Mahler: Symphony No. 1 - Fischer
Reference Recordings FR-715
Classical - Orchestral
Mahler: Symphony No. 1
The Utah Symphony, celebrating its 75th anniversary in the 2015-16 season, is one of America’s major symphony orchestras and a leading cultural organization in the Intermountain West. It is recognized internationally for its distinctive performances, commitment to music education programs, and recording legacy. Reference Recordings is pleased to announce the release of this new and fresh performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. This work was performed as part of the orchestra’s two-year Mahler Symphony Cycle. Reference Recordings also joins Utah Symphony in thanks to the 75th Anniversary Mahler Cycle Sponsors: Kem & Carolyn Gardner.
Founded in 1940, the Utah Symphony became recognized as a leading American ensemble largely through the efforts of Maurice Abravanel, Music Director from 1947 to 1979. During his tenure, the orchestra undertook four international tours, released numerous recordings and developed an extensive music education program. A pioneering cycle of Mahler Symphonies conducted by Abravanel was recorded between 1963 and 1974 and included the first commercial stereo recordings of the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies. These recordings also marked the first complete Mahler cycle recorded by an American orchestra. This new release furthers the tradition of outstanding Mahler from the Utah Symphony, with more albums planned for 2016 release in a Utah Symphony series from Reference Recordings.
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Review by Graham Williams - September 12, 2015
Older collectors will remember with affection the cycle of Mahler symphonies recorded by Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony Orchestra that began in the 1960s. Those pioneering recordings (the first complete Mahler cycle to be recorded in the USA) not only introduced Mahler to many listeners but raised the profile of this fine Salt Lake City based orchestra.
Now, from the Reference Recordings Fresh! Label, we have a compelling new account of Mahler's 1st Symphony recorded in state-of-the-art sound from this same orchestra under their current Music Director, the Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer. This was taken from live performances given in the Maurice Abravanel Hall (September 2014)
A glance at the total timing for this SACD (52.55) indicates that Fischer's performance is towards the swifter end of the spectrum for recordings of this work, suggesting that it is to be the antithesis of lingering indulgence, which indeed proves to be the case. The magical opening pages of the first movement are beautifully controlled with the off-stage trumpets suitably distanced yet absolutely audible. The surprising immediacy of the woodwind entries indicate that the engineers have gone for a closely recorded balance ( possibly to avoid audience noise) but any slight lack of the dreamy atmosphere of Mahler's 'Naturlaut' is more than compensated for by the freshness of the playing and the crisply focused sound. The main body of the movement, with the exposition repeat taken, is beautifully shaped with Fischer conveying the sense of foreboding in the passage from 8.13. The gradual build up to the movement's final climax is free from any exaggerated slackening of tempo and the final pages are exhilaratingly joyous.
The Ländler Scherzo is trenchant and beautifully articulated by the orchestra with the bass line especially clearly defined. Fischer's sane tempo maintains the music's momentum while the Trio section demonstrates both his lightness of touch and masterly control of rubato that gives the music a winning insouciance. The contrasting grotesque funeral march that follows shows the superb quality of the individual players in this orchestra, as first muted double bass then bassoon, cello, bass tuba, clarinet and finally plaintive oboe make their entrances over the steady tread of the timpani. The parodic klezmer passages are suitably telling but never over played.
The raging opening of Fischer's finale is a roller-coaster ride with fabulous orchestral playing and demonstration worthy sonics that will be seized upon by both audiophiles and Mahlerites alike. The thunderous percussion and incisive brass of the Utah Symphony are absolutely thrilling, but with the appearance of the lyrical second theme (at 3.22) the Utah strings are given the opportunity to show their mettle. This they do with with ravishingly sensitive playing and subtle nuances of dynamics, whilst Fischer's use of rubato is subtle and free of mannerism. As the material from earlier movements is recalled there is no loss of impetus and the build up to the triumphant final bars is magnificently handled, the coda capped with a room-shaking bass drum.
The recording team from Soundmirror, Boston (Dirk Sobotka, John Newton and Mark Donahue) have, as usual, worked their magic and, as I have already indicated, produced a 5.1 multi-channel recording (64fs DSD) of astonishing tonal richness, clarity and presence.
On the basis of this recording there is little doubt that Thierry Fischer is a Mahler interpreter of some stature and the projected recording of Mahler's 8th Symphony in February 2016, scheduled for release in 2017, will be eagerly anticipated.
Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net