Yoel Levi and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra have up to now made a well-received series of four of the symphonies of Mahler for Telarc—Symphonies No. 4 (with Songs of A Wayfarer), 5, 6, and most recently, the 7th. This recording of the 1st, subtitled the "Titan," includes the lovely original "Blumine" movement—the second movement andante. Levi and Atlanta will make one more Mahler recording for Telarc—of the 2nd Symphony—for release in 2001.
Mahler made several revisions of his 1st symphony, initially in an effort to win over an unresponsive public and critical audience. For his premiere of the work, in 1889, he called his composition a "Symphonic Poem in Two Parts;" when he performed it later, in 1893, he changed the title to "Symphony," and employed the subtitle of "Titan," after a novel by one of his favorite authors, Jean Paul. The 2nd movement, titled "Blumine" also after a literary work by Jean Paul ("Flower Pieces Published in Autumn"), was always problematic for the composer. From 1893 through 1896, he first included and then deleted the movement in his score. After that time, he appears to have left the movement out of subsequent performances and revisions. It did not appear in print until long after the composer's death, in the 1960s.
The musical language of the 1st symphony is interwoven with motives from folk music and Mahler's orchestral "Songs of a Wayfarer." The controversial "Blumine" movement, more lightly scored than the rest of the work, has a folk-song character with an inspired orchestration, full of color and rhythmic variety.
Other musical elements Mahler employed in the 1st Symphony include motifs from the folk song "Freres Jacques," (in the "Funeral March" movement), and a quotation from Handel's Messiah (a theme from the "Hallelujah" chorus, aptly used at the end of the symphony).