Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 1
Markus Stenz, cond; Gürzenich O
OEHMS OC 646 (SACD: 52:56)
With this release, Markus Stenz completes the first half of his Mahler symphony cycle (and more, since he has recorded the
songs too). There are several Mahler symphony cycles in progress or recently completed. Some, such as David Zinman’s on RCA, are workmanlike and well recorded. This series on Oehms, though, offers more by way of interpretive detail and
Stenz’s is a broadly paced opening, with off-stage trumpets providing an excellent sense of acoustic space and depth. The theme based on “Ging heut Morgen” has freshness rather than exuberance at the arrival of morning. Stenz observes the repeat of the opening measures. The orchestral climax at the end of the movement is truly impressive. The second movement is forceful without becoming too impulsive or propulsive, exuding confidence more than swagger. The trio section has the lilt of the dance about it, an elegant intermezzo in the midst of the bustle of the main theme.
The double bass solo that opens the third movement is mournful and just a touch sour, as it should be. Stenz’s funeral march keeps up a steady pace without feeling sluggish (“ohne zu schleppen”). There is a real klezmer swing to the “Hungarian” music, and the band that follows is crisp rather than pompous. The “Wayfarer” song theme is poignant and not a bit saccharine. The opening of the fourth movement fits perfectly Mahler’s description of the “outcry of a deeply wounded heart.” The progress from Inferno to Paradise is dramatic yet full of Mahlerian pauses and sighs. The first, deceptive trumpet and horn chorale is as convincing as the final one on many other recordings, while the actual “Paradise” chorale crowns a thoroughly satisfying performance.
The sound production for this series is more closely recorded than that of the Michael Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Mahler Project, sacrificing some sense of the hall for heightened impact and detail (which is not to imply that MTT’s series is lacking in either); the sound is spacious and provides ample depth nonetheless. Those seeking a Mahler cycle in excellent SACD multichannel sound need look no further than this one on Oehms (unless you desire a complete set, in which case, get thee to MTT).
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Works on This Recording
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