A terrific place to begin appreciating Classical Music!
Patrick W. Crabtree | Lucasville, OH USA | 07/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There has been a contemporary resurgence in public interest in the music of the Bohemian-Austrian Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) -- I can't say why this is so exactly, but since his compositions are recognized as among the finest works within the realm of Modern Classical Music I cannot say that I'm at all surprised.
Here, we have two of Mahler's well-known works on one CD. Symphony No. 1 in D major is instrumental while the "lieder" (songs) include a vocal component, brilliantly rendered in this instance by baritone Håkan Hagegård. Perhaps the reason that the two works are coupled here is because Mahler actually incorporated vignettes of two of these lieder into the symphony. In regard to The New York Philharmonic, under the baton of Kurt Masur, no propping up is required by me - this is a world-class orchestra working under the direction of a renowned conductor.
Mahler's Symphony No. 1 (1888) was subsequently dubbed "The Titan" mostly due to its notable length for a symphony (his Symphony No. 5 is similarly lengthy) at 52:36 in this rendition and in four movements. Typical to Germanic symphonies of the Modern Era of Classical Music, this composition is tightly structured and logically conceived. It's a flowing and dynamic programmatic symphony, quite easy for even newcomers to Classical Music appreciation to savour. Mahler himself described this work as "...a series of concentric circles expanding outwards," and I would heartily agree that this is a very competent assessment and summary. It can be equally regarded as a "tone poem".
The "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" ("Songs of a Wayfarer") runs the extremes from smooth to near turbulent. Think of these entries as tasteful opera absent the acting facet. It was very gracious and useful of Teldec to include all the lyrics in the liner notes including English, German, and French translations. In fact, all the liner notes are written in those three languages. The 25 year-old Mahler conveyed in a letter to a friend (around 1885): "I've written a cycle of songs... [they] tell the story of a journeyman whom Fate has dealt a blow, and who goes out to roam through the world."
This is a DDD recording which runs a total of 69:46. The recording quality has yielded terrific sound and the orchestra performed tremendously in this instance. I own multiple copies of "The Titan" and this is as good as it gets -- A superb value!