DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Mahler: 1st symphony (BR Klassik)

By Norman Lebrecht on March 8, 2016

Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s interprets Mahler’s first symphony with the Munich’s Symphonieorchester des Bayersichen Rundfunks.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin Mahler: Symphony No. 1
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Mahler: Symphony No. 1

Mahler: 1st symphony (BR Klassik)

★★ (out of five)

Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s interpretation of Mahler’s first symphony is beautifully played by Munich’s (some say Germany’s) best orchestra and thoughtfully structured by an impressive guest conductor. I think I am safe in saying that it is conceptually different from any of the 120 Mahler Firsts on record, stretching all the way back to Dmitri Mitropolous’s towering Minnesota performance for Columbia in April 1940. And that’s no small distinction in a much-repeated piece.

Where Yannick differs from all others is in atmospherics. The opening four and a half minutes of ambient sound, where the ear searches for a clue to what’s going on, is brought here into close focus, making the opaque explicit and the nebulous utterly literal. It might well be titled Mahler Demystified.

Brisk speeds, maintained into the second movement, give little room for breath or reflection. The third movement, commencing with the child’s funeral march that turns into a drunken orgy, is muscular and emphatic, and the finale is appropriately helter-skelter. The conductor’s priority throughout appears to be beauty and simplicity above disturbance and profundity.

Mahler told conductors to interpret his music any way they liked, so there’s no fault to be found in Yannick’s approach. But what is lost is how utterly revolutionary this work was and remains, how it rewrites the symphony from first principles by refusing to deliver instant gratification and by employing irony to convey multiple and contradictory narratives. Making it easy was not what Mahler had in mind,

This is a young man’s guide to Mahler’s First and some listeners will warm to its naivety and nature worship; the Munich musicians certainly sound like they are having a ball. But the absence of irony saps interest in the composer’s argument and the bustling speeds prove ultimately deceptive. Bruno Walter, in his seventies, got through the score five minutes faster than Yannick.

Mahler: 1st symphony (BR Klassik) is available atAmazon.ca or iTunes.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and review before anyone else finds out? Get our exclusive newsletter here and follow us on Facebook for all the latest.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | TSO Delivers Serviceable Sibelius But Stravinsky Steals The Show

By Stephan Bonfield on January 11, 2019

The Toronto Symphony takes the chill off a cold, blowy January night with Sibelius Second Symphony and Kurt Weill's charming cabaret with violinist Leila Josefowicz, visiting conductor Ludovic Morlot.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Whatever Happened To Composer Rebecca Clarke?

By Norman Lebrecht on January 4, 2019

Norman Lebrecht reviews a curious new album of music by composer Rebecca Clarke performed by cellist Natalie Clein.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

LEBRECHT LISTENS | A Definitive Recording Of Wilhelm Stenhammar's 2nd Symphony

By Norman Lebrecht on January 18, 2019

Ever bought a record just for the opening track? You’d be sorely tempted by this offering of Wilhelm Stenhammar from the Gothenburg Symphony and Herbert Blomstedt.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.