Friday, March 29, 2013

Mahler – Symphony No. 1, The Budapest Version, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

   Gustav Mahler worked on his first symphony since 1884. First sketches to this composition were closer to symphonic poems than symphonic form. These fragments became basic material for composition he finished in years 1987-1988. Completed symphony was premiered 1989 in Budapest, though it was still titled Symphonic poem in two parts, where first part comprised three movements with second movement called Blumine (Flowering) or Bluminenkapitel, and second part was double movement. The premiered work was well received, but some critics had some doubts, so composer continued to work on formal issues of his first symphony.
   Next version was titled Titan (first time in 1993) and still including second movement Blumine. It is serenade written to Joseph Victor von Scheffel's poem Der Trompeter von Säckingen featuring gentle trumpet solo. After devastating critique this part was omitted in 1894 performance and two years later it was completely removed. There are some references to the style of Blumine part in other fragments of the symphony. In common opinion the definitive version is 1896 four movement setting in version published in 1899, and some of greatest conductors like Leonard Bernstein, Georg Solti and Bernard Haitink refuse to perform earlier settings. Many conductors perform Blumine as an independent piece, fewer insert this serenade into later four-part setting as the second movement.

Gustav Mahler – Symphony No. 1, The Budapest Version (1982)

   Performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in Budapest Version are pretty unique, and even rarer are phonographic records. Only issue I know is 1982 recording made for Hungaroton (SLPX 12267-68) by Hungarian State Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer. Precise and well recorded performance shows this work as interesting. The Blumine part is quite interesting moment of quiet, slowly moving moment of time stopping before scherzo movement with strong folk tune type melodies and rhythm of landler-type theme. Alive and full of energy and best expectations is the sweet trio episode. A lot of positive energy will prepare next movement contrasting with ironic, grotesque march which subject is taken from popular student’s tune Frère Jacques. After this characteristic melody, comes short interlude with citation of last song from the cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. These works has some more common points.
   The cycle of songs, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, was the first Mahler’s cycle. It has been composed for voice with piano in years 1884-1885, the time of first sketches and projects of the symphony. In symphonic version the cycle has its premiere in 1896 in Berlin. In the Symphony No. 1 there are two references to Songs of a Wayfarer. Main theme of second song can be heard in first movement of First Symphony. Second one has been mentioned before. The album conducted by Iván Fischer features recording of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen cycle with Klára Takács, star of Budapest Opera House, featured also in series of very good recordings of romantic songs. The double album was part of ambitious and successful project of Hungarian artists.

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