Bernard D. Sherman, Inside Early Music
...this risk-taking, profound First is the recording of the last ten years that does the most for me.
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare, September/October 2011
…Heretofore, my favorite recording of the Mandarin music, coincidentally, has also been with the LSO, but with Abbado conducting. Comparison with the new Pasternack may not be entirely fair, since Abbado leads the full ballet...I’m not prepared to say that Pasternack outdoes Abbado, but there are enough chills and thrills, shivers, shudders, and shocks in this new recording to satisfy anyone’s appetite for mayhem and murder. It’s superbly done and superbly recorded…. Pasternack’s Bartók is great, which I suspect has something to do with his flair for the stage gained from his opera conducting experience.
Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times, February 2011
Jonathan Pasternack...brings Bartók's "Miraculous Mandarin Suite" and Brahms' Symphony No. 1 to plush, sumptuous life in his debut CD on the Naxos label with the London Symphony Orchestra. "Mandarin," with its feline turns and churning energy, is especially delectable in Pasternack's hands.
Michael Cameron, Fanfare, September/October 2011
…It must be tempting for a budding conductor to interject some novelty into repertoire as well covered as Brahms' First Symphony, but Pasternack is smart enough to know that few works lend themselves to idiosyncrasy as poorly as this imposing masterpiece. Granted, one can sense a phrase here and there that receive some extra care, or an inner voice a measure of extra presence, but by and large this is a sensibly paced and smartly balanced reading...[T]he final result is utterly convincing and coherent, with many striking moments of passion and beauty...The young maestro clearly knows this [Bartok] score backwards and forwards, and expertly strikes a balance between brilliant coloration, finely regulated balance, and smart but unhurried pacing.
David Denton, David's Review Corner, January 2011
The multi-award winning American conductor, Jonathan Pasternack, makes his disc debut with two powerful performances from the London Symphony Orchestra. He had the unique prepotency to study five instruments—violin, cello, trombone, piano and percussion—before turning his attention to conducting, his mentors including Neeme Jarvi, David Zinman and the famous pedagog, Jorma Panula. He has concentrated his career in the States, working in opera, ballet and on the concert stage, and opens his first studio sessions with the concert suite from Bartok’s grotesque ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin, a story of prostitution and murder. It is a highly detailed performance that enjoys excellent recorded sound. There are certainly more febrile accounts on disc, but Pasternack is graphic in detailing events, his subtle colours more telling than the brutality that is involved. The pounding rhythm that opens the Brahms First Symphony sets the scene for an opening movement where strength is the key element. The timpani dominate the scene, its presence clearly defined even in the work’s quiet passages, for here, and throughout the score, Pasternack draws attention to points of orchestration that usually dissolve into the general texture. His slow movement is unhurried, woodwind solos allowed ample time to demonstrate their beauty of tone, the closing passage spread out for our enjoyment….
Michael Ullman, Fanfare, September/October 2011
A recent Gramophone features older conductors such as Daniel Barenboim choosing younger figures they believe will be the stars of the future. Jonathan Pasternack wasn’t among the chosen, but he might have been....I can also see reasons to listen to this wonderfully nuanced, colorful recording by the London Symphony and Jonathan Pasternack. The eerie sexuality of the dance before the Mandarin, the girl’s final victim, and the ensuing mayhem, are produced beautifully and vigorously. The recording, a little more distant than the Boulez for example, is nonetheless clear and powerful.
Remy Franck, Pizzicato, March 2011
Der amerikanische Dirigent Jonathan Pasternack dirigiert ein für Naxos eher ungewöhnlich gemischtes Programm, dessen Repertoirewert angesichts guter Aufnahmen bei Naxos selber eher gering ist. Interesse verdient neben einer spannungsvollen, aber etwas an Transparenz mangelnden Orchesterspiel in Bartoks 'Wunderbarem Mandarin' die sattromantische Interpretation der 1. Symphonie von Johannes Brahms. Pasternack geht eher bedächtig durch das Werk, aber keinesfalls behäbig, insgesamt aber sehr deutsch und recht dunkel im Gesamtklang. Die Symphonie bekommt so die Bedeutsamkeit, die diese jahrelang erkämpfte Komposition de facto hat. Zur Ruhe passen der lyrische Grundton und die klare Linienführung, die einen Stillstand verhindern. Ein ernster strenger Brahms, der aber nie kalt und gefühllos wird, im Gegenteil, das Vibrato hätte nicht unbedingt so prononciert ausfüllen müssen. Aber das passt sogar zum Gesamtkonzept und hilft, die Aufnahme charakteristisch werden zu lassen.
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Click here to read Kenneth Woods' interview with Jonathan Pasternack about this recording of Brahms' First Symphony.