# Composer: Gustav Mahler
# Orchestra: Columbia Symphony Orchestra
# Conductor: Bruno Walter
# Vinyl (1961 / 1980)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Format: Flac
# DR Analysis: DR 13
# Label: Franklin Mint Record Society – Record 60 of 100
# Size: 1.04GB (24/96) + 284MB (16/44.1)
# Recovery: 5%
# Scan: yes
# Server: RS, FF
As always, if anyone has requests for other titles in this set, please add them to the comments.
An indispensable recording, full of affection and authority
Bruno Walter was Mahler’s closest protege, and he championed the master’s music through decades of audience indifference. There’s a rightness about Walter’s performance of the First Symphony. that’s testified to in a moving way. The year that Leonard Bernstein signed a long-term contract with Columbia Records, 1959, he had complete freedom to choose the works he wanted to record. At the top of his list was the Mahler First, but it wound up being postponed for ten years, because the aging Walter, then 83 and living in frail health in Los Angeles, also wanted to record the same work. He felt that Mahler was “his” and somewhat resented the spotlight of fame that shone upon Bernstein. Columbia Records had no choice but to record the same work twice in one year.
The first chance went to Walter, and when the tapes arrived in New York — this very recording — executives were stunned into silence by its quality. The word got to Bernstein, who asked to hear the tapes. Afterwards he called up and said, “Walter is right. This symphony is his.” With characteristic generosity to a colleague (a trait he maintained throughout his career), Bernstein put off his own Mahler First until 1969 — as I recall, it was the teaser that got one to buy the complete Mahler cycle, which came out that year.
Is the recording still awe-inspiring? Some technical aspects aren’t. The sound is clear but a bit thin, and so is the string body of the pickup group known as the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. Compared to Walter’s mono recording of the First made with the New York Philharmonic in 1954, the stereo remake isn’t as electric, and the build-up in the finale loses some momentum. When you turn to a dynamo like Solti, there’s no comparison. Yet in terms of capturing the spirit of Mahler’s triumphant beginning as a symphonist, this is the recording to own. How can we fail to be impressed by a Mahler performance that bowled over Leonard Bernstein?
There’s nothing extreme or exceptional in terms of tempo and phrasing, but every event flows naturally, and there’s a sense of organic unity, not to mention joy, in every phrase. I found myself quite moved, coming back to this recording after thirty years. Happily, Walter has no lapses due to declining health; this could be the work of a much younger conductor. The 1954 version is masterful and re-emerged on the Masterworks Heritage series that Sony began but later aborted. But in its more genial, wise way, this later version is a fitting memorial both to Walter and to the musical reputation of Mahler that he kept alive for decades.
P.S. — Bernstein went on to make the Mahler First one of his showpieces, but he never touched its mystery as Walter does here. – Santa Fe Listener, amazon.com
01 – I. Langsam
02 – II. Kräftig bewegt
03 – III. Feierlich und gemessen (beginning)
04 – III. Feierlich und gemessen (conclusion)
05 – IV. Stürmisch bewegt
You can see a listing of the entire Franklin Mint set here.
Info on the original album can be seen here
All vinyl is cleaned on a VPI 16.5
Technics SL1200-MK5 (modified)
– Rega RB300 arm with RB700 wiring
– Michell Tecnoweight
– SoundSupports armboard
– Trans-Fi Audio Reso-Mat
Shure V15VxMR (with Jico stylus)
SimAudio Moon 110LP preamp
Native Instruments Audio4DJ USB interface
Processing: Sound Forge 10, ClickRepair (manual mode only)
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