Read more for much of the time. Then, there is Jurowski’s leadership: This conductor not only has a thorough concept of the piece as a whole but carefully shapes every individual episode. And Mahler is nothing if not episodic!

His detailed pointing includes the little chromatic bassoon figure under the Wayfarer theme in the first movement, bringing a real touch of rustic character to that passage; indeed, the entire opening paragraph of the symphony is built steadily and convincingly towards the point where the full orchestra bursts forth. Another detail is the sighing glissando in the falling string figure that appears in the development section. This part of the first movement often hangs fire after the ebullient opening, but Jurowski retains focus, emphasizing the mystery and contrast. The coda is tight and snappy, played with a blazing energy that is bracingly joyous.

The “Blumine” serenade that Mahler jettisoned after the fourth performance is lovingly played and well integrated into the whole. Jurowski reports that he included it because the Second and Third symphonies also have an intermezzo following the first movement, so the inclusion “makes the links between the first three symphonies more apparent.” My opinion is: The more Mahler we hear, the better—but it is easy enough to program this movement out if you want to. Both the following movements encompass their moments of rusticity without lurching into a different stylistic area. In the Klezmer passages of the fourth movement, an earthier timbre is not encouraged (as in the performances by Bernstein and Kubelík) but neither is the result too mellow (as in Eschenbach’s excellent recording) because Jurowski’s musicians point the music so crisply. The hushed middle section, also derived from Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen , is beautifully shaped.

The finale is full of individual touches, and I particularly like the way Jurowski does not anticipate the grandeur of the closing pages; some conductors make this movement too self-important. The first subtle appearance of the chorale is given with no Ritardando : It sounds like another jaunty little pastoral theme, and if you didn’t know the symphony you would have no inkling of where Mahler was about to take it. Nor does Jurowski make a meal of the lovely, lyrical theme that follows the explosive opening: While Mahler originally described the finale “the expression of the feelings of a deeply wounded heart,” he later dropped such descriptions from the program. Jurowski ensures that the emotion inherent in the music does not overwhelm the structure of the whole work.

I liked the recent Baltimore version with Marin Alsop ( Fanfare 36:4), but Jurowski’s cleanly recorded live performance leaves it behind in terms of detail and character. The new recording also beats its most obvious competitor: a live recording by Valery Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra on the LSO house label. The LSO plays wonderfully, of course, showing greater passion at the outset of the finale, but Gergeiv’s level of commitment seems to wax and wane throughout the performance. Jurowski’s control and focus are to be preferred. Enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan": Blumine by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Vladimir Jurowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884-1888; Leipzig, Germany 
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Vladimir Jurowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 Gorgeous! June 26, 2013 By Chris S. See All My Reviews "What a gorgeous rendering of this classic recording! Quality and musicality are top notch. While it might seem small, I love the English translations of the movement names - it gives the listener a sense of what to expect and takes some of the pretentious stereotype away from classical music!" Report Abuse
 A Mahler Fan now a Jurowski-LPO Fan June 20, 2013 By Joe S. See All My Reviews "I am a big fan of Mahler. As an undergrad at Saint Olaf College, I loved attending the Mahler Society party every year, a twelve-hour, all 9 symphonies played in a row extravaganza. I had the pleasure of playing second clarinet on a few performances of Mahler 1 as well. With this experience of Mahler under my belt, I came in as a tough customer, especially of a potentially spotty live performance recording, but I was ultimately sold on Jurowski and the LPO’s performance on this album. I was especially attracted to hearing the original second movement that Mahler had removed, ‘Blumine’. Throughout the recording, I really enjoyed the “bite” that the players brought to their performance. The “cuckoos” of the woodwinds in the first movement cut through the texture of the orchestra in a very satisfying way. Jurowski’s interpretation included a clear instruction to the string players to emphasize portamenti. These slides added an aggression to the music that I wasn’t expecting, but really enjoyed. The cleanliness of this recording was amazing- little lines in the middle instruments rang out clearly and energized the performance. I would like to hear a 20-years-older Jurowski recording of this symphony. What I mean by that is that I thought some moments of interpretation were stunning and revealed an intimate knowledge of Mahler’s music, but other moments weren’t that way. I’m not sure if all of the stretches and rushes and interpretive decisions coalesced into a trademark “interpretation”. If I could nitpick, too, why did you do a bass soli in the fourth (traditionally third) movement’s opening, man? That lick is so cool when it’s just one bass ripping on it! Okay, the discussion of ‘Blumine’ you’ve been waiting for is here. The first time I listened, I was not feeling it. I was expecting the raucous folk-dance of the third movement, and got this wussy second movement instead! A lot of times, I think composers know the best about their own music and cut things for a reason. I put it on a few more times and couldn’t hear its relationship to the rest of the symphony. I know that reaching for anything like inter-movement motivic coherence isn’t fair in a discussion of a Mahler symphony, but I was hoping for a clear reason to welcome this new movement into the space I’d cleared in my head and heart for this symphony. After a few more times, I realized I had to stop looking at this one new tree, but evaluate it within the forest. The movement is beautiful, and its heartfelt emotions foreshadow the string and horn interlude in the fifth (traditionally fourth) movement. It serves as a good contrast between the traditional first and second movements, and it’s faint, shining ending, makes the arrival of the folk dance brasher and more satisfying. I’m not sure if I’m ready to listen to ‘Blumine’ all the time, but I think it truly does have a place. I really enjoyed this interpretation of Mahler 1 by Jurowski and the LPO. ‘Blumine’ took the day as the star of the album, but it the work as a whole is also a splendid performance." Report Abuse
 A convincing reconstruction of Mahler I June 15, 2013 By Daniel Kozlowski See All My Reviews "This album brings a high profile orchestra and conductor to a short list of recordings that feature the original second movement of Mahler’s First Symphony, entitled “Blumine.” Currently, most performances of Mahler I are from the first printed 1899 score, after Mahler omitted “Blumine” in an attempt to purge the symphony of any distinct program. This revision (and many subsequent revisions) of the Symphony stem mostly from Mahler’s inner conflict over the role, purpose, and value of ‘program music’ at the tail end of the 19th century. The original performance of the Symphony included a program and was removed with the second movement; ironically, the program is typically still attached to performances despite the missing second movement. This performance of Mahler I has the high level of execution we’ve come to expect from the LPO, while Jurowski’s interpretation sticks to the ink. Jurowski and the LPO give a great read of the work, but don’t expect too many surprises. The final movement seems rushed in some places where it shouldn’t and could have used a little love in transitional moments, while Jurowski seems to blow right through them. The inclusion of the second movement is really the star of this album and drastically changes the experience of the overall work; Jurowski does an incredible job guiding the orchestra through the delicately orchestrated work, and the orchestra provides a stunningly sensitive performance. The result is simply incredible and draws comparisons to the “Adagietto” of Mahler’s 5th, albeit a much younger and optimistic movement. I’m very happy to have this recording in my library of Mahler recordings, and I’m sure you will too." Report Abuse
Review This Title