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Mahler - Symphony No 9; Strauss, R - Tod und Verklärung [Double CD]

Giuseppe Sinopoli Audio CD

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1. Andante Comodo
2. Scherzo Im Tempo Des gemachlichen Landlers. Etwas tappisch und sehr derb
3. Attaca Rondo - Burleske: Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig
4. Finale. Adagio. Sehr Langsam Und Noch Zuruckhaltend - Gustav Mahler
5. Tod Und Verklarung - Richard Strauss

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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very slow; costs a lot, but also my personal favorite 18 Mar 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
disclaimer: I've only heard the Mahler, and can not comment on the Richard Strauss piece. I'm working from a friend's burnt copy.

Just flipping through Fulop's Mahler discography book, Sinopoli's Dresden Mahler 9 performance is among the slowest ever recorded (Levine/Philly is right up there too). Yet, it just doesn't sound that slow to me, thanks in no small part to some fairly creative tempo relationships from the conductor. Let me say first, that - in general - I'm no great lover of excessively slow performances of any music. For me, slower is seldom better. I wasn't easily snookered by Celibidache's last round of Bruckner performances, for example (some of it was quite good). But in this case, what greatly helps in making such an extreme performance work, is just the incredible commitment from the Dresden players - they're with Sinopoli every step of the way (and that includes fast parts as well as slow ones). Let's get down to specifics.

There are basically three different ways that the first movement can be dealt with. The most common is to clearly delineate between slow and fast sections (the climactic passages making up the bulk of the faster music). This usually makes the movement run somewhere between 26 to 28 minutes. But it also lends in making the first movement sound a bit more episodic than it probably should. The second solution is to take the slower music faster than usual. Abbado/BPO, Masur/N.Y., and Barenboim, are all excellent examples of this approach. These usually run somewhere between 25 and 26 minutes. This approach helps in taking some of the focus off the first movement, especially when coupled with a relatively slow finale.

The third approach is to do just the opposite: make the faster passages slower than normal. This approach treats the first movement as a large, single arch, and generally runs 30 minutes or more (Sinopoli is closer to 32). Although it's extreme, I find that this approach works quite well; such is the complexity of the harmonic progressions, as well as density of counterpoint, in this first movement. The one passage that sounds slightly uncomfortable with Sinopoli's consistently slower approach, is the string dominated one that Mahler marks, "Leidenschaftlich" (no other tempo indication is given!), and it's located after the collapse of the second climactic passage. But the main climax of the movement - anticlimax, really - is far stronger here than it is on Rattle's Berlin remake, for example. Again, the Dresdeners just play the pants off of this. Sinopoli's two inner movements work far better than you might suspect also.

In the second movement, Sinopoli is relatively fast with the initial Laendler. Thus, his first waltz episode sounds slower in comparison. Giulini did basically the same thing in his Chicago recording (DG), but Sinopoli does a better job of whipping up the tempo in the third and final waltz passage. Unfortunately, Sinopoli is also on the slow side for most of the autumnal sounding, linking passages. However, he and his Dresden players make the most of Mahler's many woodwind trills during these time-biding passages (that keeps the interest up!). The Rondo-Burlesque (third movement) starts faster than you might anticipate as well.

What's great about Sinpoli's R-B, is that you could set a stopwatch by it - the Dresdeners are with him every step of the way. Thus, instead of becoming monotonous - as is so often the case - Sinopoli's R-B actually makes one feel more excited as it goes. But in sharp contrast to that, Sinopoli is quite slow for the trumpet lead, central episode. However, it builds to a huge climax, with the Dresden horns belting out their melodic line at a full-throated fortissimo. The reappearance of the fast music is exciting all the way to end, with Sinopoli leaving room for a good accellerando for the last 20 seconds or so. The last movement is excellent.

Here, the Dresden strings play with just as much heft and amplitude as their more famous Berlin counterparts. Granted, they're being assisted by a far more generous, warm acoustic. The main climax is excellent, but Sinopoli does a particularly outstanding job with the final few - and very slow! - minutes.

In sum, this recording is probably not a first recommendation for most listeners. It's an extremely long performance, but one that's aided by tremendous concentration from the hugely underrated Staatskapelle Dresden. There are also a few moments when the sound quality is less than perfectly focused (as opposed to the players). But this recording may be for anyone who - like me - finds that the first movement can easily sound episodic; that the beginning of the symphony needs to be perfectly balanced; that the slow, central episode of the R-B should build to one heck of climax; that time itself, should all but come to a stop near the end of the symphony; or, anyone who's just a fan Profil's series of live performances from Dresden.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sinopoli's Mahler Ninth and His Last Strauss Recording 23 Jun 2007
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Giuseppe Sinopoli has been a favorite of mine ever since I heard him conduct the Schumann Second (and recorded it -- a recording that many dislike and which I love inordinately) but he has always been an idiosyncratic conductor, going his own way. These two performances, both live, are with the Dresden Staatskapelle; Sinopoli was their music director from 1992 until his sudden death in 2001, only a couple of months before the performance here of Strauss's Tod und Verklärung. One could even say that this CD, containing the Strauss and Mahler's last symphony, is, like the Mahler Ninth 'death-haunted.' Surely these two works deal directly with death and it's more than a little eerie that Sinopoli himself was dead so shortly after the concert in which he led his orchestra in 'Death and Transfiguration.'

The Dresden orchestra has always been the premier Strauss orchestra and that is in evidence here. This performance of 'Tod und Verklärung' is special in its transparency and its exaltation. But there are dozens of recordings of the piece and I frankly doubt anyone would be buying this set primarily for the Strauss.

No, it's Mahler's Ninth, recorded live in 1997 that will draw the prospective buyer and here we run into a bit of a problem. First, there are transcendent performances already available -- those by Karajan and Abbado come to mind, for instance -- and second, this one is just slightly odd. The transparency apparent in the Strauss is also present here, perhaps not as much as with Boulez but very nearly so. But with it is some sense of restraint in the early movements, particularly the first, that somehow doesn't fit with one's notion of the symphony's angst. I quite liked how the Scherzo went but wished it were a bit less smoothed out. There is not enough stubborn anger in the Rondo-Burleske, which is too polite, although its contrapuntal lines are beautifully brought out. When we come to the Finale, though, we're in exalted territory. This Adagio is taken very slowly -- 29 minutes -- yet Sinopoli never allows it to go slack. The Staatskapelle play superbly, helped by a rich acoustic and lifelike recorded sound.

This is an almost great Ninth. And if, like me, you treasure the Adagio above all the rest of the symphony, you might be satisfied with it. But taken as a whole, there is a little something -- call it emotion or angst -- in short supply.

Scott Morrison
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly Otherwordly 19 July 2007
By The Aeolian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I'll go along with the other reviews of this recording, which must have one extraordinary aspect to it if, as J. Scott Morrison states elsewhere in this section, Sinopoli died in 2001, "only a couple of months before the performance here of Strauss's Tod und Verklärung."

Death and transfiguration indeed.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sinopoli turns the Mahler Ninth into something too sweet and nice 30 May 2007
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Although I've been a great believer in the controversial Giuseppe Sinopoli, his tenure with the Staatskapelle Dresden always seemed odd. DG made a number of CDs that felt underpowered and detached, qualities I had never associated with Sinopoli. He was a genius in the opera pit but had eccentric ideas in the orhestral repertoire. This live Mahler Ninth certainly starts off strangely. 'Taffy-pulling' is a metaphor used too often for extreme rubato, but the way Sinopoli massages the tempo is almost gooey. Is he aiming for a continuous unbroken line? I don't know, but the absence of accents and contrast sounds quite wrong to me. At almost 33 min. the first movement is also one of the slowest on CD, perhaps the very slowest.

Needless to say, the orchestra plays beautifully. The Dresden style, like Dresden china, is delicate but too pastel in this case. You will have to like Mahler without angst (I almost wrote "without guts") to find Sinopoli's ways winning. The Scherzo, too, is mellifluous to a fault. I thought Chailly smoothed out this movement, but he's a bitter satirist compared to the mild-mannered Sinopoli. The Rondo-Burleske proceeds without surprise or bite. A very slow Adagio finale ensues, played with caution and refinement, but by this point my attention had wandered far away.

The two-CD set is filled out stingily with Strauss's Death and Transfiguration, of which Sinopoli made a good studio recording with the NY Phil. For me, Sinopoli was the greatest Strauss opera conductor of his generation, and he doesn't disappoint here. The live reading is smoother and more homogenized than the studio one, but the Dresden sound is a delight. In both performances the recorded broadcast sound is top notch.

In all, this is a minor addition to Sinopoli's legacy on CD.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing sound 29 Sep 2007
By JARome - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is my first and last download from Amazon. This complicated piece of music just sounds like mush on a good hifi. 256 kbps (VBR) is not enough for Mahler. The difference between this and 320 kbps VBR is striking. With 320 I can differentiate the instruments. Why can't Amazon up the bitrate for classical music to 320?

It sounds so poor that I cannot pay attention to the performance.

And it would be nice if one could download the album notes along with the music.

Buy the CD from BMG music which regularly has 5.99 with free shipping offers, and rip it yourself.
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