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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

If You Like Mahler's 1st, An Unusual Recording You Should buy!

Every once in a blue moon, I'll take a risk on a recording that could possibly hit the trash can after a first listen.  I happened to stop by the Juilliard Store yesterday while my computer was in the repair shop.  As I rounded the last CD section, I saw they were running a $9.98 sale on single disk Urania recordings.  Knowing Urania can be a real mixed bag when it comes to sound quality, I looked over the group of cd's and saw this oddball Mahler's 1st with Rafael Kubelik conducting the Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della Rai in a live radio broadcast from Turin in 1956.  So, being a sucker for Mahler's 1st I thought, what the hell, $9.98, what do I have to lose?  I told my friend Seth Winner, a noted Sound Engineer about my new purchase and he chuckled.  Though he had to admit he never heard the recording before.  Anyhow, Urania released this recording from the original master tapes in 2005, the first time the performance had been published in any form.  

Wow!!!! is the best descriptor for this recording.  A true tribute to Kubelik, as it is completely obvious he spent the time needed to take the Italian out of the orchestra and focus on Mahler's dynamics.  The brass as one would expect from an Italian orchestra is strong, but note overdone as I have heard in any number of recordings of the period, the strings are glorious, but the most surprising aspect is the clarity of the woodwinds. The engineer who strung the microphones knew the hall, but also knew the piece, as the woodwinds are well emphasized and the detail in the first and third movements is something to behold and something which engineers do not always emphasize.   On the weak end of the engineering is the underplay of the percussion and over-emphasis of what becomes a virtual tuba solo in the rounds of Frere Jacques at the beginning of the movement.  Happily, the orchestra also has a real feel for the Klezmer vs. Funeral dynamic in the same movement.  The transfer engineers do a terrific job as well and I can heartily recommend this recording for overall sound quality.

Interestingly Kubelik takes the 4th movement in a very deliberate way.  Mahler's marking of Stürmisch bewegt – Energisch (Stormy and Energetic) are built upon, rather than raging from the moment the movement begins.  I personally like this aspect of the performance very much, but it may not be to the absolute puritans liking.  I am quite reminded of the deliberate conducting of Hans Knappertsbusch's in his Westminster recording of Fidelio when I hear something like this which is in absolute good taste, but not quite the way others envision it.

Anyhow, I am sure this cd is available from a variety of sources, however, the sale makes this all worthwhile.  You can call the Juilliard Store at 212-799-5000, or contact them via their website, Juilliard Store contact page to take advantage of this particular cd.

The Music Antiquarian Blog, Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. and their employees have not received any financial compensation in the publication of this article.

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