Georg Solti / Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 [1983 Recording]

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With the enormous number of recordings of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major, "Titan," competing in the marketplace, it's hard to expect anyone to give this 1983 recording by Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony more than a passing glance. Yet for early digital recording this disc is terrific, and it still sounds remarkably clear and vibrant when many other recordings of its age sound cold and sterile. However, the fine reproduction won't satisfy audiophiles who have grown accustomed to the sonic depth of multichannel technology and the superior definition of DSD sound. Furthermore, this recording is up against several contemporary versions that offer not only solid performances of the symphony, but also include the rejected "Blumine" movement as a special bonus. All the same, and without the niceties of state-of-the-art sound and the take-it-or-leave-it "Blumine," this is one of the classic Mahler recordings of the digital era: Solti's penetrating interpretation of this extremely popular -- indeed, overplayed -- symphony approaches the great renditions by the previous generation of conductors. Solti's compelling reading especially bears comparison with the vintage RCA recording by Erich Leinsdorf, and the playing of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is precise and detail-oriented, as well as powerful and gripping. It's difficult to find any other recording of its time that compares with this account's dramatic force, lustrous sonorities, and thrilling energy, and this recording fully merits its place in the catalog.

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