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Brian Wigman
Classical Net, December 2014

This is a very good Mahler 1st…It confirms the Baltimore Symphony as a tremendous instrument, and Alsop as strong advocate for Mahler.

The opening movement was excellent, but the Finale is outstanding. Suddenly, everyone has snapped to attention and created a genuine Mahler sound. Alsop sounds excited, and drives everyone forward with some tremendous momentum. Low brass sound terrific and the strings have the requisite bite. © 2014 Classical Net Read complete review

Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, January 2013

…Marin Alsop’s light and classical touch makes Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony sound more youthful than it really is. Her control and devotion to this approach is remarkable. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

John Whitmore
MusicWeb International, December 2012

This new recording from Baltimore has immaculate orchestral playing to commend it along with a feeling of discovery. Alsop’s sound-world captures not only the hothouse forte passages but also those quiet, chilling moments. Tension never slackens for a moment and this is where the technique of using live concert performances has certainly paid dividends.

Before talking further about the music I must immediately congratulate Tim Handley on his fine recording. It’s smooth and clear without being bright and it’s set back in a believable acoustic. At no point does it tire the ear and the tonal depth is just right with the brass having presence without dominating proceedings. For a live recording the absence of audience noise is remarkable. Most importantly the string tone is full and sweet.

Moving onto the general style of the music-making, the string sound that Mr. Handley has captured is crucial because Marin Alsop gives us an interpretation that showcases the strings rather than blowing us away with loud percussion and raucous untamed brass. It’s just about the most gentle, romantic and beguiling Mahler 1 I’ve ever come across. With Alsop there are no histrionics and the playing is as smooth as silk. It’s a really unusual, different approach and it’s delightful to hear. The orchestra is in spectacular form.

The intense atmosphere is set immediately at the opening of the first movement with woodwind, violin harmonics and horns in perfect proportion. The passage that runs from 8:00 to 11:00 is as eerie as anyone could wish. The music hovers in stasis—Havergal Brian-like, of all things!—as woodwinds, harp and cellos search for a resolution. The bass drum is as menacing as you could ever imagine and its deep, subtle thump is very realistic without the need for any artificial boosting. This is spine-tingling, hushed playing of the first order. Once the resolution arrives the music moves on to a controlled climax. The second movement In Full Sail doesn’t set off in full sail at all. Instead we are treated to a heavy-footed Klemperer-like ländler with a relaxed, lilting central section beautifully delivered, especially by the string section. It’s an unusual approach but rather compelling…At the opening of Mahler’s third movement the Frère Jacques theme is given by what sounds like the double bass section rather than by a single double bass…the strings really shine and Marin Alsop relishes those schmaltzy moments, pulling the phrasing of the music around in a musical and loving way. The pianissimo passages really tell and add electricity to the interpretation. In the finale the brass section is finally given its opportunity to step forward and they really deliver the goods. The trumpets, tuba, braying horns and tam-tam are thrilling in their impact. There is no distracting applause at the end of the symphony, thank goodness, and this allows for a few seconds thought before realising what a cracking performance has just taken place.

Even if you own multiple versions of Mahler 1, I urge you to give this one a try. It’s refreshingly different and is supported by engineering of superior quality. A fabulous CD. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

James L Zychowicz
MusicWeb International, November 2012

…this recording of Mahler’s First is a welcome new addition to the discography. Her engaging interpretation immediately captures the style of the work through both tempo and timbre. Throughout she achieves a satisfying sense of voicing and this well conveys the scoring. It resonates pleasingly in the good acoustics of Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The balances fit aptly into the overall concept of the piece, and the engineering renders the sonorities effectively.

The interpretation gives appropriate weight to the outer movements. There’s a fine presentation of the atmospheric sounds in Mahler’s introduction and a seamless move to the first theme…Alsop is faithful to the dynamic levels of the score and this is complemented by the intensity she gives to the passages that contain sustained sonorities. This gives the first movement a sense of momentum, which leads well to its climax. Along the way, Alsop clearly articulates the sections of the development section which is distinctive from the recapitulation. The coda caps the work elegantly.

Fresh and vibrant, this recording of Mahler’s First Symphony is appealing as a persuasive reading of this familiar work.

The audio quality of this recording merits attention for the way it conveys the sound warmly. As much as the release is based on live performances, audience noise and hall sounds are minimal and mainly inaudible. However the intensity of the performance of the Finale deserves the applause the audience would naturally have offered at the conclusion. This recording has much to commend it to Mahlerians everywhere. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2012

Though Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony was composed only four years after the birth of Brahms’s Fourth, it still has the ability to excite and shock audiences. For those of us who have been reviewing the work on disc since the early 1960’s, the approach to the score has changed dramatically, the highly charged, high impact recording from Solti and the London Symphony, which thrilled us in the early days of stereo LPs, seeming to have laid down the gauntlet to other releases to go one step further. Maybe it is has now gone as far as possible and it is time to go into reverse, this new release from Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony wiping away many of the performing encrustations. Tempos are never exaggerated; those whiplash timpani, that have characterised many recordings, never prevail, and the horn teams that have become a dominant factor are here part of the brass ensemble. The result is a warm sounding, less hard-driven and sentimental approach, the sense of irony and angst sensibly muted. Alsop also makes sure that the opening movement does not overheat, as in the Solti disc, leaving the finale to become the work’s climatic moment, the third being songful and pleasingly relaxed. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, October 2012

Why, this late in the day, do we need yet another recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major? Marin Alsop shows us just why, in an illuminating account with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra that makes us wonder why we wasted our time listening to so many of the 165 competitive versions on the market.

…Alsop’s reading…is consistently characterized by its beautiful clarity and sense of purpose. There is no fat in this account, no wasted motion, no fuzziness as it moves from one enchanting moment to the next.

The other thing you notice about Alsop’s account of this work is her spontaneous embrace of its lyricism. Seldom had any composer used vocal-like lyricism as the wellspring of a symphony the way Mahler does here, and that goes beyond the obvious fact that he pulled the melodies of several songs from his cycles…to give the first two movements an immediate appeal for the listener. The most notable use of dance music occurs, appropriately, in the scherzo movement, in the form of an Austrian dance, the Ländler, the gracefully gliding contrasted middle section of which Alsop keeps moving steadily and purposefully along, just a little ahead of the beat so that it seems effortless. © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review

Ken Smith
Gramophone, October 2012

‘Marin Alsop’s performance opts for more folk-like immediacy…from whatever direction she arrives, Alsop brings a vigorous spring to the music’s step.’ © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Hurwitz, October 2012

…this really is a largely excellent performance, with numerous characterful touches. The first movement is mostly gentle, even through the initial allegro…the booming bass drum in the development section sounds deep and mysterious. It’s very atmospheric, even more so when the music explodes in the coda at its one real climax. The scherzo is also quite fine: a rustic stomp, with a nicely schmaltzy but not excessively cloying trio section. And I have nothing but admiration for Alsop’s handling of the finale—a swift, cogent reading that, in its refusal to drag out the concluding chorale, turns out to be one of the most exciting on disc.

Through it all, the Baltimore Symphony plays very well, especially given the fact that this is a live recording. © 2012 Read complete review

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, September 2012

…given that Alsop is the first woman ever to record a Mahler symphony…with a major orchestra…she deserves more than a perfunctory glance or listen. The Baltimore Symphony certainly provides a responsive Mahler instrument, the horns, strings, harp, and percussion alert and resonant throughout the composer’s invocations of pantheistic lyrical outpourings. Alsop allows the first movement Langsam, schleppend a spaciousness requisite to mix or childlike wonder and lyrical nostalgia, especially as the song allusions from Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen deal exclusively with unrequited love.

Alsop’s A Major Scherzo, swaggering and explosive, speaks more authentically, the brass and tympani jarring the sensibilities with a Beethoven menace, while the strings and winds invoke folk and klezmer sensibilities into the fertile mix. The lilting trio section assumes the most Viennese pose Alsop achieves in this performance, the combination of Schubert and sentimental parody quite effective. Calls from the first movement, from the discarded Blumine movement, and from the mortal storms that would wrack Mahler in the course of his creative life, converge most powerfully; and by the last resounding chords, even the most skeptical of Alsop’s auditors should be convinced that Mahler suits her own multifaceted temperament. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Peter J. Rabinowitz
International Record Review, September 2012

‘Why do you turn to the Mahler First? If you look forward primarily to the snappy ending of the first movement of the adrenalin rush of the symphony’s jubilant final pages (played here with breathless exuberance), you may find that this new CD offers a rewarding experience…Alsop (and the engineers) offer an exquisite sense of distance when the offstage trumpets enter in the first movement; the cellos and basses open the second movement with a deliciously rough-hewn tone; the more inward reflections in the finale are played with aching tenderness; glissandos are handled well throughout.’ © 2012 International Record Review

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