MAHLER: SYMPHONY NO. 1
This piece was premiered in Budapest in 1889, and Mahler was forced to chalk up the performance as a failure: "My friends avoided my after the concert.
The critics dismissed the work: repelling, shapeless, tasteless, unbearably discordant, depressingly ordinary.” Well, brutal though they may be, these attributes are still raised even today among the anti-Mahler camps, and not completely without reason. This is because Mahler consciously integrated trashy tones of shapeless banality into his works, and only after World War II did the intellectual world change in such a way that this style found sympathetic ears. In the post-modern era, context prevailed over text, from which point on people started to adore Mahler for the attributes they used to mock him for.
I have vivid memories of the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Ivan Fischer performing Symphony No. 1 at the Mahler Festival in 2011. What came to my mind then was the star clock, and now, listening to this record, I am overwhelmed by the same thoughts and emotions. I am charmed at the very beginning by the descending quart only to be bewitched later by the alchemy of blending colours. Apparently, Iván Fischer clearly intended to capture extreme moods and emotions: in addition to the heroic or youthful innocence of the first and the final movement, the second and third movement reflect the hideous banality of our world. He had the courage to produce even the most brutal effects: rarely do we hear the ländler movement played with such smashing sarcasm nor are we used to the desperately grotesque tone of the dead march in the third movement. However, this bravery always has a purpose and is accompanied by a faint half-smile and the gesture of forgiveness: the world is horrible but this is the only place for us to live.
Channel Classics, 2012