Vladimir Jurowski / London Philharmonic Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 1

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Mahler: Symphony No. 1 Review

by Blair Sanderson

The contemporary trend to perform the discarded "Blumine" as the second movement of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major is one of the most regrettable choices conductors can make. Though this slow, sentimental piece was indeed part of the Symphonic Poem in Two Parts, later dubbed "Titan" (the original conception of the symphony), Mahler cut it and published the revised Symphony No. 1 without it. His decision was the only sensible one, because "Blumine" dissipates the hard-won energy of the first movement and interrupts the forward momentum of the symphony, which must continue through the highly active Scherzo to propel the work. Yet Vladimir Jurowski, like several of his well-meaning colleagues, performs the symphony with "Blumine" as a presumed act of restoration, and the results are not inspiring. The London Philharmonic Orchestra plays the symphony with professionalism and polish, and this live recording has a promising start. But the symphony's trajectory is broken because of the insertion of "Blumine" where it does the most harm, and the performance from that point on is deliberately paced, scattered, and boring, as if the musicians became distracted by an unwarranted intermission. (Better that "Blumine" had been appended as a bonus track than to have it incorporated into the symphony.) With many exceptional recordings of this popular symphony available, listeners can choose a suitable version without "Blumine," and they need not settle for this misguided interpolation. The recording is decent for a live setting, though it needs a high volume setting to make out details.

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