Mahler initially had a hard time of it. A few compositional attempts from his youth did not turn out to his liking and were destroyed. When Das klagende Lied finally met with his own critical favor, he stated, “My first work in which I have found myself as ‘Mahler’!” Here it is heard in colorful contrast to the fragment from his last symphony and the “Blumine” andante originally intended for the first symphony. The Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn under its resourceful conductor Blunier, Stefan is in top form on this fascinatingly detailed look at Mahler’s compositional workshop.
Mahler’s early composition does in fact display everything that would distinguish his later oeuvre: biting irony and fateful tragedy, relaxed mirth and profound seriousness, and finely crafted poetry and the simple folk tone stand side by stand. And everything is presented on the haunted stage of a gruesome fairy tale exposing the composer’s inner turmoil to the light of day.
This oscillation between enthusiastic euphoria and profound depression would stay with Mahler until his death. And he did indeed know that he would not finish his Tenth Symphony (after Beethoven’s Ninth). He had deliberately chosen not to count two “song cycles” among his symphonies. Notes on the margin of the score reveal the personal anguish involved here: “To live for you! To die for you! Almschi!” Did the idyllic “Blumine” andante, originally intended as the second movement of the first symphony, have to yield for similar reasons? Here misfortune is evidently already peering around the corner.
During recent years Blunier, Stefan has earned the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn a solid place in the discography with his outstanding programs and intelligent disposition. This fine 222 multichannel recording in the trademark no-frills natural sound of the MDG label positions Blunier on a fantastic sound stage. With expressive conducting and seeming effortlessness, he meets the challenge posed by the mighty breadth of this music, ranging from the pale, almost lifeless tones of the violas to the sumptuousness of colossal sound.