Mahler, Symphony No. 1, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, G. Solti (remastered June 12, 2007)
Georg Solti made a landmark recording of the Mahler first symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s, following it in 1983 with a second one with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. That second recording has recently been reissued by Decca, prompting me to revisit it. Unlike the Kubelik, in which Der Titan was paired with the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, the symphony stands alone on the Solti disc. Solti's reading is most remarkable in how he pushed the sections of the Chicago Symphony in the fast and loud passages. The players, especially the brass, respond with everything they have. There is little bend or subtlety, however, except in the third-movement funeral march, where there is some unwarranted stretching that strikes me as against Mahler's tempo specification, ohne zu schleppen (without dragging). The things one hopes to hear in Der Titan -- the mystery of consciousness awakening with spring in the first movement, the Musikanten irreverently interrupting the "Callot" scene in the funeral march -- are a little bland. Still, the audible edge to this performance does suggest the sinfonia ironica epithet attached to this symphony by Viennese critic Max Kalbeck.
Decca 430 8042
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Mahler, Symphony No. 1 (and Blumine), Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, D. Zinman (released on March 13, 2007)
The Zinman recording has a final detail to recommend it, the inclusion of the Blumine movement as a fifth track. It is slightly odd to listen to the final version of Der Titan, in which the final movement reviews the sounds of the preceding movements (a gesture taken from Beethoven's ninth symphony). Among those themes is the gentle lilt of Blumine, originally in the second position, like the phantom itch of an amputated hand. (See these further essays on Mahler's first symphony.) As Thomas Meyer notes in a perceptive article in the liner notes, modern sound technology allows each listener to program the playback of this disc as he wishes, reinserting Blumine or hewing to Mahler's ultimate plan. All in all, worth a listen.
RCA Red Seal (Sony BMG) 82876 87156 2