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Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

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Named Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice for December 2022!

For the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the performances on November 26 and 27, 2021 in the Isarphilharmonie marked the beginning of a new chapter in its Mahler interpretation: with its designated new principal conductor Simon Rattle, the orchestra is now headed by a Mahler admirer every bit as ardent as his predecessors Mariss Jansons, Lorin Maazel, and Rafael Kubelík. The musicians dedicated the benefit concert on November 26 to the memory of conductor Bernard Haitink, who died in October 2021 and was associated with the renowned orchestra for 61 years. The very long silence after the final chord was one of those “goosebumps moments” that one goes to concerts for – and for which music is made in the first place.

Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, in particular, is understood as the composer’s reaction to a heart ailment that was diagnosed shortly before he wrote the first drafts in the summer of 1908. He was in deep despair, but still scarcely aware of how few years he actually had left to live. With Mahler, it was always in and through music that he tried to come to terms with his life experiences and such topics as farewell, the meaning of existence, death, redemption, life after death and love. He wrote his Ninth Symphony in Dobbiaco, in a kind of creative frenzy, between 1909 and 1910. Its premiere took place in Vienna on June 26, 1912, when the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performed the work under Bruno Walter. Mahler did not witness the premiere of his last completed work – he had already died on May 18, 1911.


I would rank Rattle's performance here with the best of the competition and would add that even the classic recordings of Bernstein, Giulini, and Karajan have no significant advantage over Rattle's. In the end Rattle would be my top choice among newer versions and probably the equal of the classic performances on disc.

-- MusicWeb International (Robert Cummings)

If he has always shown very sensitive affinities with Symphony No. 9, Simon Rattle delivers his most accomplished recording to the Bavarian Radio. Recorded live between November 24 and 27, 2021, at the Isarphilharmonie im Gasteig in Munich by Winfried Messmer, [this] powerful orchestral mass presents both great volume and precise definition of timbre and range.

-- Diapason (citation for a Diapason d'or)

The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and its designated principal conductor dedicated one of the two concerts used for this recording to the conductor Bernard Haitink, who died in October 2021. It is a great tribute to this outstanding Mahler conductor, and Rattle once again proves what a major Mahler interpreter he is as well.

Right in the first movement, he succeeds in drawing the whole Mahler world in its gripping originality with magnificent breath. Rising and collapse are always close together, and the exciting alternation between tension and release is maintained throughout the symphony. At the same time, this reading is not lacking in sensuality. There is both lyrical beauty, full of abyss, and the light-hearted (and artfully illuminated) play of sound and movement. The three-movement back-and-forth of emotions leads to the Adagio finale, which Rattle conducts thoughtfully and in moderate tempo. The music dies away in a deeply moving 24 minutes with nostalgia, sadness and also some thoughts of hope.

The orchestra is brilliantly disposed and fascinates with both differentiated coloration and the greatest possible transparency. Under Rattle’s direction, Mahler, the orchestral musicians, and he himself merge into a single instrument.

-- Pizzicato

Superbly played and recorded, from November last year (Isarphilharmonie im Gasteig), a memorial concert for Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon’s third recording (following Birmingham and Vienna, both EMI/Warner) of Mahler Nine sports a first movement, if not without a few cosmetic touches, that is a flowing and feisty affair, defiant, better to be alive than not, with impassioned fortissimos, and only in the concluding few minutes does the music issue calmness as well as bittersweet sentiments, although it seems too sudden as well as much too soon – bearing in mind how the Symphony will end, spare and fading to nothingness. The second movement, with its competing waltz and ländler, has its tempo contrasts well-managed, but is perhaps a little too manicured – it needs to be rougher, more rustic and pesante. Poker-faced sophistication suits the ensuing ‘Rondo-Burleske’, its counterpoint wonderfully clear (antiphonal violins swirl either side of the podium) albeit greater bite is sometimes required, and it’s a surprise that Rattle doesn’t linger more in the central section (his is a tempo-related ‘trio’), and the conclusion is thrillingly fast and rendered with A+ virtuosity – the abyss awaits. The final Adagio follows more or less attacca (I can vouch for such a joining from an LSO concert years ago) and is a dignified if intense leave-taking, powerful (vibrant strings, eloquent woodwinds) and ethereal, with a cathartic climax and a hypnotically controlled paring down of resources as expression becomes more and more off the radar.

-- Colin's Column

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: BR Klassik
    • UPC/Barcode: 4035719002058
    • Item Number: BRK900205