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Christopher Howell
MusicWeb International, June 2012

…people will probably think me crazy if I now say I think this is finer still. The reason, I believe, is that here we have Leinsdorf in music that was from his earliest years a part of his being…

Crucial to his Mahler is his way with tempi. Leinsdorf, as we know, was tendentially a very objective, rigorous conductor, disinclined to deviate from his chosen tempo if not specifically required to. Here, of course, he is required to and does…with Leinsdorf we have adjustments to a basic tempo which he does not lose sight of right through each movement.

This means that, at the beginning, you might find him unexpectedly fast. Yet, while he does not grope his way forward, note by note, there is no lack of hushed expectancy. Then, when the song-theme arrives on the cellos and many conductors start forging ahead, Leinsdorf stays close to his original tempo and the music luxuriates as if on a balmy summer’s day. Thus, inexorably but unhurriedly, the whole movement builds up. But, if excess speeds are avoided, Mahler’s ironic world is also evoked in numerous tangy rasps in the inner parts.

The Landler is fairly fast and more than fairly tough. It yields to a beautifully relaxed and tender trio. Leinsdorf’s exacting rehearsals methods result in perfectly placed downward glissandos.

Leinsdorf’s Mahler is probably best described as expressionist. It embraces the extremes, but does so with an iron architectural discipline at its base. In the studio, the discipline sometimes prevailed excessively. Here, caught on wing in a public concert, Leinsdorf provides an astonishingly complete, all-embracing vision of this symphony.

Leinsdorf plays the opening and closing bars of “Till Eulenspiegel” with great tenderness. For the rest, he presents a brilliant, upfront rapscallion of a rogue. There is affection as well as impudence, all realized by the BSO on top form. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

James L Zychowicz
MusicWeb International, May 2012

Even though the sound on this DVD is mono, the result is quite effective. More than that, the release gives a vivid image of Leinsdorf at the podium, which also reminds modern audiences of his regular television broadcasts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the station WGBH. The images recall television in its first decades as it brought the arts from its point of origin to the world. Camera angles are good for the day, with the close range reflecting more the limitations of technology than the creativity at the core of broadcasts like this. Yet the sound stands out in this recording, as Leinsdorf moves from the somewhat wooden gestures at the opening of the first movement to the lively manner with which he handles the first theme. When the introduction reprises, Leinsdorf appears warmer, as he leads an inspired performance of this now familiar work conducted entirely from memory.

In this video it is possible to see how Leinsdorf offers a supple approach to tempo, which offers appropriately spacious phrasing throughout. His cues give a sense of the style that he wanted from the players, and the result is evident in the performance. While Leinsdorf’s manner at the start were somewhat overstated, when the orchestra is at the full tutti of the recapitulation, he held back on his movements as the players reached the climactic point. He captures the style of the second movement from the outset, in an extrovert performance of the Scherzo that benefits from the single gesture per measure. Part of the success of the interpretation comes from Leinsdorf’s decision not to use the baton, and so his hands offer a clue to the ways in which he made this performance expressive.

The third movement is particularly effective for the woodwind sonorities in the passages that evoke the “Bohemian” musicians to which Mahler referred in some of his own descriptions of the piece. If Leinsdorf was at times minimal in his gestures, it had an excellent result in the allowing the performers to arrive at a tight-knit ensemble. The Finale has the conductor in outstanding form, as his mastery of the score emerges in a completely convincing reading. Never overindulgent, his conception is present in almost every expression Leinsdorf used in this compelling reading of the Finale and, ultimately of the entire piece.

As a live broadcast, the performance of Mahler’s First Symphony has some imperfections, but the strength of the interpretation and strong response of the Boston Symphony overweigh them. With the video, too, the superimposed image of the conductor over the orchestra, a technical feat of the day, has its place in the period when this was recorded. The occasional bump that jerks the camera is a good reminder of the spontaneity involved in this broadcast. Most of all, the quality of the performance stands out.

Leinsdorf’s command of Strauss’s famous Till Eulengspiegel is equally fine, with the subtleties from the podium contributing to the irony of the tone poem. The performance is strong on clarity of detail and tight ensemble. At the same time, the “bonus” track offers Leinsdorf’s impassioned reading of the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. It has all the ‘earmarks’ of a romantic reading, with fine details, such as portamento, brought out expressively.

It is good to have Mahler’s First Symphony and the other two performances from Leinsdorf’s maturity available now on DVD. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Christopher Abbot
Fanfare, May 2012

Leinsdorf is an elegant presence on the podium, sober of demeanor but expressive of gesture, baton-less and conducting from memory. Mahler and Strauss were two of his specialties. The Mahler First features a stately…first-movement main theme, and an energetic and lilting second movement; the third movement is notable for the appropriately sour solo bass and the elegant oboe of Ralph Gomberg, and the finale arrives properly attacca and proceeds to an impressive percussion-dominated final climax.

Till is animated, sharply etched, and robust in a reading that captures all of Strauss’s Technicolor effects. The performance is exemplary, smoothly flowing…its emotional impact thus concentrated and potent, very much in keeping with current thinking regarding its interior program.

The sound is surprisingly good mono, bright with decent instrumental definition, and the orchestral playing is…superb. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

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