Utah Symphony will release a Mahler ‘Titan’ recording this week
September 8, 2015
Hot on the heels of this past summer’s Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony will release a new recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 "Titan" on Friday, Sept. 11.
The three-movement work was recorded last year by the symphony, conducted by music director Thierry Fischer, during concerts at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Sept. 12 and 13.
The release, which is on the Reference Recordings label, honors the late Maestro Maurice Abravanel, founder of the Utah Symphony, who led the orchestra in the first complete Mahler Symphony cycle by an American orchestra between 1963 and 1974.
The recording also commemorates the orchestra’s 75th anniversary and marks the first Utah Symphony recording with Fischer.
Fischer talked about the recording with The Park Record in a telephone interview from Geneva, Switzerland, last week.
"This was planned for about a year and I think the musicians were excited," Fischer said with a laugh. "You will have to ask them because I cannot speak on behalf of the players, but it was another motivating challenge for us.
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"Recording music is another way for a leader and a group to grow together," he explained. "It’s demanding and it requires a different concentration and approach than the live concerts, which are focused on the energy and risks of the moment of trying to touch beauty."
As they do for a live performance, the Utah Symphony and Fischer underwent numerous and intense rehearsals.
"During live concerts, if something happens that doesn’t go as planned during the concert, it’s not the end of the world, and it can be more motivating to play better on the upcoming bars or difficult passages," Fischer said. "Recording is different. Although we recorded this CD live, we had a session where we went over and corrected small mistakes and audience noises."
Fischer is aware that recording live isn’t as clean as a studio recording.
"We are working with this new process of recording live, because it, I hope, gives a stronger measure of what we do during our actual concerts at Abravanel Hall," he said. "We made the choice, and I pushed very much, for this feeling of performing live, and the more we do this, it will become more natural for us at a very high level."
The music has a strong connection with nature through human voices and dreams, Fisher said.
"The irony lies between pleasure and belief," he said. "Mahler put a lot of Jewish music in the third movement because he was Jewish, but had to convert to Christianity to become the music director of the Vienna State Opera. He reflected a lot of his personal events in this symphony, but remember, he wrote another eight that were as strong, if not stronger, one after the other."
Symphony No. 1 "Titan," which, along with his Fifth Symphony, is the most played Mahler symphony, is very organic, according to Fischer.
"It is irresistibly attractive to guide this sound, this gorgeous parade of movements, and there are places where he pushed this big orchestra to play so soft that the section almost becomes impressionistic music," he said. "Then there’s the time frame. The piece runs a little under an hour, but it’s so strong. I think it’s the perfect piece for an orchestra like the Utah Symphony to record."
The next Mahler recording planned will be Symphony 8 with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
"Mahler 8 is rarely performed, because of the costs, to be honest," he said. "It requires a huge orchestra, which means hiring extra players. There is a large cast of soloists and you need a choir as big as possible, or one close to 1,000 people to really respect Mahler’s concept.
"Of course we don’t have 1,000 singers, but starting my fifth year with the Utah Symphony, I know that the ‘MoTab’ is a choir of exceptionally gifted singers who are guided by their fantastic music director, Mack Wilberg," he said. "I had the privilege of conducting the Berlioz Requiem in the Conference Center with the choir during my first year with the Symphony and it was honestly something that I could remember every bar of. It was impressive and beautiful. So, we decided to combine the forces again.
As the funding and schedules came together, Fischer felt it was worth taking the risk to record the piece live next year.
"This is one more way for us to do the very best we can as musicians one week after another," he said.
The Utah Symphony and music director Thierry Fischer will release Mahler Symphony No. 1 "Titan" on Friday, Sept. 11. For more information, visit http://www.utahsymphony.org.
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