Mahler – Symphony No. 1 “Titan”

Mahler – Symphony No. 1 “Titan”
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Direction: Karel Ancerl
Record: 19-21 December 1964
Supraphon SU 3666-2 Gold Edition

Youth symphony of Mahler is a “tube” of which there are nearly 300 different records. You will understand that the competition is fierce and if there are memorable achievements : Kubelik , Giulini , Abbado, Bernstein, Walter and … Ancerl.

The latter distinguished himself in my opinion for the following reasons :

  • Karel Ancerl was born in 1908 in Bohemia (Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time).
  • He served all his activity in Prague until 1968 (more than 700 concerts with the Czech Philharmonic from 1950 to 1968).
  • During these years he signed many of reference records including the Czech repertoire (the best New World Symphony) and Russian (his Prokofiev) and acquired a worldwide forefront reputation.
  • Restitution, if we except a slight tape hiss, is remarkable for its time: The implementation of the instruments is perfect, very natural tones and you can hear a lot of details.
  • But most importantly, and this is where this recording makes the difference, there is an intimate rapport between the composer and his interpreter.

Mahler was born in Bohemia. He is 27 years old when he composed this symphony. He is still steeped in nature, military bands, gypsy music and dances of its Boheme. His music is a true reflection of memories of his youth. It is based on the specific sounds of instruments there he has heard. It also contains this special sarcastic irony of ” good soldier Švejk “.

The Czech Philharmonic in 1964, in its great tradition had these sounds. Karel Ancerl compatriot Mahler was ” in his garden .” Craft, imagination, intelligence and sensitivity, interpreters did the rest : an exceptional record of clarity and precision with a fruity tonal balance, including wood and strings. We are far from sound, certainly beautiful, but a tad sanitized, of New York or Chicago!

The interpretation is ideal for youth and from a first movement full of airy freshness takes us into the Bohemian countryside awakening and where birds sing loudly. The second proposes a very catchy ländler. The funeral march of the third is grating at will, but not heavy : What bass ! And the end is removed and contrast without being too demonstrative.

The great Mahler, great art !

What transform our desert island in Bohemia late nineteenth … And the icing on the cake, this CD is discounted.

Signed JPB !

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