Herbert Kegel

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 "Titan"

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Despite being a reissue of an analog recording, Herbert Kegel's performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D major, "Titan," with the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra is actually quite good and a worthy offering from Berlin Classics. Recorded in 1979 and originally released in Germany, this version of the symphony follows the usual practice of the time in having only the four standard movements, without the rejected "Blumine" movement (inclusion of which has become almost de rigueur in recordings made from the 1990s onward). Kegel's interpretation is uncontroversial, except some may find it a bit too stylized in his use of rubato and exaggerated rhythms, ostensibly meant to give a greater sense of awe to the first movement, a halting Viennese lilt to the Scherzo, a grotesque playfulness to the Funeral March, and a heightened tension to the cataclysmic Finale. Whether or not this elasticity with tempo is effective is left to the listener's taste, but few would argue that Kegel's reading is off base, or that the symphony really suffers from these distortions. This is, after all, a Mahler symphony, and some liberties should be expected. The Dresden Philharmonic plays with great accuracy and expressive range, and the performance's most compelling moments are due to the orchestra's brilliance, especially in the last movement where everybody gives the utmost. The sound of this recording is fine, with only a slight loss of vibrancy in the digital remastering.

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