Notes and Editorial Reviews
Overall, Georg Solti's London Symphony recordings of Mahler Symphonies Nos. 1, 2, and 9 stand as his finest contributions to the composer's discography. This 1964 performance of the First always has been one of the best available, and so it remains. At the time, the London Symphony was in the process of unseating the Philharmonia as England's premier orchestra, and while the band's actual sound always retained a degree of tonal coarseness in the winds and brass, here Solti whips them into line to produce a dynamic, exciting reading that makes up in rustic freshness what it may lack in sheer polish. There are things in this performance that sound inevitably right: the way the strings really dig into the opening of the scherzo, and the
perfectly judged sudden tempo increase leading into the "a" section's final reprise; the sleazy "oompah" lower brass in the funeral march's beer hall music sections; the superbly balanced tam-tam and suspended cymbals in the same movement (inaudible in so many performances, and something about which Solti himself became completely insensitive later in his career); and finally, the blistering opening of the finale and its generously phrased but never overheated, lyrical second subject.
The recording, made in London's famous Kingsway Hall, sounds gorgeous up to mezzo forte, but lacks low frequency information in fortissimos. The bass drum, in particular, has little impact despite excellently captured lower strings, trombones, tuba, and timpani. While not a serious defect, it has always detracted from what otherwise is a finely balanced and satisfyingly full sonic picture, and even this excellent remastering can't do much to remedy the situation. Finally, Ivan March's notes seek to bolster the performance's reputation by quoting from the Penguin Guide (i.e. Ivan March & Co.) as if it were written by another person entirely. Not only is this obnoxious habit unnecessary, it's unethical, arrogant (Is there no other positive opinion on this recording that matters?), and it takes the readers for fools. While hardly relevant to the performance issues at hand, it's a point that needed to be made. All carping aside, this remains a great Mahler One. If you don't own it, you should.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Be the first to review this title