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Mahler V and early songs Bruno Walter/NYPSO & Desi Halban
Naxos Historical: 8.110896

The symphony is a successful Obert-Thorn transfer of Walter's world premiere commercial recording (1947), with the New York orchestra on great form.

I have vivid memories of attending the triumphant British premiere (LPO/Unger Stoll Theatre, October 1945). At the morning rehearsal it nearly foundered in the first line, the red and redder-faced trumpeter unable to get the introductory calls to Heinz Unger's satisfaction. All went well on the night and afterwards Unger held the score up to signify that Mahler had crossed the Channel and arrived!

Less indulgent(and ten minutes quicker) than many recent performances, you quickly adapt to the very acceptable sound here, taken from U.S. Columbia LPs. There is an easy flow and a feeling of inevitability in the phrasing - Ian Julier compares the Walter/Mahler chemistry with Beecham/Delius.  

For substantial fill-up, thus made possible, Desi Halban sings eight of the early songs with Walter at the piano. Definitely of the time when pianists were unequal lieder partners, before Gerald Moore's campaign; Walter's clear and unfussy accompaniments are balanced very backward by today's standards. Halban sounds rather shrill in the first songs, but the sound is better in the later tracks.

There are no texts supplied and only one is to be found in Fischer-Dieskau's book, but they can be followed (or downloaded) from Emily Ezust's website, some with translations.

© Peter Grahame Woolf