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This bargain disc, the first complete recording of Mahler's Symphony No.9, is a live performance from Vienna's Musikverein in 1938, conducted by Mahler's friend and pupil Bruno Walter. Indeed, Walter directed the very first performance of the symphony shortly after the composer's death. The first movement--one of the great symphonic statements--receives a long-recognised classic performance. There's all the terror of impending personal extinction without a descent into hysteria. Equally, the tender moments as rage subsides are unbearably poignant. The counterweight last movement is initially less successful, somehow taking time to settle. But settle it does, and the sense of a soul turning in on itself at the close is numbing. The orchestra is occasionally stretched in the faster middle movements, such is the bite and pace. But just hang on! Walter himself was unhappy with the performance as a commercial release, apparently worried by occasional messy ensemble and audience coughs. But the commitment and communication are remarkable, banishing some people's view of Walter as a kind of avuncular musical uncle. And the sound quality (supervised by legendary producer Fred Gaisberg) is nothing if not vivid for its day. An extraordinary way of being transported back to darkening days as war approached. --Andrew Green