Rejoicing in Extremes
Iván Fischer's Mahler 1 would be thrilling on just an average day. But after Marin Alsop's oddly flaccid account with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, just out on Naxos, the Budapest Festival Orchestra's new recording is a veritable riot. As at the Proms last year, some of Fischer's choices remain mannered, yet he and his players deliver thrills and spills aplenty.
The wayside gamble of the first movement has a loucher gait than many of Fischer’s competitors, but he invests this evocation of the natural world with real buoyancy. Charting a vast dynamic range, not a note is left unturned. High points are over-emphasised, but it’s all part and parcel of a symphony that seems to photosynthesise before our very ears. The Ländler is similarly feral, with its hunting-cum-Rosenkavalier horns teeing up a deliciously sensual waltz. Clearly Fischer rejoices in extremes.
Such contrasts become schizophrenic in the funeral march, where a desolate opening turns decidedly caustic. Balmy Budapest strings scatter portamento over the cortège, before pungent Klezmer clarinets take over the mourning duties. Playing on that bipolarity yet further, Fischer answers his languid opening movement with a savage finale. Strident, with bite to the brass and ferocious attacks at the heel of the bow, the symphony builds to a dynamic conclusion. Fischer’s choice to delay the penultimate climax may irritate some, but the fanfares that follow will blind any listener.
After Alsop and Chung’s recent unassertive performances, this recording is dizzyingly fresh. Fischer is an interventionist and, for that reason, this recording may not attain an award-winning benchmark spot. But for sheer theatrical guts and gall, this is unbeatable stuff. Click here to order a copy.