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on 6 February 2013
Mahler's 9th Symphony can be taken a number of ways. The much-vaunted reading is one of a decadent world teetering on collapse. Its composition two summers before Mahler's untimely death supports such a view, though Mahler himself compared the work with his much greener 4th Symphony.

Bernard Haitink is one of the chief exponents of the latter more tenacious Mahler 9 (available in a number of versions and formats): introspective when it needs but potent until the end. And it's in that spirit that Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform the work on this new recording from Deutsche Grammophon, even if not all of Dudamel's decisions support such a reading.

The opening movement begins slower than the comfortable walking pace specified by Mahler. Given Dudamel's boundless energy, you cannot quite imagine him lolling along at such a speed. Slack tempo aside, Dudamel brings out delicious Luftpausen in the various motivic fragments that coalesce to form the opening thematic group. And having built slowly to the first climax - dominated by thrilling if over-insistent brass - Dudamel provides the necessary release into a more liberated tempo.

The eerie blur that Mahler fashioned before the return of the D major theme, however, feels too clinical here and undermines the tenderness of what follows. The playing is strong, even if the woodwind solos lack the requisite throb and Dudamel's choice of six rather than four horns has inevitable repercussions with balance. Ultimately there is grim determination within the first movement, as if Mahler were desperate to escape his inevitable collapse.

The ensuing Ländler is notably straight, rather than the self-mocking Mahler looking back at previous bucolic forays. The Angelenos' playing is clean, the counterpoint clear. But Dudamel then pulls at the structure by protracting transitional passages almost to breaking point. Fresh and sincere playing gives one reading, yearning tempo changes communicate another.

The LA Phil's occasionally repressive precision works to much greater effect in the Rondo-Burleske, with the strings bedding in at the heel of the bow. They don't quite tip as far into the abyss as the Bamberger Symphoniker under Jonathan Nott - to say nothing of Abbado's lacerating account from Lucerne - but Dudamel certainly produces the feeling of an unstoppable juggernaut. But, having generated that attack, Dudamel then pushes too hard through the beautiful sigh that comes in its wake. This effectively irons out the movement's emotional disparity and the return to the march doesn't feel as insidious as it should, even if the conclusion proves thrilling.

In many ways Dudamel's reading of the final movement aspires directly to Haitink's tenacious vision, unwilling to capitulate to the bitter Lebewohl of Chailly and Nott's interpretations (among others). The orchestra remains full-voiced here, though the tempo is too generous - Dudamel often falls prey to the 'pause means importance' school of thought. While initial gestures suggest resolution, Dudamel eventually turns towards resignation.

Mahler thrives on these ambiguities, of course, and, having only recently embarked on his journey through these multilayered scores, Dudamel is at liberty to explore the causes and effects of various interpretative decisions. And those choices aside, the LA Phil plays well on this recording, if lacking the necessary abandon for a truly no-holds-barred performance. Ultimately, while nobody can claim that this recording could or should form Dudamel's final thoughts on the work, it is highly intriguing as a springboard to further interpretation.
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on 19 February 2013
While Gustavo Dudamel's rise has been fast and dazzling, many will be surprised that at his young age he feels prepared to tackle Mahler's 9th, a symphony that deals with darkness and death. But Dudamel has to his credit an exciting 5th with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, a recording that made it clear he connects with Mahler's abandonment. Here he's conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a wise move for DG, since I'm not sure a youth orchestra could accurately plummet the work's seriousness. (We'll see how the Simon Bolivar Orchestra fares in the Mahler 7th, which DG releases later this year.)

But moving on to the interpretation in question, Dudamel's timing of 29 minutes for the 1st movement leans on the slower side. Dudamel doesn't drag, though. Instead, he finds throbbing passion, often to the point of sounding heartbroken. I was deeply moved by his ability to build on Mahler's long melodic lines. Dudamel lets the line expand with fervency that makes the work feel vast. His intensity keeps his slow tempo from becoming ponderous and it helps that he makes the most of the climaxes. I'm very impressed, but quite surprised. Instead of aiming for explosive excitement, Dudamel took an inward look. (It's in this movement that I pick up on some creaking noises during the climaxes that recur in some of the following movements. It's a minor complaint, but one worth noting for those who want perfect sonics.)

I agree with the previous reviewer who remarked that Dudamel doesn't accept Simon Rattle's view that the Scherzo is everything Mahler hated about the country while the Rondo-Burleske is everything he hated about the city. Rattle's look at these movements was biting and intense to the point of exhausting the listener. Dudamel decides to sound more optimistic, and his lack of strong irony makes these movements sound almost cheerful. That's not code for bloodless, though. I enjoyed the 2nd movement especially, finding its airiness refreshing. Dudamel tinges the work with an extra strong sense of melancholic yearning. Instead of sounding desperate and gloomy, we enter a world of confidence threatened only by the foreboding sadness. In all, this is a lighter look but one so inspired I can't complain about missing drama.

I'm not sure the 3rd movement works quite so well. Dudamel remains poised and alert, and doesn't go for violent assaults the way Bernstein, Rattle, and Gergiev did, to list a few of his predecessors. But along with Dudamel's newfound intrinsic sensitivity comes the ability to draw attention to the raw grief that's hidden between the lines. When we're on a visceral ride that pushes the limits of sanity we don't notice these details. My only complaint would be that there's not enough contrast with the previous movement, but that's a quibble.

Moving into the Adagio, we've grown accustomed to Dudamel's sound world, which is more about inner intensity than obvious bravura. The previous reviewer who spoke of Dudamel's "respectful tenderness toward Mahler's setting sun" encapsulated the basic sum of what this movement means to Dudamel. It's calm and reflective, not the lunge of fraught emotion that Bernstein delivered in Berlin. It's in this movement that I miss the best European orchestras, but Los Angeles' playing is always accomplished. For me, what made this movement a success was Dudamel's tenderness that turned it into an elegy notable for poignant resignation.

I'm pleased to greet this disc with my most enthused recommendation. I can't properly stress how surprised I am that Dudamel took this thoughtful, mature view. It's hard to comprehend that this sublime reading came from a conductor barely in his thirties.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 March 2013
I was disappointed in the recent Mahler: Symphony No.8 (Dudamel) [Blu-ray] [2012]; which looked impressive, but was lacking in terms of sound quality - especially from the lower end of the audio spectrum. However, this new release of the Ninth is just the opposite - the sound almost literally leaps out of the speakers at you and the sound quality is excellent throughout.

The first movement is a bit slower than some, but none the less exciting - mostly due to that spectacular sound quality. Every dynamic is captured and every nuance of an impressive Los Angeles Philharmonic. I was surprised that Dudamel could do Mahler as well as this and I felt this was up there with some of the best and my personal favourite - Karajan with the the Berliner. In fact I now think I prefer this version for its more three-dimensional sound - the sound picture of the orchestra captured by DG. It may be the closeness of the mic'ing but I really enjoyed this.

Of course we have many great recordings of the Ninth now and some may prefer Haitink or Abbado; but I think it is interesting to hear what a younger conductor makes of this music and you can certainly hear Dudamel's energy and excitement about this piece, transmit to the orchestra. The textures in the final movement certainly added something new for me and overall I think this is certainly worth a listen.
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on 14 August 2014
I don't believe this recording of Mahler's 9th can be surpassed, so don't search for alternatives, just be sure not to be disturbed while listening and enjoy.
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on 15 June 2013
This symphony demands more intens listening.
Dudamel is one of my favourite conducters besides Sir Simon Rattle and Claudio Abbado.
Dudamel is regarding to the experts a good Mahler interpret.
The L.A Philharmonic is a professional orchestra. Togehter with their new leader will create wonderful music.

I will like this recording even moore after a couple of listenings.
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on 13 September 2013
Live but souding was quite nice. Mahler is so difficult composer that this must listen many times to get it all.
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