Jeffrey Lipscomb | Sacramento, CA United States | 05/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Horenstein's 1969 Mahler 1st has long been my stereo benchmark, but now it has to share the spotlight with this phenomenal live 1979 Kubelik, which supplants an earlier studio recording on DG. Kubelik's finale even surpasses Horenstein's, especially in the Coda - it's the most thrilling I have ever heard.Kubelik's DG recording had rather glaring sound - this one from Audite is, along with a Barshai 5th, the best sounding Mahler in my collection. As with any live performance, there are a few minor blemishes (e.g., a couple of horn muffs in the 1st mvt) of no great import - the Horenstein has a few, too, and that was a studio recording.If Horenstein's is a more brooding, sardonic, older man's Mahler - at 56:35 it's five minutes slower - then Kubelik's is a mellower, but more exultant, younger man's view. Of course, both were older men when they recorded these: Horenstein was 70, and Kubelik was 65. In the past, my quibbles regarding Horenstein's 1st were the rather fast third mvt. (almost two minutes faster than his 1952 First on Vox), and a rather stately last mvt. (at 22:14, it's the slowest of any performance I own). I also missed the earlier, far more liberal use of string portamento - I feel that's the way Mahler envisioned it (Kubelik is essentially modern, with nary a slide in sight).My minor objections to Kubelik's earlier DG recording, besides the sound, were some over-exuberant trumpet playing in III's klezmer music, and an over-fast finale (17:40). Now all of III is an unalloyed joy, and the finale's tempo of 19:18 feels perfect. Throughout this entire performance, Kubelik is just that more gemutlich, ever so slightly stretching key phrases to make them sound more touching. There is more of a rustic atmosphere here than previously. And I especially like the contrabass solo in III, moaning away with optimum satire.Three other recordings - in old mono sound, and thus more for the collector than the general listener - also stand apart in my mind: the earlier Horenstein, the 1952 live F. Charles Adler, and a 1949 account by Ernest Borsamsky. Horenstein's first one is probably still my ultimate benchmark 1st: his old Vienna Symphony likely included a few players who had heard Mahler conduct, and there is an old world patina to the whole affair that I find rather special. Adler knew Mahler and prepared the chorus for a Mahler performance of the 8th - his 1st is even slower than Horenstein's and very old-fashioned, if not as well played. Borsamsky - thought by some to be a pseudonym for possibly Abendroth or Fricsay - features some very lovely string playing. I have reviewed it elsewhere at Amazon. With that ethereal seven-octave note in the strings, the Mahler 1st ushers us into a new symphonic world. Has any composer under 40 given us a finer first effort? I envy those of you who are coming to this marvellous work for the first time."
Kubelik vs. Kubelik... and Kubelik wins
Paul Bubny | Maplewood, NJ United States | 01/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Choosing between this 1979 live performance and Rafael Kubelik's justly renowned 1967 studio recording on DG (available in at least 4 different CD issues, including a boxed set of his complete Mahler symphonic cycle) is not easy. Both have much to recommend them--and to complicate matters, there's also a 1953 (mono) recording on Decca. Either choice, though, reveals Kubelik as perhaps the leading exponent, living or dead, of Mahler's First Symphony. Unlike many other interpreters (notably Leonard Bernstein), Kubelik wisely avoids hindsight in conducting this work, resists the temptation to inflate it to the scale of one of Mahler's later symphonies. Instead, he gives it to us straight.
Differences between the DG and Audite recordings? For a start, the Audite has MUCH nicer sound, a natural concert-hall balance that lets you hear what Kubelik, the orchestra--and Mahler--are up to. Kubelik takes slightly broader tempi in the third and fourth movements, while omitting the repeats in the first two. There's also a somewhat "looser" sense of pulse in the Audite, which on first listen may sound a little herky-jerky but comes to make more sense musically on subsequent listens. The more varied pulse, combined with the slightly more expansive approach, gives the music breathing room it didn't have in 1967. The main difference, though, is that Kubelik in 1979 had evidently thought long and hard about the score, and goes deeper into it--conveying its contrasting moods more tellingly than he did in 1967. In the third movement, for example, there's a deliciously kaleidoscopic transformation from the "funeral march" parody into the incongruous klezmer-band interlude, a far more subtle segue than the stark, episodic juxtaposition presented in so many performances.
There's a tradeoff, in that the DG version (which offers a bonus in the form of the "Songs of a Wayfarer," somewhat oversung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) gives us a freshness and youthfulness that are appropriate to the First (Mahler was in his 20s when he composed it, after all) and which are less evident in the Audite. So I suppose a choice comes down to youth vs. experience, and I'm going with the greater "wisdom" of the older man. Either recording, though, is recognizably the product of the same basic sensibility."
Kubelik brings out the best of this great symphony
L. Johan Modée | Earth | 09/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At present there are three Kubelik recordings of Mahler's first symphony in the market. We have the very fine 1967 DG recording, one of the very best interpretations from Kubelik's BRSO cycle. And recently Audite released this exceptionally fine live performance from the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz, made in 1979, where Kubelik conducts BRSO in concert. Back in the catalogue is also an earlier mono account with Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded 1954 (Label Decca: it is now available at www.amazon.de in Germany).
The early Vienna recording has a sense of discovery about it, like Bruno Walter's NYPO mono recording of the same work. The two later recordings (DG and Audite), by contrast, display more developed and consistent interpretations, demonstrating Kubelik's superb grasp of the "Bohemian" character of the symphony. The interpretations are quite similar. The first movement is a demonstration in clarity and freshness, miles away from the overweight overload that for example Bernstein adds to the music. The second movement is a true ländler, taken in one breath. In the third movement, note for instance how Kubelik emphasizes the kletzmer-like trumpet playing, thus presenting a sexy, vulgar tone that is truly idiomatic with Mahler's music. The finale gets a clear and balanced account, consistent with Kubelik's understanding of the work as a whole.
Comparing the DG disc with the Audite, the latter has richer and more natural stereo sound. The interpretation is also somewhat broader. Considering the Decca mono, it is a slightly younger man's view of a young man's first symphony, less well recorded and played.
Mahlerites should have all three. But budget-minded collectors can buy the DG account with confidence. Hifi enthusiasts are advised to consider the live Audite record.
Kubelik is the Titan of Titans!!!
L. Johan Modée | 06/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is such an incredible performance...in so many ways it is defitely about nature. The incredible bird song opening to the way the octaves in the strings are made to sound so right. Sadly, time has been most unkind to Kubelik..his forte was Mahler and Dvorak at a time when both composers were considered second rate. I had the good fortune of studying clarinet in Munich with a clarinetist from this orchestra...this gentleman always spoke highly of the incredible intensity that Kubelik brought to Mahler. Yes, the Bavarian Radio is a front rank orchestra. I know of very few groups who can play the Mahler Titan in such an epic way...so if you want the ultimate Titan just have a listen and you will know what I am saying..."
Another Astonishing Mahler from
tolkie | Munich, Germany | 04/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kubelik was an admirer of Mahler and his music, and took great pains and effort in conducting this music so dear to him. Nowhere is the quality of Kubelik's recordings so apparent than in Kubelik's Mahler canon on DGG, one of the first Mahler cycles ever to be recorded.Now Audite is presenting us a treasure trove of live recordings from Kubelik's Mahler concerts. Recorded at various locations (including Japan) and dates (spanning from the 60s to the 80s), Kubelik's live Mahlers are more fiery and spontaneous than his studios. I am not saying that they are better - both the DGGs and the Audite's are extremely high quality recordings that together show the dichotomy and versatility of Kubelik's approach to Mahler, and both equally demand to be heard. But for the Mahlerian who thinks he knows Kubelik's Mahler, the greater spontaneity and risk-taking found in the Audite series will make you rethink (including me I confess!). This Kubelik's M1 is one of the finest gems, within the Audite series and measured against other Mahler recordings. Together with the Audite's 3rd and the 7th, it is for me an essential Mahler recording to possess, to experience, and to share.Credit to Audite for bringing back Kubelik's live Mahlers to this appreciative Mahlerian! And for those who have not heard the good news, Tahra, another company with foresight, has recently bought out a Kubelik's live M5."