The world premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 was in Budapest November 20, 1889. Today’s version was hammered out by the composer in a series of public performances that then included and little by little excluded certain movements, namely the removal of Blumine, a symphonic love poem for his one time lover Johanna.
Valery Gergiev, conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), brings us the new release LSO Live Mahler’s Symphony No.1. It is a sure bet to invest in any recorded performance by the LSO, yet Gergiev’s intensely accurate interpretation of Mahler’s work brought this celebrated symphony orchestra to one of its most memorable recorded performances in all its elegant history.
Gergiev directs as though he’s creating set pieces in a cinematic ballet – stunning visual lyrical genius, dark and luminous, always instinctual and attended with peril from this master Mahler interpreter. Gergiev brings out the Bohemian-Austrian from Mahler. He lets the work speak and steps out of the way for the true sounds of the composer to come through. From the pointed rest at the end of the first movement to the fervent energy of the fourth, Gergiev gives rise to Mahler’s perfectly woven phrases between instrumental sections: violins that tease the ear into believing they’re voices, bows that skip like children through the staccato and bells that give the energy of youth fighting off death’s hold.
The opening of the third movement is deeply rife with childlike angst and turmoil of death. Gergiev’s pacing takes us through the whirl of emotional strife and anxiety - solemnly and measured, never dragging at any moment. The funeral march, based on the children's song Bruner Martin (or more commonly known in the States as Frère Jacques) beckons the hypnotic forces of death. Toying with the musical compositions of Orchestral Lied, Symphony, and Symphonic Poem, Gergiev brings out the suffering Mahler went through pushing the boundaries of style.
On The Web:
LSO Live Mahler Symphony No. 1 can be purchased from the LSO’s site or downloaded on iTunes:
LSO Vallery Gergiev Video: