This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Abbado's London performance of Mahler's First Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra last year was a breathtaking experience. Allowing for the fact that the adrenalin cannot be expected to flow here quite as it did in the live performance, this recorded performance is poised, alert, and finely considered, with plenty of bite at critical moments. The change of orchestra does, nonetheless, leave some questions tantalizingly unanswered. Would Abbado's own orchestra, which has already made two classic recordings of the symphony (with Solti on Decca and Horenstein on Unicorn—RHS301, 12/69— nla) have brought a final degree of electricity to the sessions?
Live and on record, Abbado gives the impression of seeing the symphony as
a whole, something which is reflected in the flow, literal and structural, of his tempos. Abbado plays the work's opening and the recapitulation of the opening at fig. 39 of the finale (in many respects the work's psychological centre) with sympathetic care. Dynamic levels are attended to with characteristic scrupulousness; instrumental voices are sensitively sifted and balanced by the digital recording.
In the first movement Abbado stresses the music's spring-like mood, its burgeoning sense of wonder. 'In the first movement the greatest delicacy" said Mahler to Schalk, and Abbado's reading is delicately evolved. My only slight reservation concerns the final climax. Horenstein, rivetingly, and Solti put rather more space round it, and although Abbado does not rush the coda out of all recognition as some virtuoso conductors do, he takes it close to the edge of tolerance. A sense of flow is evident elsewhere in the reading. After a steady-treading, idiomatic reading of the Landler, the Trio is played with an airy lightness which is a welcome change from the glutinous interpretations of some rivals on record. The finale's wayfarer theme is sensitively and fluently played, the portamento at fig. 16 delicately placed. The Funeral March is also sensitively attended to, though it is perhaps marginally less idiomatic than in the readings of Kubelik and Solti.
After the London performance, I imagined that the new recording might soar to the top of the selected comparisons. It doesn't quite do that; but it merits a place among them as an exceptionally alert and discriminating reading of the work.
-- Gramophone [3/1982]
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