Mahler: Symphony No. 1 / Alsop, Baltimore Symphony
This remarkably original work, with its recurring quotations from the composer’s own songs, notably Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) and Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy’s Magic Horn), is the perfect expression of one of Mahler’s most quoted sayings, “The symphony is a world; it must contain everything”. The opening movement, filled with sounds that Mahler remembered from his childhood, depicts “Nature’s awakening from the long sleep of winter”, and is followed by an exuberant scherzo and trio based on a Ländler. The disturbing slow movement funeral march, based on the children’s song Frère Jacques, is unlike anything that had been heard before, and the symphony concludes with music of thrilling dramatic intensity.
In the finale the brass section is given its opportunity to step forward and they really deliver the goods. The trumpets, tuba, braying horns and tam-tam are thrilling in their impact. There is no distracting applause at the end of the symphony, thank goodness, and this allows for a few seconds thought before realising what a cracking performance has just taken place.
This is a thoughtful performance, very reined-in for the most part, though when Alsop finally lets her Baltimore forces off the leash in the closing peroration the effect is so starling that it blows you away. Earlier on, there are moments when you feel she’s held too much back, particularly in the scherzo, which is overly deliberate. But the sense of wonder of the first movement, together with the ironies of the later funeral march, are breathtakingly done, and all that hard to balance counter-point is beautifully clear.
– Guardian (UK)
Catalog Number: 8572207
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Conductor: Marin Alsop
Orchestra/Ensemble: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra