LABELS: EMI Eminence
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 in D (Titan)
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: CDEMX 2197 DDD
Mackerras’s Mahler One is a gentle giant, never happier than when singing softly to himself. Full marks for lyrical restraint in the nostalgic second subject of the finale, and what a revelation it is to hear the huntsman’s funeral march really phrased, taking its cue from the most eloquent of double-bass solos (Edward Thomas, rightfully credited) and refusing to be overwhelmed by irony until its second time round.
Personality— especially of the kind expected from this conductor — isn’t always so much in evidence in this performance: after an introduction which binds all the component early-morning elements together, the wayfarer’s stroll through the countryside is a little too redeem, a landscape without figures.
Reticence persists, stretching only to the cheeky rather than the deliberately coarse in the stomping Scherzo, and so the final battle of the titans should come as a surprise. Yet it’s only at the last, victorious moment that the Liverpudlians at full force have us sitting up in our seats, this time to admire a triumph without bathos, beautifully served at last by the recording. Good taste wins here, but the fiery pulse of youth that runs through Bernstein’s and Tennstedt’s more extreme performances will remain with me. David Nice