Say what you will, Maurice Abravanel's Mahler cycle with the Utah Symphony Orchestra was really pretty good. True, the Utah's winds were dry, the strings were thin, and the brass was sometimes harsh. True, Abravanel's interpretations were more lyric than dramatic, more dramatic than ecstatic, and more straight-ahead than starry-eyed and laughing. But in the final analysis, the mind, the heart, the soul, and the spirit were often just right. Take this First, recorded in five days in late spring 1974. Abravanel catches the work's youthful impetuosity and reckless romanticism, and if he cannot quite make the Finale convincing, it might be argued that Mahler could not quite make it work either. The Utah is sometimes in way over its head, but the musicians do try their best and, through dedication and faith, they reach the other side. It might be argued that as an interpreter Abravanel was more comfortable with Mahler's coy pastoralisms than his epic tragedies and more relaxed with his whole-hearted sincerity than with his two-edged ironies. But, more than anything, it is Abravanel's skill as a conductor and his enthusiasm for his players that makes these performances. He believes they can do it and they believe they can do it and, impossibly or not, they do it. Despite its flaws, this is a great Mahler First. Silverline Classic's remastering of the original Vanguard recordings is cleaner and clearer than the original LPs.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Symphony No. 1 in D major ("Titan")|