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Naxos is proud to present a spectacular new recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, performed by the Baltimore Symphony conducted by their Music Director Marin Alsop, and produced by GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Tim Handley.

This remarkably original work, with its recurring quotations from the composer’s own songs, notably Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) and Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy’s Magic Horn), is the perfect expression of one of Mahler’s most quoted sayings, “The symphony is a world; it must contain everything”. The opening movement, filled with sounds that Mahler remembered from his childhood, depicts “Nature’s awakening from the long sleep of winter”, and is followed by an exuberant scherzo and trio based on a Ländler. The disturbing slow movement funeral march, based on the children’s song Frère Jacques, is unlike anything that had been heard before, and the symphony concludes with music of thrilling dramatic intensity.
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 1 in D major

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra • Marin Alsop
Naxos 8.572207

Listen to an excerpt from:

Marin, Mind and Mahler: Marin Alsop talks to Jeremy Siepmann

A conductor, as Marin Alsop well knows, is more than an interpreter – and certainly very much more than an entertainer, which some maestri have undoubtedly been. A conductor can mould fashion, effecting widespread changes in repertoire and style alike, which can remain intact for generations. It is to one such that Alsop, along with many others, musicians and audiences alike, owes her abiding love of Mahler. Or might one even describe it as a passion? ‘Absolutely! He’s definitely one of my passions. And for this I owe an incalculable debt to Leonard Bernstein. Perhaps not consciously, but now I see, in retrospect, that he had a huge influence on my love of Mahler. In particular, watching him grapple with interpretative ideas and tempi and various other things gave me enormous insights.’

Other people conducted Mahler, of course, but it’s widely felt that it was Bernstein, decades after Mahler’s death, who transformed him into a truly popular composer. How does Alsop explain the amazingly long period of neglect, running till well past the middle of the last century, when Mahler was hardly known, and where known, frequently slighted? ‘I think it has a lot to do with context. Mahler was writing music very much connected with the times he lived in. You know, looking under every stone, analysing every emotion. Actually, it’s very much connected with the early days of Freud, this delving into the subconscious, and looking at everything from every possible point of view, trying to encapsulate the entire world in every symphony. Mahler’s goals and ambitions were just so lofty, and so massive! This is the advent of humanity looking at and analyzing ourselves. I think once you understand Mahler in the context of that world, his music takes on a whole new layers of meaning.’

But when did it all change? When did the public – indeed most of the musical profession – finally wake up? And why? ‘Well, you know what happens. Art is always a bit of ahead of its time. Great art, anyway, is always challenging the world, and in the case of music, pushing the listeners. And people weren’t yet ready for this kind of self study. This kind of excess. I think it made people uncomfortable It was such a dramatic departure. And then of course, after the advent of Mahler, we have a big detour. When Stravinsky and Schoenberg met at the great fork of the musical road, music took a different route. I think it took a few decades for us to achieve the circumspection to look back on that turn-of-the-century time, and really start to be engaged with it. When it comes to digesting these Mahler symphonies and finding a real passion for them, I think the great pivotal figure, as you say, was Bernstein, whose advocacy of Mahler was simply irresistible. I mean, if you could be a composer and have any one conductor to champion your music I really don’t think you could find anyone better than Bernstein.’

Moving from his times to the man himself, how, if at all, I wondered, are Alsop’s interpretations affected by an intimate knowledge of a composer’s personal life – in this case, of course, specifically Mahler’s? ‘I think that’s an important part of developing an interpretation. I want to feel that I could phone up the composer – and of course it’s hard to phone up some of these guys! – that I can have a dialogue with them in some way, that I am able to identify with them, to feel a real connection. And understanding their circumstances and their ways of thinking of the world, is critical to that, I think. One of the first things I do when I’m preparing a new piece is to re-read a biography or read the latest one that’s come out. And that really transports me to that time. You know, I like to be able to look up from my book and picture myself walking down the street or whatever, in Vienna, and seeing Mahler, and joining that crowd of people that … You know, if there were paparazzi then, they’d be there. To get a real sense of “what does it feel like?” – and that helps enormously to make it real for me.’

And through her, of course, to make it real for others.

About the Artists

Marin Alsop has been Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2007, a relationship now extended to 2015. Currently Conductor Emeritus of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Laureate of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, since 1992 she has also been Music Director of California’s prize-winning Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. She regularly guest conducts the great orchestras of the world including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Zürich Tonhalle, Orchestre de Paris, Munich Philharmonic and La Scala Milan. She performs each season with both the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic and in 2009-2010 was Artistic Director of The Bernstein Project at London’s Southbank Centre. Marin Alsop is Musical America’s 2009 Conductor of the Year, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of numerous awards in the United States and Europe, including being the only female conductor to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, an award given by the MacArthur Foundation each year to select United States citizens who produce exceptional creative work. In 2010 she was inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame. Her extensive discography on Naxos includes Brahms with the London Philharmonic, Bartók, Takemitsu, Weill and Orff with the Bournemouth Symphony, and a series of American music. A Dvořák symphony cycle with the Baltimore Symphony launched in 2008 with the ‘New World’ Symphony, was immediately an international bestseller. Born in New York City, Marin Alsop attended Yale and The Juilliard School. After winning the Koussevitsky Conducting Prize from the Tanglewood Music Center she became a protégée of Leonard Bernstein.

The GRAMMY® Award-winning Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is internationally recognized as having achieved a preeminent place among the world’s most important orchestras, and has attracted a devoted national and international following while maintaining deep bonds throughout Maryland with innovative education and community outreach initiatives. The BSO made musical history in September 2007, when Marin Alsop conducted her inaugural concerts as the Orchestra’s twelfth music director, making her the first woman to head a major American orchestra. Her dynamic musicianship and her commitment to accessibility in classical music has ushered in a new era for the BSO and its audiences, with a series of critically acclaimed recordings added to its already impressive discography, including the cycle of Dvořák symphonies, and Bernstein’s Mass, an album that rose to number six on the Classical Billboard Charts and received a 2009 GRAMMY® nomination for Best Classical Album. The Orchestra made its foray into online distribution in April 2007 with the release of a live-concert recording of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring on iTunes, which quickly become the site’s number one classical music download.

More Releases by Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony

BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra
Naxos 8.572486

Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, one of his greatest works, was written in the United States after the composer was forced to flee Hungary during World War II. It is not only a brilliant display vehicle for each instrumental section but a work of considerable structural ingenuity that unites classical forms and sonorities with the pungency of folk rhythms and harmonies. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta explores darker moods through a score of marvellously poised symmetry. This release follows Marin Alsop’s ‘riveting’ (Gramophone) Baltimore Symphony recordings of Dvořák’s symphonies.
Naxos 8.559622-23

When Leonard Bernstein was asked by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to compose the inaugural work for the opening of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., he wrote: “The Mass is also an extremely dramatic event in itself—it even suggests a theater work.” Premiered on September 8, 1971, with additional words by Stephen Schwartz of Godspell fame, Mass is a remarkable, visionary work with a kaleidoscope of musical styles that touches on themes of political protest, existential crisis and religious faith lost and found.
DVOŘÁK Symphony No 9
Naxos 8.570714

This recording by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Marin Alsop is the first of three discs of Dvořák symphonies taken from live performances at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The most popular of all Dvořák’s works, Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’ makes an immediate appeal by virtue of a seemingly inexhaustible flow of melody and sparkling orchestration. Based on a melody he had composed earlier for men’s chorus, I am a fiddler, the Symphonic Variations are one of the composer’s most beautifully crafted and beguiling works.
DVOŘÁK Symphony No 6
Naxos 8.570995

Widely acclaimed for their Naxos recordings of Dvořák’s Symphonies Nos. 7 and 8 (8.572112) and No. 9 ‘From the New World’ with the Symphonic Variations (8.570714), Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra here present his Symphony No. 6, which pays tribute both to Dvořák’s mentor Brahms and to the rich folk music of his Bohemian homeland. The Nocturne is an arrangement for string orchestra of the beautiful slow movement from his Fourth String Quartet. Suggestive of a celebration of Nature, the Scherzo capriccioso is one of Dvořák’s most masterful and colourful works, with a winning principal waltz theme.
DVOŘÁK Symphonies Nos 7 and 8
Naxos 8.572112

“It is rare to be able to say that a performance forces one to listen to a work anew, but this is exactly what Alsop’s reading achieves. Excellently recorded... this is a superb issue all round” (BBC Music Magazine on Dvořák’s New World Symphony, 8.570714).

In these live recordings from Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Dvořák’s most darkly dramatic and passionate symphony, the Seventh, is coupled with his Eighth, notable for its dramatic contrasts, Bohemian lyricism, and a seemingly spontaneous flow of thematic ideas.

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