eMusic Review 0
Mahler is mostly remembered as a tortured soul, forever at odds with the audiences and critical establishment of his day. It can be surprising, then, for casual listeners to discover how much beatific contentment can be found in his music. These short-lived moments of peace are inevitably swept aside, but they are made all the more sublime for their fragility. Take, for instance, the opening to his First Symphony, which is rendered here by the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev's baton with an appropriate sense of wonder. It opens hushed, with harmonics in the strings evoking the hum of nature. This holy quiet is pierced by small, piping notes of birdsong, then by horn calls, before gathering into a vibrant tune that babbles its irrepressible excitement in tumbling figures. You would never know, from such beginnings, that two movements later the double basses would be groaning a dire funeral procession.
This gratifyingly warm and immediate-sounding live recording of the work, taken from a performance in Barbican Hall, adeptly captures both the warmth of this enchanted opening as well as the grief that follows. Few works scale such exultant heights and plunge to such devastating lows as a Mahler symphony, and… read more »