Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Symphony No.1 in D minor (including "Blumine")

Badische Staatskapelle/Gunter Neuhold
Bella Musica - Antes Edition BM-CD 31.9042 [61.09]

On the cover we are told that this is "Mahler's First Symphony in its original version". But this is simply not the case. What we have is a recording of Mahler's First including the movement called "Blumine". Mahler discarded this movement when he carried out large-scale revisions of a work that he had approximately called "Titan" and which, after revision, became the First Symphony we know today with the title "Titan" also discarded. There is nothing wrong with including the "Blumine" movement with recordings of the First Symphony final version, of course. What concerns me is the placing of it where Mahler's original version had placed it - as second movement. So be aware that "Blumine" is not the second movement of the final version of the First Symphony, as recorded here, and including it there does not make "Mahler's First Symphony in its original version."

Having got all that off my chest let me now deal with the music because I wouldn't want it to deter you from considering this recording. It's easy to overlook labels, orchestras and conductors with whom we may be unfamiliar and in this case that would be a pity as this recording is capable of holding its own among stiff competition. In the first movement Neuhold and his orchestra manage the opening harmonies well with a fresh rather than a dreamy opening, and I always prefer it like that. Neuhold is one of those conductors (Kubelik was another) who appreciate that this is a young man's composition with lots of lift and vigour to it. Within that he can make his cellos play some lovely slides and the climax of the movement bursts out with a great feeling of release following excellent preparation.

As I wrote above, "Blumine" is then placed second on the disc so I would advise you to programme the CD player to skip over it and play it later as a separate item. That said, I like the way that Neuhold treats this as a fleet intermezzo but with a sweet trumpet at the centre and, once again, idiomatic string playing.

By the arrival of the Scherzo we can hear how much Neuhold grasps the particular sound of this symphony. The high woodwinds impress and the "ground-bass" of the lower strings too. Notice also the slight slowing down for the trio section that Neuhold here presents as a delicate little dance. In what is usually the third movement the solo bass player goes some way further than many colleagues in making his instrument sound distinctive, but not as far as he might. The pace of this movement is just right to allow the "café band" passages to tell, though. Then the "Wayfarer" emotional core comes over as beautifully withdrawn and chaste. The effect of the movement is like a series of layers Neuhold peels back one by one.

The last movement bursts in, impetuous and raucous. The great theme after the storm is excellently phrased without a hint of mannerism and I like the way the Neuhold keeps the whole movement bowling along with panache. In the coda there is weight but also joy and a sense of release bringing to an end a "live" performance that fully deserves the warm applause of the audience who have been so well-behaved I had no idea they had been there until then.

A good recording of the First Symphony, lively and sensitive in all the right places. More desirable versions are available showing even greater insight, but there are some full-priced versions that suffer by comparison.

Tony Duggan


The disc priced @ approx £13.99 according to dealer in UK. Can also be obtained from Kingdom Records Ltd, Clarendon House, Shenley Rd. Borehamwood, Herts WD6 1AG. enquiries Tel. 020 8207 7006 or via E-mail at Kingdomrec@AOL.COM

 Bella Musica - Antes Edition do not have a website but can be contacted at:-

Eisenbahnstraße 30
D-77815 Bühl
phone (07223) 98 55-0
Fax (07223) 98 55-66

In USA the disc should be available via Qualiton

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