*********** MULTICHANNEL DISC OF THE MONTH ********** MAHLER: Sym. No. 1 / Blumine – Finnish Radio Sym. Orch. / Hannu Lintu – Ondine

* MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 / Blumine – Finnish Radio Sym. Orch. / Hannu Lintu – Ondine ODE 1264-5 multichannel 5.0 SACD, 62:33 [Distr. by Naxos]  (10/30/15) *****:
A first class performance and recording of this symphony.

Do we need yet another Mahler Symphony No. 1? We do need this one, which is an exceptionally fine performance and recording (in surround) from Ondine with the Finnish Radio Symphony, Hannu Lintu conducting.

The Finnish group has done an acclaimed Sibelius recording, and I wondered if Mahler was right for this group of fine musicians. I can state categorically that they are.

Mahler originally planned the First Symphony to be a 5 movement tone poem, with the extra movement, called the Blumine, incorporated into the composition. I’ve heard the symphony with the Blumine movement inside as the second movement, and also separately, which is the way it is done here. I think playing the Blumine after the four movement symphony as a separate work seems to be the most sensible presentation, but some will differ.

Lintu has come up with a fine performance here, very thoughtful and dynamic. His first movement is a bit slower than many of the recordings I’ve heard, but it works just fine. The orchestra gives a fine and precise performance, with a lot of energy and emotion.

As a recording, this is one of the finest Symphony No. 1 renderings that I have listened to. Strings are very realistic. The image of the orchestra spreads nicely between the front speakers, while stereo separation allows me to easily place the location of instruments and sections. The low end of this 5.0 recording is solid yet realistic. Rear channels provide hall ambiance. The CD notes do not indicate the recording venue, but it’s a very good room. I listened to both the SACD and CD layers, preferring the SACD format for the slightly improved string sound.

While Ondine has other Mahler discs in its catalog, this is the first with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and I hope that this is the beginning of a series of Mahler recordings. This Symphony No. 1 has been a very positive surprise, and I think worth a purchase, even if you have a variety of other recordings of this work.

—Mel Martin

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