12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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Format: Audio CD
This is a superb performance of Mahler's Ninth. And from a most unexpected source. Instead of the coolly analytical, Boulezian reading one would expect from the doyen of Darmstadt conductors, what we actually get is an impassioned, committed and ultimately devastating live performance.
Throughout the symphony Maderna is unashamed in his use of affective ritardandos and emotional caesuras. But they are always perfectly positioned to achieve architectural clarity as well as emotional clout. This is a performance of contrasts. The wealth of 1st subject material in the opening movement is almost always taken considerably slower than usual, while the 2nd subject is up to a more normal tempo. Major climaxes are often prepared with a big slowing up, but then - as at the vertiginous descent into hell before the big funeral march begins at the heart of the development section - they are followed by a frightening and abandoned wildness. The flashes of remembered sunlight when the main theme reappears in inversion are frequently underlaid with a heavy funereal tread in the basses and cellos of the 4-note motif from the very opening of the movement. The beginning of the recapitulation has, to my mind, never been better pointed: there is a real feeling of a return (to sanity?) with the drooping 2nds of the 1st subject pretty much in its original form again. This is much less clear in most other performances: here it is a special moment.
The two middle movements adopt more conventional tempi, though the trios of the landler are perhaps a bit wilder than usual (and almost come off the rails at one point - but that's the thrill of a live performance for you!) and, if anything, the Rondo Burleske is a bit faster than usual, leaving you wondering if there will be anywhere left to go in the accelerando to prestissimo of the coda. There is and the BBC Symphony cope magnificently with Maderna's hair-raising dash for the finishing line.
The last movement, too, is a touch faster than most. And all the better for it. There is none of the stagnation of the extreme adagios adopted from the start by some conductors. Here the lines are kept moving and flowing, whether in the passages of lush romantic harmony among the strings or in those places where Mahler allows two or more disparate and seemingly unrelated themes to wander apparently aimlessly and create their own harmony. The point where the 1st violins throw a bridge of fire across to the last big statement from the horns is just electric. The extremes of adagio are only reached in the final 2 pages where the motifs are progressively pared down to their absolute basics before being allowed to dissipate into the ether. Here a truly intense quietude is achieved by Maderna and his players (and by the Festival Hall audience).
This is a great performance that convinces you while it plays and for some time after that this is the greatest of all Mahler's symphonies. Thanks are certainly due to the BBC for bringing it out of the archives - the standards set in this series have been consistently the highest and this disc is no exception. Highly recommended.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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Format: Audio CD
This is a very interesting CD. In purely technical terms, however, I could agree on virtually everything stated in the previous review below. But I take a different stand in how to evaluate Bruno Maderna's interpretation of the Mahler ninth.
A bad interpretation of the Mahler ninth would be an interpretation that misses Mahler's points. Bruno Walter's 1938 performance is not a bad interpretation, despite the all the technical flaws. So what is a good interpretation? Leonard Bernstein has argued that an interpretation of Mahler cannot be exaggerated. In Bernstein's terms, this means apparently that every instruction in the score should be inflated as much as (reasonably) possible. I suppose that many Mahlerians share that view. But in Bernstein's case, this view has led him to add notes that are absent from the score, such as a bass drum blow at the end of the finale in the first symphony (DG), generally grossly exaggerated phrasings, a "Ligeti-like" conception of the funeral march in the Berlin ninth (DG), etc. By slight contrast, however, I would say that an interpretation of Mahler should emphasize the structural effects of his symphonies. But in my view this does not mean that notes should be added and that phrasings ought to be heavily mannered, as if Mahler's works were orchestral showpieces (like Tchaikowsky's "1812"); only that the structural line and its climaxes should be emphasized. After all, Mahler was not composing understatements, but profound, revolutionary, and outstanding music.
So, in Maderna's performance we are not facing a bad interpretation. It is extraordinarily intense. The performance is not an understatement but a carefully planned and emotional interpretation. The climaxes come off with a tremendous force and tortured tension while the structural line and logic of the work is maintained. As is pointed out by the previous reviewer, what is most striking with Maderna's interpretation are the deliberate - or indeed "exaggerated" (!) - tempi choices. This is especially the case in the first and fourth movements. But unlike the other reviewer, I don't see this as a flaw. It contributes to make it to a very memorable account - that is, a good interpretation.
In addition, BBC symphony orchestra responds very well to the conductor's view. The recorded sound is a good, live stereo analogue in a fine remastering. (Unfortunately one can also identify one persistent cougher throughout the whole work - why didn't this man leave the concert?)
To summarize, then: this is a very interesting, illuminating but alternative interpretation, which one wants to return to many times. It is never dull but full of excitement. For reference, one could consider such seminal (but more or less technically flawed) interpretations as Klemperer (EMI), Walter (EMI), and Horenstein (BBC). However, I don't think that Maderna's interpretation should be anyone's first or only CD with Mahler's ninth. But if you appreciate those performances just mentioned, or even if you like Bernstein's Berlin Mahler ninth (DG), which also is technically flawed and shows different sorts of exaggerations than here, this is also a valuable CD for your collection.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Since thorough reviews has been already done, I shall try to be concise and state my point directly; perhaps one of you out there might empathize.
I read in many respectable sources what a good performance this was. And it is.
Since Mahler is one of my favorites and I have been collecting 'versions' through many years, I can say that the 9th was never one of my top favorites. But Maderna makes you appraise it afresh. The balances are superb, all lines are clear and things keep moving with a definite grasp for the overall architecture. Nice recording, unobtrusive noises (well behaved English audience). Perhaps the last movement is a bit too fast? Well, matter of taste, as so much Mahler is; but hey, it is a different valid take.
This one does not shatter your heart in a Bernstein kind of way, but still, it exudes sincere 'feeling' throughout; Italians seem to have that in their DNA.
From the 20+ versions of the 9th I have, this one goes to my top five.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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Format: Audio CD
Like many other Italian composers from his generation (Nono, Berio...), Bruno Maderna was in love with Mahler's music, in fact he told about Mahler: "In his symphonies I think we find a man in all his complexity, with all his mistakes and his dark sides, but at the same time illuminated by an inner tension that is the enormous". And this words really describe some of the lines of this Mahler's 9th conducted by Maderna, because of the great tension and dark presages we can listen in his performance, in which Maderna place Mahler just as the step before the Second School from Vienna. Mahler is revisited with very modern eyes, that of Berg or Schönberg, and not always this decision is right for Mahler's music.
The understanding of this Ninth on Maderna's hands is very close, in my opinion, to Berg's one, who notices an enormous desire of living in this score, just together with a continuous presence of death, seen not just as a philosophical subject, but lived in his own; a point of view very close to what Vignal wrote about Mahler's 9th, who wrote about this symphony that it was "death not yet felt, but death being lived", a point of view far from La Grange's opinion, who thinks that death is present much more as the remember of his beloved daughter's death, even more as a philosophical approach than a feeling on his own. Maderna choose a point of view very expressionistic and intense, and, at the same time, he breaks the melody and the symphony quite everywhere, like if the broken music were the mirror of a broken soul, that's Mahler's one. Maderna could think too that this music represents not only Mahler's end, but the end of tonality and the romantic period music.
El Andante comodo is one of the slowest on CD (29:29). It begins very static and pale, so much that in some moments you really feel music is going to stop, like you can appreciate in the first main theme on the violins (1:58). This tempo demands a great effort to the BBC Symphony Orchestra that is not able to resolve in a complete satisfying way, showing a not complete coordination and technique for this complex approach Maderna wanted, like we can listen in the sequence horn-strings-woodwinds in the minute 4:48. The frightening rhythm of the drum, associated to death, or according to Leonard Bernstein, to a Herat of irregular pulse, close to fail appears in a tremendous way sometimes (7:54), like some entrances of the brasses, not very refined and technique, but terrible. In this first movement we can notice something common to the rest of the performance; that's a great flexibility on the tempo, quite excessive I think, with a `rubato' that's much more of what I found necessary and much more of what the score demands, from my point of view. The theme between minutes 12:31 and 13:21 is a clear example of this, in which he divide the theme strings-woodwinds into elemental cells in a very modern way for being Mahler, like if that cells were taken to their own death out of melody and tonal system, another example of what this symphony could be for Maderna.
Second movement (14:18) is lighter, but without the rustic grace Mahler required in the different `laendler', and without the sarcasm he asked for. Maderna transforms the themes in a robotic style, like if these popular tunes became Berg's Wozzeck, they become mechanic in a very complex decision that doesn't work very well; stopped one more time with long silences (7:54-7:58, 8:33-8:37, 11:43-11:46), that will shock lot of listeners.
The Rondo-Burleske is the best performed in this symphony, with energy (13.11), but once more playing with the time in a strange way (8:41-8:46), something that ruins some of the players themes, like the case of the flutes, in a extremely slow `decrecendo' (8:58-9:01), in which melody and tonality are close to break. All the theme harp-woodwinds-violin between minutes 9 a 10 is so slow that's amazing. The final Più stretto is fast and energetic one more time.
The final Adagio is very light (21:00), specially on the beginning, something that ruins string playing, and that affects soloists solo playing too. In the Plötzlich wieder sehr langsam he returns to a slower tempo, and the music become much more deep. This Adagio is, one more time, all time broken by long silences, in a way I haven't heard before. The entrance of the a tempo (Bar 64) is preceded of a 3 seconds silence (6:18-6:21), and in this part, after the orchestral climax he introduces another pause of ¡5 seconds! (7:18-7:23), that is quite to break the line of the work. This silences are repeated in quite all the changes of themes (Bar 126, beginning of the Tempo I, 12:04-12:07, a silence in which we can listen at the recording background sounds not from this symphony), although the next orchestral entrances are highly emotive and full of power. El final Adagissimo (Bar 159, 16:28), is slow, trying to clarify all the lines that die in this final section, again terrifying silences that complete this deconstruction of Mahler's Ninth that Maderna did, revisiting this score with criteria probably not from Mahler's time..
We're facing a very personal performance, with extremely free criteria in conducting, but deep, emotive and intense like not many others. It's a way really not followed after Maderna's example; nowadays this symphony is done in a very different way. If you really want to explore a new way this performance is OK, perfect to discover new things, but if this you want a more perfect one, live recording too, full of emotion, perfect technically and a real wonder, you buy Leonard Bernstein with the Berliner Philharmoniker (DG), very good too Bernstein's one with Vienna, specially the final movement, a real miracle (DG, on DVD), those are my favourite performances for a live recording; in studio I'd choose Chailly (Decca) and Giulini (DG).
Live recording with a good sound presence, but too much noise on the background. The sound is not a problem if you want to try this experiment on Mahler's Ninth.