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Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

13 Sep 2011
4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Mahler: Symphony No. 9
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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 13 Sept. 2011
  • Release Date: 13 Sept. 2011
  • Label: LSO Live
  • Copyright: (C) 2011 London Symphony Orchestra Ltd
  • Total Length: 1:19:09
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B005F1LTLS
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,520 in Albums (See Top 100 in Albums)
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Customer Reviews

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Valery Gergiev's interpretations of Mahler have aroused divergent responses; I find them for the most part very appealing even if they come with a few idiosyncrasies. What struck me about this Ninth is how surprisingly lightweight it feels despite the utter intensity of the performance. Finally here is an interpretation that does not wallow in the myth of the "Mahler death wish". Some might think this inadequate, but when he wrote this, Mahler was not mortally ill, had realized that his heart condition would not kill him right away and was vividly praparing his 2nd season as musical director of the New York Philharmonic. He was full of plans, not yet having caught the simple throat infection that would eventually kill him. Death was a topic, but certainly not a preoccupation for Mahler when he wrote this symphony.

This is a performance that is not burdened by the sense of impending doom some conductors like to celebrate - quite the opposite to Horenstein's dark 1966 mono recording. Mahler may be dealing with images of mortality in this symphony, but he is doing it with a fair amount of critical distance, and this comes across very well in Gergiev's interpretation. The first movement approaches delicately, almost reluctantly, and before you know unfolds into a marvelous musical experience. The "sighs" written into the music have impact, but do not weigh down heavily on the listener, and the overall mood is very positive.
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The Mahler 9th is a piece on such an immense scale that no one interpreter can hope to say everything in one recording. It offers unlimited possibilities for performers. But regardless of the interpreter's individual insight, it requires strong commitment, a willingness to let go and be engrossed in Mahler's world. While fairly new to Mahler, Valery Gergiev's previous Mahler discs were full of gripping intensity and power. Can he throw himself into the music and give us listeners a vision that is memorable?

The opening movement of this symphony is on a vast canvas, alternating between sobs of remorse and bitter outbursts. Many conductors opt for a "stop and start" approach, letting out excitement in the climaxes only to let the tension sag once the thunder dies done. Gergiev doesn't take such an approach. He sees value in the character of each individual moment but he's equally concerned that the work be viewed as a cohesive whole. With tempi leaning on the fact side, he digs into the music, setting a solid vision for the entire movement. Yet what I find so astonishing is how natural it all sounds. Gergiev's exhilharting drive doesn't lessen the beauty of the work in the least; he is sensitive and picks up on the most subtle details.

The 2nd movement is one of Mahler's most unique creations. To me, it's Mahler trying to be optimistic even when he's on the verge of despair. It's bitter, sarcastic, and ironic. As in the previous movement, Gergiev gives himself over to the music with sweeping power. But I'm not sure if he was witty enough. My Rattle/Berlin account was biting in its sarcasm and Rattle's Berliners are on a higher plane than Gergiev's LSO to begin with. I think Rattle betters Gergiev in this movement, but Gergiev isn't far behind and he's more effortless than Rattle.
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Format: Audio CD
Mahler's ninth is surely his greatest symphony - it evokes so many serious emotions that the listener cannot help but be moved. This beautiful rendition is led by the masterful Valery Gergiev as he treats the listener to over an hour's worth of splendid music played by the ever impressive LSO. A thoroughly enjoyable recording of the highest quality.
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