Notes and Editorial Reviews
These two performances, recorded live in absolutely stunning sound, make a well-earned tribute to the Oslo Philharmonic, a group that under Jansons' tutelage has become truly world class in every respect. The playing on offer here is absolutely terrific; strings have the body and weight of sound necessary to bring off the finale of the Ninth with complete conviction. The brass fanfares in the First Symphony have brilliance and the trombones and tuba make their presence properly felt. The winds snap and snarl as they should in the First Symphony's funeral march and the two inner movements of the Ninth. From a purely technical point of view, I have nothing but praise for these immaculately executed performances.
the First takes the palm: here is yet another excellent reading in what is becoming a very crowded field. The opening catches the music's innocent freshness to perfection, and Janson's heavy-footed scherzo, with cellos and basses really digging into their parts, gives the movement all of the rustic vigor one could want. Jansons plays the Funeral March a bit straight, but observes the quiet dynamics well, while the finale has tremendous vehemence at the opening and an aptly grand conclusion. It's simply excellent from beginning to end and really as good as anything available, always making allowance of course for personal preference in terms of detail. Certainly it refutes the notion of Jansons as a cold interpreter or a conductor who values precision over expression: there's passion aplenty in that finale.
The Ninth is also well done, but here Jansons' interpretation doesn't quite measure up to the competition. The comparatively swift opening movement lacks the necessary violence at its eruptive climaxes (despite some really fine timpani pounding at the last of them), though it's very beautifully played. In the second movement, Jansons does some colorful things with accents and phrasing, but he doesn't follow Mahler's injunction to accelerate the tempo of the waltz sections on each recurrence, and so doesn't quite build up the necessary head of steam that the music demands. And although the closing pages of the Rondo:Burleske have sufficient energy and abandon, Jansons sounds too careful in the movement's opening stages. It needs to sound nastier. At just under 25 minutes, though, the flowing finale comes of very well, an apt counterpoise to the opening movement and, like Masur's New York recording, an interesting rebuke to those who find this work "top-heavy."
So there's lots to admire here, and very little to criticize, but competition in these two works is so strong, and standards of both playing and interpretation are so high, that it's impossible to give this set an unqualified recommendation. That said, these are very enjoyable performances that never once fail to uphold the highest international standards of playing, and they are really superbly recorded. If you have a chance to hear them, you will doubtless be glad that you did.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Notes: Composition written: Leipzig, Germany (1888).
Composition revised: Germany (1896).
Symphony no 9 in D major by Gustav Mahler
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1908-1909; Austria
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