Mahler Symphony #1!
Many years ago, I learned to understand Mahler’s masterpiece when I was a member of the Minneapolis Civic Orchestra, and we performed this symphony during one of our seasons. Sure… it was a puzzle and also a technical challenge for me then as an orchestra violinist with not much experience with more contemporary pieces. However… repetition is a great teacher, and slowly I came to understand, love, and appreciate this composition a lot.
Later, after I became a genuine Gustav Mahler fan, I visited the place where Mahler composed the Symphony #2, at his summer residence on the Attersee in Austria. When I returned again, the large green meadow next to Mahler’s small “composition hut” had been turned into a campground for summer vacationers who enjoyed the beautiful countryside…
This recording by Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony is excellent. Throughout, the playing and the sound are truly first-rate. One just has to listen to this music attentively to catch all the sounds of the Austrian countryside, the Laendler dances, the distant sounds of Mahler’s Jewish heritage, and the deep irony that sometimes penetrates this music. And there are always the deeply felt slow movements in most of these symphonies where Mahler’s capabilities as a painter of human emotions are audible.
Here is a recording from 1975: Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the Mahler Symphony #1: