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Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #1

Leonard Bernstein had a reputation for getting slower, heavier, and more portentous as his interpretations matured. Well, here's the disc that gives the lie to the myth. This sunny, superbly played, magnificently recorde...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Gustav Mahler, Leonard Bernstein, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Title: Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 3
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Release Date: 10/25/1990
Genre: Classical
Style: Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 028942730328

Leonard Bernstein had a reputation for getting slower, heavier, and more portentous as his interpretations matured. Well, here's the disc that gives the lie to the myth. This sunny, superbly played, magnificently recorded performance captures Bernstein at his uninhibited best. Where his first recording seemed at times contrived and lacking in flow, this version has all of the naturalness, charm, and grace of a spring morning. The third-movement funeral march, here taken at a very fast tempo, has exactly the character of cartoon music that Mahler intended--this performance has its tongue firmly in its cheek. Given the fact that the Concertgebouw is one of the world's great Mahler orchestras, the result is without question the finest modern version of the symphony--period. --David Hurwitz

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CD Reviews

Much-admired, though I find it uneven
Kenji Fujishima | East Brunswick, NJ USA | 06/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This, Leonard Bernstein's second official recording of Mahler's witty First Symphony, has often been called a reference edition by many, but I've always thought that the whole was better than the sum of its parts. The first and fourth movements as performed here are indeed tremendous. In the former, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (exquisite all throughout) help bring Mahler's burgeoning spring to vivid life, and its conclusion is powerfully joyful. In the latter, Bernstein lets rip with his typically acute sense of drama, with every expressive nuance conveyed, and the coda never fails to exhilarate. That may be enough for some listeners to agree with the hype surrounding this recording. Still, for me, the inner movements have always been problematic, interpretation-wise. I've never been convinced by Bernstein's reading of the second movement Landler, just too slow and heavy-footed for my taste. And as for the third movement... This is one of Mahler's wittiest creations, a parodistic funeral march to the tune of "Frere Jacques," with elements of a Jewish cafe band thrown into the mix, as well as a beautiful pastoral section in the middle of it all. In this performance, Bernstein decides on an opening tempo for this movement that hardly suggests a funeral march at all, and while I recognize his attempt to accentuate the parody element that Mahler calls for, the fast tempo kinda destroys what is so witty and delightful about the movement in the first place. Other readings---Kubelik's, for example, in his 1968 DG recording---are more subtle with the humor of this third movement, and thus much closer to Mahler's intentions.Ok, so the second & third movements don't quite convince---but since the performances of the first & fourth movements here are so good, I think this oft-acclaimed Bernstein reading of Mahler's First Symphony is worthy of the four stars I'm giving it here. I still find it uneven, but even the unsuccessful elements are not necessarily without reason. Maybe you just have to get used to them."
Mahler's Symphony No. 1
Mr Bassil A MARDELLI | Riad El-SOLH , Beirut Lebanon | 04/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

Its first performance was in Budapest in November 1889, received by many critics with varying degrees of confusion and consternation resulting from their failure to understand it, "my time has not come yet" Mahler was reported to have said in later years. Indeed it did come forty years after his death in 1911.
1889 was the year when Dvojak's symphony No. 4 was born. Renoir finished his "Girls picking flowers'' a marvelous French painting and Van Gogh produced his "Man with a Pipe" and "The Olive Grove" beautiful Dutch paintings. Tchaikovsky gave us his ballet music - 'the sleeping Princess". Also Eiffel completed his tower at Paris - the mammoth 985 feet high, and, in the USA, they erected Tacoma building in Chicago; a 13 storey's high, the first sky-scrapper ever.
Gigantic works provided by Perfectionists as they were.
Titans - offspring of heaven and earth.
Mahler was no exception. In fact he was a perfect fit and his conducting skills attest the intellectual honesty of the man.
Leonard Bernstein`s interpretation of "Titan" succeeded in creating that illusion, with such imaginary reality, without which very little can only be achieved
To conduct Mahler's First Symphony is heroic, more so to perform a task that I am sure, Mahler had his lives challenges to be able to bring to its happy conclusion - alone.

An electrifying Mahler 1
Yi-Peng | Singapore | 11/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Bernstein's recording of Mahler's 1st and most easily-accessible symphony is one of the best recordings available today. Though Bernstein was in the twilight of his career, especially with idiyosyncratic performances of core works, his affinity with this symphony shines perfectly here. This time he has the charges of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, who play as if they have the music in their blood, having recorded this work twice with Haitink for Philips during the stereo era, and the DG recording is excellent on every level, with every minute detail keenly captured and a sense of atmosphere well-felt.From the first bars of Wagnerian spaciousness, one is totally spellbound by the music-making. Bernstein cunjores up the atmosphere of an early morning in natural surroundings, with far-off fanfares and bird-calls well-brought out. The tempo quickens with the sonata-form allegro section, which is extremely sunny, and depicts the wayferer's early-morning walk well. The Scherzo sounds extremely rustic, and the landler middle section sounds neatly charming. The gaitey of the first two movements are abruptly halted by the third movement, which has never sounded more menacing or foreboding, and the funerial march parody is enough to shock many a liatener at the world-premiere. But in the finale, Bernstein really lets all hell break loose for the stormy, fierce, tempestuous primary theme, but makes the secondary theme wildy romantic. The frission-raising coda crowns the performance, and a hair-raising performance of this work at the same timeOverall, if there was one CD of Mahler's 1st symphony that you should buy, this should be a clear first-choice. It deserves more than the customary three stars from the Penguin Guide, but a Rosette as well."