Saturday 2 May 2015

A live Mahler 9 to rank with the best from Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra just released on the Hallé label

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) began his Symphony No.9 in D in 1909 in Toblach, completing it in March 1910 in New York. It was first performed posthumously in the spring of 1912 at the Music Festival in Vienna, conducted by Bruno Walter.

Walter later recalled ‘Alma Mahler handed the score to me for final revision before printing. In November 1911, six months after (Mahler’s) death, I conducted the first performance of Das Lied in Munich, and early in 1912, the Ninth in Vienna…it was a great responsibility to take my great friend’s place and introduce his new work to the world.’

New from the Hallé’s own label www.Hallé is a release featuring Sir Mark Elder  and the Hallé Orchestra www.Hallé  with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.

CD HLD 7541

Elder maintains the hesitancy of the opening bars of the Andante comodo into the succeeding passages by holding a taut reign on the orchestra, with carefully shaped phrases, making the anguished surges even more alarming in their intensity. He draws some terrific string playing from the Hallé, pointing up details as well as rising with tremendous impact to the climaxes. Indeed the sudden outbursts are quite stunning, contrasting against moments of intense, hushed drama.

There are some fine instrumental contributions from brass and woodwind with Elder throughout bringing moments of quiet tension making one always wonder when the next crisis will occur. Eventually the conflict between resignation and anguish gives way after a final huge climax as we are drawn into an exquisite coda full of resignation.

There is a beautifully pointed up opening to the Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derb with fine incisive Hallé strings and terrific woodwind passages.  The Hallé really are on top form as they move through the dance rhythm of this movement, a terrific stomping Ländler before a wistful waltz eventually returning to a Ländler, this time more subdued. There is a terrific ebb and flow with Elder finding lovely moments of repose, bringing a breadth and sweep as the music begins to drive forward before a coda where he reveals a suitably sinister edge.

Elder sets off at a fine pace as we are thrust into the Rondo-Burleske. Allegro assai. Sehr trotzig with such taut, incisive playing in this live performance. Elder allows the Hallé to really letting rip as Mahler leads us through a wild journey with playing of tremendous virtuosity. When, centrally, we hit the slow section it comes as a kind of balm with playing of exquisite beauty. The music again rises in drama only to fall quiet with dramatic echoes in the background before hurtling off to the manic coda.

What can one say of the Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltend often looked on as Mahler’s farewell to life with the shadow of death looming over it. Elder brings a fine restraint with the Hallé basses underscoring the texture beautifully. There are some fine horn passages with Elder subtly adding tension to the string playing.  Elder adds so much to the depth and mystery of this work in the serenely hushed passages. He brings a feeling of intense yearning, slowly edging up the tension and passion before the music peaks and falls away with some exquisite playing, full of desperate longing. There is a woodwind passage where a lovely melody appears before building again in richness and passion. Elder develops the music so finely, pacing the music perfectly.  The music falls to a heart-rending hushed passage, beautifully controlled by Elder with a feeling of intense resignation as we arrive at a wonderful coda.  

What more can I say? Surely this is a Mahler 9 to rank with the best.

This is very well recorded live at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England with no applause and not the slightest audience noise. The audience were obviously as transfixed as I was. There are excellent notes by David Matthews.

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