Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 1,
Symphony No. 1,
Paul Kletzki, cond; Israel PO
PREISER 90730, mono (79:23)
Paul Kletzki, Georg Tintner, and Erich Leinsdorf shared the same fate as conductors in anti-Semitic Nazi Germany. Although each of their respective careers after the Second World War eventually saw a renascence in other countries, their careers never blossomed fully
to be commensurate with their abilities. I’m sure there are other artists with such unfortunate histories, but Kletzki reminds me of Leinsdorf, and also of Tintner, but to a lesser degree.
This is a 1954 monaural recording that is, to our good fortune, superior sonically. When you hear it (as I hope many readers will), you’ll be amazed at its quality. With that issue out of the way, here is a Mahler First that’s a First Place winner—well, perhaps in a two- or maybe three-way tie for first—with honors shared by both conductor and orchestra.
Throughout all four movements, the complex orchestral part-writing characteristic of Mahler is clearly articulated. Mahler was essentially a chamber music composer whose “chamber music” was scored for large orchestra, and thus was possibly the greatest of all orchestrators. This is not an indulgent performance characteristic of Bernstein and a few other conductors. Kletzki is strictly business, and Mahler profits. The quotations from “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” in the first and third movements are especially beautiful.
The first movement repeat is not observed, which is also the case for Bruno Walter’s equally magnificent stereo recording of the Mahler First. The humor in the Kräftig bewegt second movement is clearly apparent under Kletzki’s baton, with the waltz-like Trio presented in clear contrast. The contrabassoon opens the third movement with a very subdued “Frére Jacques.” The oboe entry that follows is incisive. The later return of “Frére Jacques” in E?-Minor is sardonic. The Kletzmer music in this movement appears naturally, with an authenticity that stems from the traditions of the performers. The fortissimo cymbal crash that opens the final movement shatters the preceding calming pianissimo of the basses and bass drum most dramatically.
As impressive as Kletzki’s Mahler First is, Bruno Walter’s Columbia Symphony Orchestra “enhanced” stereo performance of the Mahler First remains my favorite. (“Enhancement,” I have been told, is an equalizing process that improves sonic quality. It was occasionally used in recordings in the past, but has been generally abandoned.)
Kletzki’s Schumann First, the “Spring” Symphony, is a competent but undistinguished reading, and not as exciting as Leonard Bernstein’s version with the New York Philharmonic. Kletzki omits repeats in the first and fourth movements, which results in an elision of the brief, but attractive, fourth movement four-bar first ending, whereas Bernstein observes the repeats.
I recommend Kletzki’s Mahler First as an important addition to the recorded Mahler symphonies.
FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Israel Symphony Orchestra
Date of Recording: 1954
Notes: Composition written: Leipzig, Germany (1888).
Composition revised: Germany (1896).
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