Mahler: Symphony No. 1 / Vänskä, Minnesota Orchestra

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The shimmering string harmonics at the opening of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony bring to mind the suspended breath of spring, and will have signaled even to the very first audiences that a new symphonic era was being ushered in. Soon enough the composer introduces some of the elements that would become key components of his musical language: sounds of nature (here cuckoo calls) are combined with quasi-militaristic fanfares and ‘high-art’ chromatic wanderings in cellos, as if to illustrate Mahler’s view of the symphony as an all-embracing art form. The symphony, which the composer originally gave the subtitle ‘Titan’, borrows extensively from the song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. But Mahler also incorporates elements of Moravian popular music (in the second movement) and – in the slow third movement – famously quotes a minor-mode version of the children’s rhyme Bruder Martin (also known as Frere Jacques). The finale transports the listener to a world of Gothic theatricality reminiscent of Grand Opera, before arriving – after a number of false starts – at the symphony’s heroic chorale-like ending. This symphonic ‘world-in-microcosm’ is here brought to life by the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä on the fourth installment in a series which has earned the team the description ‘among the finest exponents of Mahler’s music’ on the website


In short, then, a very unusual and individual view of the symphony. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but I found it interesting because it was different without being too precious or coy.

– Art Music Lounge

Product Description:

  • Release Date: August 02, 2019

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2346

  • UPC: 7318599923468

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Romantic, 20th Century

  • Composer: Gustav Mahler

  • Conductor: Osmo Vänskä

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Minnesota Orchestra


  1. Symphony No. 1

    Composer: Gustav Mahler

    Ensemble: Minnesota Orchestra

    Conductor: Osmo Vänskä