Gustav Mahler was not yet thirty years old when he mounted the podium to conduct his ‘Symphonic Poem’ (Sinfonische Dichtung) in the Large Hall of the Redoute (Vigadó) in Budapest on 20 November 1889. The young man, who had recently been appointed director of the Hungarian capital’s opera house, was presenting an orchestral composition for the first time that evening. This work, which Mahler thought would be ‘child’s play’, was in fact - as he was to admit years later - “one of [his] boldest.” It is the crystallisation of his childhood, marked by the successive deaths of his brothers and sisters but also by the brutality of his father. The work also embodies the dreams that this rebellious young student at the Vienna Conservatory had already forged some ten years earlier, with the new generation of artists and thinkers of which he was a member.
In this album, François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles have chosen to present Mahler’s First Symphony in its second version, that of Hamburg/Weimar (1893-94) - a unique opportunity to hear the symphonic poem Titan. By allowing us to follow the genesis of this first large scale work, Titan opens the doors of Mahler’s artistic workshop at a crucial moment in the creative process: the transition from the youthful effort of 1889 to the Symphony in D major of 1896, which established Mahler as one of the foremost symphonists of the modern era.
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