Mahler: Symphony No. 1 - Tilson Thomas

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 - Tilson Thomas

San Francisco Symphony  SFS 0043

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Mahler: Symphony No. 1

San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor)

The San Francisco Symphony with Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas begin offering reissues of their award-winning and critically acclaimed Mahler cycle with Symphony No. 1, in Hybrid SACD format and packaged in SACD jewel cases. Mahler's Symphony No. 1 was one of the most stunning debuts in symphonic music history. This powerful and passionate performance of Mahler's "Titan" was recorded during the SFS concerts of 19 - 23 September 2001, and captures the live-performance excitement of the Grammy-winning conductor-symphony partnership that the Los Angeles Times declared "the most exciting Mahler combination anywhere right now."

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DSD recording

Producer: Andreas Neubronner
Balance Engineer: Peter Laenger
Editing, Remixing and Mastering: Andreas Ruge, Andreas Neubronner
DSD Recording: Gus Skinas, Dawn Frank

Recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco - September 19-23, 2001
Total time: 56:14
Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - November 8, 2008

This is a reading that I find hard to match with the glowing reviews accorded to it.

The playing in the main is good but far from that of a front rank, world class orchestra especially one steeped in a tradition of performing Mahler. For one thing, the brass above a forte becomes rather blaring than piercing to this listeners ears and becomes quite uncomfortable on repeated listening. The main issue is one of Tilson-Thomas' conducting - quite why he feels it necessary to rush through the (what should be to these ears) terrifying restatement of the opening motif at around 8 minutes and obviate any feeling of panic is not apparent. Nor are the many contrary expansions of ritardando's to the almost perversely turgid. Both the rushing and the slowing have, for this listener at least, ruined any sense of a build up of momentum by continually pulling the underlying tempo around by such a large extent that it breaks rather than bends.

The engineering is very good for a live performance although a far greater amount of audience noise mid-music intrudes than on the comparable Mahler: Symphony No. 1 - Jansons (until the Dutch audience erupts with acclamation after the final orchestral hammer blows).

As other reviews illustrate though, this approach finds its admirers and devotees - it is clear that Mahler divides performers and listeners as almost no other composer, so do listen before purchasing.

Copyright © 2008 John Broggio and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (1)

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - December 7, 2018 (1 of 1)

From time to time I go back to where it all started to see how things have evolved. With this release (2001) we are more or less at the beginning of the Super Audio era.

Apart from the fact that I have a more positive take on the musical content, it occurred to me that the Sony engineers have done wonders in promoting the superior quality of SACD. Such in stark contrast to Universal Music (Philips, DGG, Decca), releasing at around the same time for the purpose of having a quick catalogue of software for the new hardware, a series of poorly remastered RBCD’s. A case in point is Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade - Gergiev the sound of which is execrably bad and worse than the original Decca, thus doing more harm than good to the fortunes of the new medium. (My copy has since long gone to the waste basket, not wanting to displease anyone else by giving it away).

Another example? Take this one: Elgar: Violin Concerto etc. - Hilary Hahn. Lovingly played but sonically a disaster. In spite of all the logos displayed on the back cover the soundstage is flat and the surround mix weak and unstable. Compared to the same on Chandos, and with similar concerti recorded by today’s top independent quality labels, it is day compared to night. Much more detail, clarity, roominess; recorded as close as to the real thing as can technically be simulated on a 12 cm sound carrier.

After all these years the quality of this early, Sony engineered release still is amoungst the very best.