'In full sail' (his original title for the second movement) could be a motto for the whole symphony. Here is the young Mahler, full of optimism. We hear his love of nature and beauty, and his childhood memories. Fragments of distant military music, birdsong and Yiddish folk tunes come to his yet untormented mind. These episodes are real jewels, especially the Viennese trio in the second movement, the brief Klezmer music, then the Schubert-like Lied (did he have the Lindenbaum in mind?) in the third; and the poetic, gentle melody that interrupts the stormy final movement. Admirable too is the architecture, as the composer completes his journey from hell to paradise - dall’inferno al paradiso - in the footsteps of his idol Beethoven. Mahler was in his late twenties when the world made acquaintance with his first symphony. It was in the Hungarian capital Budapest, and circumstances were difficult. In the diffuse acoustics of the Vigadó Hall, surrounded by hatred and mistrust, Mahler experienced his first major flop. Since then, at each performance I feel that we Hungarians have a moral duty to convince audiences that this is a perfect and exceptionally beautiful masterpiece.
Iván Fischer (from liner notes)