In what was probably the most remarkable and daring first symphony ever written, Mahler revealed himself as fully and radically himself. His musical mood swings, daring orchestral sounds, searing dissonances and provocative mixture of popular and classical idioms were a shock to audiences more used to the contemporary symphonies of Dvořák, Brahms and Tchaikovsky and thus it received mixed receptions. What struck so many ears as shapeless and vulgar in 1889 has become loveable, even quaint – it bursts with the boldness and fire of youth, proudly displays a burgeoning mastery of orchestration, and flirts cheekily with traditional ideas of good taste.
Rising out of mysterious depths, Rachmaninov quickly lets loose the first of many striking themes that litter his Second Piano Concerto. At just 28, in love and about to be married, no wonder he exhibited a youthful confidence in a mature work full of sincere, heartfelt passion that still continues to captivate audiences.