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|Mahler, Berg, Rcho|
Symphony 1/Sonata Op 1
When Riccardo Chailly was appointed music director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1986 (still only in his 30s), he became head of one of the world's greatest Mahler orchestras. Just about all the right elements wo... more »
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When Riccardo Chailly was appointed music director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1986 (still only in his 30s), he became head of one of the world's greatest Mahler orchestras. Just about all the right elements would seem to be in place for yet another outstanding Mahler cycle, given the conductor's interpretive acumen and masterful molding of orchestral detail. Though the results of Chailly's traversal thus far (for example, the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies) have been uneven, his spectacular Mahler First holds its own and spotlights the unique qualities Chailly brings to the composer. In the late '90s, roughly speaking, we witnessed a paradigm shift from an intensely subjective Mahler (epitomized by Leonard Bernstein, who recorded a magnificent Mahler First with this very orchestra) to a cooler, more "objective" image (check out Christoph von Dohnányi's recent Mahler Ninth). Here Chailly seems to find a convincing middle ground, with an architecturally coherent sense of tempo and symphonic design (especially in the large but often seemingly disconnected blocks of the finale) that keeps self-indulgence in check. At the same time--and with the orchestra in glorious form--Chailly brings a fresh eye to Mahler's painstakingly detailed dynamics, so that colors and relations between instrumental choirs seem refurbished, like a newly cleaned painting. This is above all noticeable in the preliminary "spring awakening" and generates a deeply moving effect when the birdcalls return in the finale. However saturated with Mahler recordings we've become, this performance makes you eager to hear Chailly's interpretations of the remaining symphonies. A fascinatingly thoughtful bonus is Theo Verbey's orchestration of Alban Berg's densely compact Piano Sonata Op. 1. --Thomas May
The dawn of a new symphonic cycle
Bruce Hodges | New York, NY | 12/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a measure of Mahler's greatness that his inaugural symphony is a bit of a maverick - somewhat classical in form, but already covering a great deal of new musical territory and hinting strongly at some of the invigorating ideas to come later. Here Chailly offers a fresh-sounding interpretation to match the freshness of these ideas. This is one of the best-played, best-recorded versions of this symphony available, and there are lots of good ones around (see below). As with Chailly's other Mahler outings, this one has impressively accurate and passionate orchestral playing, as well as transparent textures and demonstration-quality sound. From the quiet opening with the Concertgebouw's limpid woodwinds, to the exultant finale - well, this is just a sensational recording. Chailly's approach to the score is rather "no-nonsense," allowing the structure and details - not to mention the amazing musicians - to speak for themselves. Of course, the more explosive moments have tremendous weight and power, but the more idyllic episodes - when Mahler transports the listener somewhere far, far away - are equally attention-getting.The interesting filler is a gorgeous orchestration of Berg's Piano Sonata by Theo Verbey, a well-known Dutch composer. While I wouldn't want to be without Berg's original piano version, this is a seductive (and again, fantastically played) alternative and valuable on its own merits.Chailly has recorded most of the Mahler symphonies - to date, all but Nos. 3 and 9 - and it is an increasingly impressive cycle. Whatever you think of Chailly's interpretations - some find him on the bland side - there can be little argument with the utterly delicious orchestral playing, as well as the vivid, lifelike sound. While there are other Mahler First's I wouldn't want to be without (e.g., Bernstein, Kubelik, Abbado, and Tennstedt, just to name a few), this one is immensely likeable."
Analytical, sumptuous, rich character study
Pater Ecstaticus | Norway | 11/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am one of the lowliest of amateurs (or not even that!) when music is concerned : I do not play any instrument and I have no knowledge whatsoever about the intricacies of music theory as such; I only enjoy music as the highest and purest art form by listening to and comparing different recordings (what's worse: I seldomly attend concerts) and then trying to understand what strikes me most about them. Why I like an album or not is mostly a matter of rather personal tastes and (sometimes) moods, 'instict'. And my instinct tells me this recording is quite the way I want this music to sound, namely grand, eloquent and deeply thoughtful: the music of an overly ambitious, overly serious adolescent with deep and complex feelings about the world and his place in it. This recording by Ricardo Chailly and the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest IMHO delves deeper into the 'soul' of Mahler than many others. Chailly here to my feeling digs into the music in a way that does complete justice to the ambitious nature of this groundbraking, earth-shatteringly original work. If this recording somehow feels 'controlled', it is to my idea the result of Chailly trying to get to the soul of Mahler, which is essentially self-analytical and melancholic. This performance is not so much 'too controlled' as deeply analytical. All of Mahler's symphonies can be seen as a way of Mahler trying to get to grips with himself and the world (and cosmos) of which he is a part. This idea can be used as a tool to try to understand the way in which Chailly is interpreting Mahler's music. Together with his recordings of Mahler's Fifth, Sixth and Ninth Symphonies - which under Chailly also have come out as deeply analytical, rich character studies - this must (certainly to my taste) be rated among the very best."
The Best Recent Recording of Mahler's 1st Symphony
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 08/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Chailly emerges as a credible interpreter of Mahler in this superb recording of Mahler's 1st Symphony. While it lacks the emotional intensity of Bernstein's electrifying performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Chailly's account is fine in its own right. Unlike Bernstein, he carefully explores the rich architecture of Mahler's score; and his deliberate exploration truly pays off in a lyrical interpretation of the last movement. Needless to say the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's performance is exemplary, proving itself once more as one of the world's foremost Mahler orchestras. Of recent recordings of this symphony, only Boulez's introspective account with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra matches Chailly's as a splendid reading and a fine example of state of the art recording technology. This splendid recording opens with a fine performance of a recently orchestrated version of Berg's Sonata by a young Dutch composer."