MAHLER Symphony No. 1 in D (“Titan“). • Michael Halász conducting Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice). • NAXOS 8.550522 [DDD]; 60:38. Produced by Beata Jankowska.
This fast, bold, vigorous, youthful, if occasionally overdriven, First marks Michael Halász's first appearance in Naxos's Mahler cycle. Overall, it's an auspicious debut. Halász pushes the opening pages a bit too hard, but once the
transition to the Ging heut 'Morgen über's Feld theme arrives, the performance blooms. Characterized by strong, firm rhythmic underpinning, the theme itself is beautifully done, and the return to the slower music is suitably moody and misty. Faster than most, the coda is both effective and exciting. A heady combination of fast tempos, propulsive impetus, and gutsy playing by the PNRSO makes for a second movement that is absolutely ' 'Kräftig bewegt!“ (strongly moving). Sample, for instance, the conclusion of the first scherzo section. Only the too-quick, too-straightforward, go-easy-on-the-parody third movement is weak: most notably the Jewish band sequence and the rather abrupt shift to Die zwei blauen Augen. What seemed excessive in the slow movement, however, works very well in the finale. After 1:30 Halász picks up the pace, and despite some rhythmic rigidity around 8:30, there is much to get the juices flowing. The slow section prior to the reprise of material from the first movement is done very well as Halász lets the music breathe. If slightly less grandiose than Bernstein/DG or Küblik, the finale is still rousing. Including Blumine now seems to be S.O.P.; Halász takes it in a zippy 7:32, so it is never cloying or sappy. Naxos assigns it track 5.
Warm, rich, full sound from Naxos (the best I've heard so far in this series), with a wide and astonishingly deep soundstage. The minute gradations between the “distant“ and “in further distance“ trumpets near the beginning of the first movement is clearly, accurately, and admirably audible. While Halász does not replace Bernstein/DG as my favorite First, its many virtues and budget price help earn it a recommendation.
FANFARE: Benjamin Pernick Read less