Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
(Hamburg 1893 version)
Jan Willem de Vriend, cond; Netherlands SO
CHALLENGE CC72355 (SACD: 56:26)
This is the second recording of the revised version of the tone poem that became Mahler’s First Symphony. I reviewed an earlier release on
Hungaroton conducted by Zsolt Hamar in
29:2. It was an interesting performance that was certainly worth exploring. This new recording is a welcome alternative.
is divided into two parts: “From the Days of Youth/Flower-, Fruit- and Thorn-Pieces” and “The Human Comedy”; the first part comprises three movements titled “Spring and no End,” “Blumine,” and “In Full Sail,” while the second features two, “Stranded! (funeral march in the manner of Callot)” and “From Inferno to Paradise.” Of course, Mahler equivocated over the titles as well as the overall form of the work, eliminating and restoring “Blumine” at least twice. The orchestration is markedly different from that of the First Symphony, with fewer winds and four horns; in this recording, the reduced number of horns is particularly noticeable.
This performance has more personality and a somewhat harder edge than Hamar’s. Attacks are sharper; listen to the aggressive cellos and basses in the opening of the third movement, such a contrast to the wistful “Blumine,” while the finale crashes in barely a second after the dying tread of the funeral march. This is all very exciting. The sound, though, is not ideal: The highly reverberant soundstage tends to smudge inner-voice detail; strings and percussion (especially the latter) are prominent, while the horns practically disappear at the climax of the first movement.
In an ideal world, Vriend’s performance would be combined with Hamar’s sound production. As it is, a single recommendation is difficult. I found Vriend’s performance to be refreshingly different from the hybrid versions featuring “Blumine” (particularly Norrington’s purportedly “authentic” one on Hänssler); unfortunately, the sound compromises what should be an easy recommendation. If forced to choose, I would have to give the edge to the Hungaroton disc, simply because it does a better job illuminating the unique characteristics of this work, which should be the point of the recording in the first place. The alternative, of course, is to have both discs, and that is my advice to anyone seriously interested in Mahler.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in D major "Titan" by Gustav Mahler
Jan Willem de Vriend
Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Venue: Muziekcentrum Enschede, NL
Length: 55 Minutes 41 Secs.
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