Mahler: Titan

Reviewed on Mon 08 Jul, 2019

Vibrato-free strings are more noticeably to the fore, especially so in knowingly apostrophised portamentos, the carolling birdsong of woodwinds conspicuously attractive.

A Mahler premiere on disc – the second, five-movement, version of what became the First Symphony – is something not to ignore, especially in such a fleet, feline and vivacious performance as this from François-Xavier Roth’s alert and agile Les Siècles. Here employing appropriately period German and Viennese instruments, and complete with the subsequently rejected Blumine section, this remains very much a work in progress as fashioned in Hamburg and Weimar in 1893-94. Although there are no great surprises to be found, there is considerable pleasure to be taken from Roth and his nimble, nuanced ensemble’s spirited advocacy. Vibrato-free strings are more noticeably to the fore, especially so in knowingly apostrophised portamentos, the carolling birdsong of woodwinds conspicuously attractive, brass pleasingly less assertive and percussion altogether politer. If it ultimately lacks the overall bite and punch of Mahler’s final, 1899, version, this is a Titan of interest and value that any self-respecting Mahlerian will want to have in their collection.
–Michael Quinn