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Mahler: Symphony No. 1; Songs of a Wayfarer

Chicago Tribune, November 25, 2005

With more than 50 available recordings of the revised four-movement version of Gustav Mahler's First Symphony, any newcomer had better be special, and this one is on several counts. A beautifully engineered recording conveys every detail with uncommon clarity from the thickest passages to the quietest solos.The orchestra impresses with sweetness as well as power. Benjamin Zander has each note functioning within an expressive whole. The coupling is apt and gorgeously sung. And as has been the case with the previous five installments in this cycle, a bonus CD provides an introduction to both works that has much to say even to listeners long familiar with the music. The only major drawback--several tiny personal touches draw attention to themselves but do not detract from masterly shaping overall--is Zander's omission of the first movement repeat. Listeners who cannot do without it will be satisfied in very different ways by Carlo Maria Giulini (on EMI), Jascha Horenstein (Unicorn), Rafael Kubelik (DGG) or Erich Leinsdorf (RCA), whose accounts are, respectively, raptly poetic, outsized, songfully wide-eyed and fierce. - Alan G. Artner


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