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Thread: You best and worst Mahler Symphony No.1 recording

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    Senior Member KevinW's Avatar
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    Post You best and worst Mahler Symphony No.1 recording

    Hello TC community,

    As a starter of Mahler's music, I am now listening to his first Symphony and I really like it. Someone recommended me the recording by Abbado and Lucerne Festival Orchestra and that version is splendid. I would also love to listen to your recommdnations on your best and, especially, worst recording of this composition. As a relatively young classical audience, I am not very good at distinguishing from good and bad recordings. So, please tell me which one is your worst recording and why.

    KevinW
    Last edited by KevinW; Dec-13-2021 at 01:04.

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    Senior Member John Zito's Avatar
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    The classic recommendation for "best" is probably Rafael Kubelík's DG recording:

    kubelik_mahler_1.jpeg

    I imprinted on Valery Gergiev's recording on LSO Live, which I still really like for the last movement, but I doubt anyone ranks it among the greats:



    Christoph von Dohnányi's Mahler recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra on Decca do not have an especially good reputation.
    Last edited by John Zito; Dec-13-2021 at 01:21.

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    Senior Member KevinJS's Avatar
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    I quite like this one:

    M1HG.jpg

    but I play this one more:

    M1LB.jpg

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    Great Mahler Sym #1s:
    there are lots of really good ones - my current faves:

    Giulini/CSO
    Tennstedt/CSO
    Walter/ColSO

    Crappy ones?? OTTOMH, I can only think of 1 -

    Leinsdorf/BSO - ugh, awful. stodgy, muddy recording of stodgy, muddy conducting of stodgy, muddy playing.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    Some time ago DavidA did a series of threads about each of the Mahler symphonies, here is a link to the 1st...

    Mahler symphonies - No 1

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    Best: Maazel VPO on Sony. Splendid playing, conducting, sound. Too bad it's so often overlooked.
    Worst: Bernstein NYPO on Sony. Good playing, wayward and willful and overdriven conducting. Did better on the DG remake.

    Best Live: Abbado VPO at Carnegie Hall in 1991. Utterly thrilling - I get goosebumps thinking about it.
    Worst Live: Dudamel LAPO at Disney Hall. Loud, fast, without poetry. And some really stupid phrasing. Lots of hair shaking though.
    "It is surprising how easily one can become used to bad music" - F. Mendelssohn

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    I don't have a worst but I'm sure they are out there.

    My recommendations:

    The bucolic approach: Bruno Walter/ColSO
    The deep and mysterious approach: Solti LSO
    The ardent/heart on your sleeve approach: Bernstein/Concertegebouw. He has another recording with the NYPO but this is better.

    All three are totally different from each other. This thread has prompted me to go my digital library and have a listen.

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    I think that some well-known recordings of this symphony I own are almost equally good. I don't yet have a recording that goes too far beyond or below my expectation. Anyway, my current favorite is Abbado with BPO on DG arround 1990. Bertini on EMI, Chailly on Decca and Haitink with BPO on Philips are all excellent ones.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    The worst would be any performance which includes the Blumine movement which Mahler dropped very early on.

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    I like Gielen and Boulez, but the first recommended Kubelik is a fine choice and the first one I heard. Abbado and Tennstedt (already mentioned) are genrally fine choices in any Mahler symphony.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    The worst would be any performance which includes the Blumine movement which Mahler dropped very early on.
    Yep Becca, any recording I have that includes Blumine, I always miss it out. Such a boring, unnecessary movement and Mahler dumped it for good reason. There are lots of recommendations for Mahler 1s in the threads below from the TC archives. I'll stick with most of my recommendations from there for now.

    Mahler symphonies - No 1
    choice of mahler symphony no.1

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    When I compared about 10 recordings of mine, my favorites were Kubelik/DG and Walter/ColSo. The mono Walter/NYPO from a few years earlier is also very good but the sound on the other one is considerably better and trumps IMO whatever slight advantages the NYPO might have. Kubelik's ca. 1970 recording does not have the greatest sound either but it's good enough for me.
    Bernstein/Concertgebouw was my first CD of the symphony but I was a bit disappointed when re-listening. It is beautifully played but the "klezmer" section of the 3rd movement is not grotesque enough and the finale is also a bit tame.

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    Senior Member Kiki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    The worst would be any performance which includes the Blumine movement which Mahler dropped very early on.
    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Yep Becca, any recording I have that includes Blumine, I always miss it out. Such a boring, unnecessary movement and Mahler dumped it for good reason. There are lots of recommendations for Mahler 1s in the threads below from the TC archives. I'll stick with most of my recommendations from there for now.

    Mahler symphonies - No 1
    choice of mahler symphony no.1
    Blumine itself is nice serenade music, but as part of the 1st symphony, it sounds terribly out-of-place and destroys the flow of the symphony.

    Ozawa's 1977 Mahler #1 on DG (not to be mistaken with the 1987 recording on Philips) included Blumine after the 1st movement, its "rightful" place, but it sucks as the 2nd movement. Program it out, and the whole performance becomes a very good one.

    The "trick" to make it more agreeable is to include Blumine at the end of the disc, like Hannu Lintu did in his 2014 Ondine recording. The difference exists only in the attitude, as if Lintu is making a statement that, Blumine does not really belong in the symphony, but I would still like to present it to you. The result is the same: I play the symphony but not Blumine.

    Or, like what François-Xavier Roth did in his 2018 recording on Harmonia Mundi - play the Hamburg/Weimar version of this symphony, ah no, symphonic poem. Problem solved. Blumine has to be included. Naughty, Mr. Roth.

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    Senior Member allaroundmusicenthusiast's Avatar
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    Kubelik for me is still the one to beat in the 1st

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    There's an early Decca Kubelik/VPO of some interest too.

    Personally, I don't have any real favourites of this work, however.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Dec-13-2021 at 16:24.

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