Classical reviews: November 24

> Mahler: Symphony No.1.
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Naxos CD.

Marin Alsop conducts the US orchestra in this famous symphony - just under an hour's enjoyable listening. The eerie slow movement has its funeral march of animals ironically based on the Frere Jacques children's song. It follows a long opening movement based on Gustav Mahler's memories of childhood sounds, full of a sense of wonder, and a second movement that is an exuberant scherzo and trio based on a peasant dance.

The last movement is one of great intensity and Alsop's musicians conjure up the storm of sound in exciting fashion.

Only just released, this disc was recorded in 2008 in a concert hall, and sounds as if the brilliant dynamics of the thrilling finale have been slightly reduced in volume.

Highlight: Tweak the volume up for that great ending!

> "Romantique".
Elina Garanca (mezzo soprano), Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna.
Deutsche Grammophon CD.

"Between Love and Despair" is the heading to an essay in this disc's booklet, which helpfully provides lyrics and translations.

Latvian singer Garanca, one of the world's leading mezzos, made a personal selection of classics and little-known gems for this studio recording of nine arias.

She adds her flawless, velvety technique and stylish delivery to portray tragic heroines such as Tchaikovsky's Joan of Arc, Gounod's Sappho and Queen of Sheba, Saint-Saens' Delilah and other women sketched by Romantic composers. Some of this music may be unfamiliar, but singer and orchestra (conductor Yves Abel) bring it to life.

Berlioz's D'amour l'ardente flame from La Damnation de Faust, however, seemed unable to reach the highest incendiary temperatures.

Highlight: Mon Coeur s'ouvre a ta voix, Saint-Saens.


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