In an era when Mahler's symphonies experienced few and far-flung performances, the only way you could get to know these works was by playing them on the piano, usually in duet arrangements such as Bruno Walter's excellent transcription of the First, recorded here for the first time. Reducing Mahler's innovative orchestral palette to the confines of a concert grand is not unlike viewing a large Monet canvas as reproduced in black and white on a postcard. Still, the composer's contrapuntal essence cogently emerges through Walter's registral sensitivity. The second movement is a good example of this, where the thematic elements and scaled filigree intertwine without colliding. Carefully differentiated accents and articulations also addRead more textural diversity within the piano's "de-orchestrated" parameters, as in Mahler's gradual addition of instruments in the third movement's opening section.
Zdenka and Martin Hirsel play magnificently. Their basic fleet tempos add up to a shorter overall timing than most orchestral recordings. But this has less to do with speed per se than with the duo's refusal to linger over or exaggerate the composer's numerous tempo changes, which by the way, they calibrate to perfection (the tricky speed-ups and slow-downs in the first-movement introduction are a case in point). Although this SACD sounds well on a standard CD player, the multi-channel format gives a stronger sense of the piano's presence in a small, discretely resonant room, especially during softer passages. In short, this is a release that will fascinate Mahler First connoisseurs and piano duet mavens alike.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan"by Gustav Mahler
Prague Piano Duo
Period: Romantic Written: 1888/1896 Notes: Arranged: Bruno Walter Composition written: Leipzig, Germany (1888). Composition revised: Germany (1896).