The Utah Symphony, celebrating its 75th anniversary in the 2015-2016 season, is one of America’s major symphony orchestras and a leading cultural organization in the Inter-mountain West. It is recognized internationally for its distinctive performances, commitment to music education programs, and recording legacy. Reference Recordings is pleased to announce the release of this new and fresh performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. This work was performed as part of the orchestra’s two-year Mahler Symphony Cycle.
This recording celebrates 75 years of superb orchestral work from the Utah Symphony and it is nice to see them back on record. It’s also nice to see an SACD from that bastion of audioRead more excellence, Reference Recordings… Young conductor Thierry Fischer also proves himself a fine Mahlerian…this is a very competitive issue done by superb partners on each side of the microphone, and is easily recommended.
– Audiophile Audition ( Steven Ritter)
It is tempting to dismiss yet another Mahler First entering a crowded market as simply not needed. In this case it would be a mistake because this does offer something special in several respects. First and most important, a reminder that the Utah Symphony Orchestra is clearly still a splendid band for whom this complex work, with which they have a long recorded history, offers no terrors. Conducted briskly by their well established Music Director Thierry Fischer, these players respond with as rhythmically vital a performance as you could wish to hear. Tempi are a little faster than the norm but compared with some of the great Mahlerians like Abbado, Walter and Bernstein, Fischer is little different in terms of timings. He is different in approach, encouraging a dance-like quality from music where we are used to more pauses for introspection. One could support his upbeat view by reference to Mahler's own programmes but since the composer admitted these were often written after the music as a means for audiences to access it more easily, we will avoid such quotation. For whatever reason, Mahler's 'Titan' is often presented as positive. For example, the first movement has lots of characterful and very rhythmic woodwind playing, a sort of Mahlerian jam-session. It is a perfectly valid view. The second movement is in any case rhythmic, here it becomes more so, encouraged by Fischer's brisk tempi. It is an exciting virtuoso display. I have one small but significant criticism of the third movement. The double-bass solo is much too well played. There is none of the straining that Mahler must have expected. He could not have predicted how good modern players would become. As a result the theme gets a rather too sophisticated presentation. The explosive opening of the finale, helped by a very present bass drum and gong, pins one back in one's seat just as it should. The mystery and angst others find in this music is replaced by a lively and confident traversal through Mahler's teeming ideas ending with an eruption of sound that must have stimulated loud cheers from the Utah audiences but which the engineers have excluded for the home listener. Since the hall resonance has time to fade away this is either a 'patch' job, or the audience were asked for restraint.
The recording level is quite high but with digital media this doesn't matter. The Soundmirror engineers, long famous for their skill, have captured a convincing concert hall acoustic and though extra microphones were used beyond the five main ones, it does have a feeling of reality not often captured. Finally the notes are well written, detailed, extensive, give historic context and, thank you notes editor, printed in a readable size font.
– MusicWeb International (Dave Billinge) Read less
As good as it getsOctober 31, 2015By K. BAKER (HEBER CITY, UT)See All My Reviews"I have 31 CDs of this symphony. My initial impression of this recording is that it is as good as it gets, based on one hearing with no direct A/B comparison to some of my other favorites. There are three things to consider in judging a recording: 1] the orchestra, 2] the conductor's interpretation, and 3] the sonics of the recording. 1] The UT Symphony is one of our lesser known great orchestras, and they do a great job. Thanks to the high quality of the recording, you hear everything with remarkable clarity. Minor quibble: there is something to said for a much larger orchestra. 2] Fischer's interpretation has its idiosyncratic moments, as do all great Mahlerians, but it is never less than fascinating. The one caution is that Fischer boarders on being an episodic Mahlerians-- I'll explain. All Mahler consists of a collection of musical episodes, and the key to a great Mahler performance is the ability of the conductor to connect these episodes into a flowing, coherent whole. There are other Mahlerians who do a better job of creating the overall flow, but, on the other hand, few of them pull off the episodes as well as does Fischer. Bottom line: enough coherence to pull it off, and excellent episodes. 3] Wisely, the performance was recorded in Abravanel Hall instead of across the street in the Mormon Tabernacle (where Vanguard & Columbia recorded the UT Symphony). We have been going to live classical music concerts since 1957. Our UT Symphony season ticket seats are in the spot the architect of Abravanel Hall identified as the sonic sweet spot of the auditorium, so I compared the sound quality of the recording to the best sonics possible en the hall, and the recording engineers came pretty close. Years ago the great Mercury Living Presence recordings showed us that the best way to record classical music was not with microphones imbedded in the orchestra or directly above the orchestra, but with microphones out in front and above the orchestra (that's where we sit-- in front and above the stage because that's where the best sound is). So, how close did the recording engineers do with microphones above the stage in capturing the best of the superb sound of Abravanel Hall? Pretty damn good. The inner detail is remarkable. The sound stage is enormous. it fills the room. Compared to the live performance, the recording has an unnatural imbalance to the right, but you will not know this because you never heard the live performance, so forget it. 3 quibbles: 1] Not as good as what is heard at our seats, but surprisingly close. 2] The engineers exaggerated some instrumental passages key to the episodes, primarily flutes and clarinet. In reality, they were not this loud, but this is a minor quibble. 3] At the live concerts at which this was recorded, the 5 movement version of the symphony was performed. Its hard to get a recording of the 5 movement version, and a good part of the reason I bought this CD was because I knew the 5 movement version had been performed-- big disappointment to discover the CD only included the modern standard 4 movements-- boo, hiss. Shame on the people who perpetrated this sham. The sonic bottom line: this recording is demo quality. It will knock your socks off. Bottom line. If you must have only one recording of this. Fischer is a strong contender. If you already have one of more recordings of this, add the Fischer to your collection. If cost is the driving factor, consider Leaper, Pal, or Ormandy. BTW: Also recorded in 2014 in live performance was a spectacular production of Mahler's second symphony. Look for it."Report Abuse
Great SACD recordingOctober 15, 2015By Jerry G. (Edgewater, CO)See All My Reviews"This is not the only recording of this that I have. However, it is the first in SACD, and that's what makes this recording great. I have numerous SACD recordings, but I believe this is a superior recording. Also, I had never heard of the label, but will certainly look for others in the future."Report Abuse