Mahler left no recordings of his music except for the piano rolls he made for the Welte-Mignon Company in 1905, which consist of a reduction of the first movement of his Symphony No. 5, the accompaniment of the songs "Ging heut morgen über's feld" and "Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald," and the finale of the Symphony No. 4, Das himmlische Leben. For this Preiser CD, the rolls have been played on Mahler's own Blüthner grand piano with an adapter, the Welte Vorsetzer or "push-up player," as opposed to using a player piano. This is as close to an authentic Mahler recording as anyone can produce, including his dynamics, attacks, pedaling, and occasional mistakes, as well as the sonorities of his own piano; only his tempos had to be approximated. A 1993 release on IMP Golden Legacy presented the rolls played on a Welte-Mignon-Reproduktionsklavier, along with tracks of the songs with singers Claudine Carlson and Yvonne Kenny. The rolls of the "Trauermarsch" from the Symphony No. 5 and "Das himmlische Leben" have also appeared on a 2004 Dal Segno album of historic piano rolls. Therefore, the claim that this album is a "world-premiere recording" applies not to the reproduction of Mahler's rolls, but to recording them on his own instrument for the first time. This album certainly holds interest for all who love Mahler's music, and fans of piano roll recordings will also find it extraordinary because of the sophistication of Welte-Mignon's methods. Preiser's sound is clean and clear, though there is slight background noise from the roll mechanism that listeners should ignore.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson