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Symphony No.1 Ruckert Songs


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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
a first choice for these two works together June 30 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It would have made far more sense to pair the first symphony with the "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" (Songs of a Wayfarer) since the first movement, in particular, pretty much quotes the second song of the cycle ("Ging heut' morgen uber's Feld). In addition, the trio section of the scherzo movement uses pretty much the same melody as that in the fourth song. But why fuss when the performance of the "Funf Ruckert Lieder" (5 Ruckert Songs) - taken from Mahler's middle period - is good as it is here from soprano Christine Schaefer.

Actually, the five Ruckert songs are harder to pull off than many people think. As is frequently pointed out by the truly great musicians, the easiest music - from a purely technical standpoint, that is - is often times the hardest to do. It's very easy, for example, to completely flub the dissonant and strange climax to "Um Mitternacht". Eschenbach and Schaefer pass this test with flying colors. Their performance of "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" - THE most gorgeous orchestral song ever composed - is nearly as good as it ever gets (Eschenbach has had plenty of experience with Richard Strauss' "Four Last Songs"). The performance of the first symphony is no less convincing either.

Eschenbach leads a remarkably straight forward performance of the symphony; free of the strange mannerisms and excessively slow tempi that has dogged many of his performances of the later Mahler symphonies. It's good to see Eschenbach not treat 'the first' as a symphony that is, 'mature beyond its years', shall we say. In other words, he leads a fresh and delightful performance of it. The DSO Berlin play with just a tad more rusticity and 'dirt under the fingernails' than their more famous counterpart, who also share the Philharmonie. Yet, everything is accurate and well in tune - not the slightest bit amateurish. Taken together, these performances of works that represent both Mahler's early and middle periods, form a true winner. The sound quality is pretty darn good also.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A good Mahler First paired with Schafer's affecting, memorable Ruckert songs May 16 2010
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Come for the symphony, but stay for the songs. I've never noticed Eschenbach to possess surpassing talent as a conductor, but he must do something right, having achieved a notable big-name career. I try to keep up with his many recordings; some are good, certainly, but you'd never guess form the trail of good reviews how many are mediocre. In general, his Mahler has proved to be slack and ordinary. that, of course, may be a good way to succeed. But cynicism will do us no good. Here is the Deutsche sinfonie-Orchester of Berlin, best known to old timers under its postwar name as the RIAS Symphony, a radio orchestra founded in 1946 by the American occupiers (RIAS stands for Radio in the America Sector). In the welter of Berlin's many orchestras, I haven't kept up with this one. It seems to fall behind Barenboim's Staatskapelle Berlin, however.

The orchestra sounds good here and is well recorded. Even tiny labels like Capriccio seem to have no problem with that. Eschenbach leads a straightforward first movement. Whether it's due to him or less-rhan-stellar players, there is little mystery or atmosphere. As the movement progresses, the pace gets slower and the mood quieter; in some ways that's fairly evocative. Too bad that Eschenbach can't capture the magical resolution to the tonic when the horns enter. The climax makes a nice resounding noise. Tempo and dynamics are moderate in the landler-like Scherzo. The underlying momentum is kept going for the most part. Continuing down the middle of the road, the parodistic funeral march is played straight but with a nice tenderness. the Jewish klezmer band is affectionately evoked with lingering rubato. The stormy opening of the finale begins with less shocking impact than in many recordings, but I've had enough of shock, so this wasn't a drawback. Eschenbach is canny enough not to push his musicians too far; everything here is carefully judged rather than being played for maximum impact. In all, a pleasing performance without breaking any new ground.

Quite a few Mahler Firsts come with no filler, so it's welcome to get the five Ruckert songs from Christine Schafer. Her lyric voice has darkened with age, and at this stage there are a few technical flaws. But Schafer is an artist, always worth hearing, and we find her in beautiful voice. Eschenbach is an accomplished accompanist to singers; if only he didn't favor some exaggerated slow pacing here. The real attraction is Schafer's imaginative, dramatic readings. Even lacking the sheer power needed to rise to the climax of Um Mitternacht, she finds so much passion that you barley notice. I wouldn't object if someone named "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" as the greatest lied after Schubert, and its long, arching line is difficult, especially when drawn out nearly to 8 min. as it is here. Schafer divides the line into shorter segments and manages a lovely, memorable rendition, which is true of the whole set.
Not bad; not bad at all April 24 2013
By John J. Puccio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The First and Fourth Symphonies of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) are his shortest and most-accessible symphonies; moreover, they are today among the most-popular pieces of music ever written. Thus, we would expect a good deal of competition in the marketplace for recordings of them. And such is the case, given the dozens of alternative discs available. I mean, you know it's going to be tough sledding for any newcomer, like this 2010 Capriccio release of the Symphony No. 1 from conductor Christoph Eschenbach, even at its low, budget price.

How well, then, does the Eschenbach entry stack up against low-cost issues from Barbirolli, Bernstein, Bohm, Davis, de Waart, Judd, Kubelik, Leaper, Maazel, Mehta, Muti, Rattle, Slatkin, Solti, Szell, Wit, Zinman, and a host of others, all of them priced at or below the cost of this Capriccio disc? I'm happy to report it more than holds its own. And it benefits from a new digital recording that is robust, with dead-silent backgrounds.

While Eschenbach's Capriccio disc may not have quite the animation nor quite the transparency of some rival recordings, it displays a good deal of charm and provides an appropriate introduction to the Mahler symphonies to come. Not a bad price, either.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor

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