ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
PERFORMER: Christopher Maltman (baritone); Philharmonia Orchestra/Benjamin Zander
CATALOGUE NO: 2CD-80628
‘Mahler rewards the fiercely attentive’, declares Benjamin Zander in the bonus 79-minute ‘discussion disc’. So, too, will these performances. Zander’s hard work on detail makes much of the First Symphony sound new and strange. It’s no surprise he regards the third movement as ‘the most astoundingly original music Mahler ever composed’. Although the eloquent double-bass solo makes no attempt at the parodying awkwardness Zander says Mahler wanted, the intrusions of klezmer style do all sound startlingly like a hyperactive village band. The novel congestion of what, as always with Mahler, is never quite a reprise, also hits home, just like its counterpart in an initially rather severe scherzo. On the minus side, there’s no hint of Kubelík’s Bohemian geniality in the first movement, and despite the recording’s rich dynamic range the march-mania of the finale remains on the stolid side.
Although the discussion is generously illustrated, it’s only here that we have a brief glimpse of the ‘Blumine’ movement originally placed second in the Symphony, and Zander makes the case for rejecting the exposition repeat that Mahler belatedly inserted into his first movement. Crucially, though, the Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen
quoted in the Symphony are tellingly placed before it. Maltman, less focused than Fischer-Dieskau but gifted with the full range the settings demand, finally taps into his feminine side in an ideally-paced performance of the fourth song. In what often sounds like well executed work-in-progress, it’s another sequence fit to join the great interpretations. David Nice