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Symphonie No. 9 Hybrid SACD

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Jonathan Nott? A Fine Mahler Conductor. Dec 11 2009
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Jonathan Nott is a British conductor who has been the music director of the Bamberg Symphony for some time now and has been drawing very positive reviews for his concerts there as well as with his recordings with the orchestra. This is the first of his CDs that I've gotten, largely because the Mahler Ninth is one that I have a particular affinity for; I own more than a half dozen recordings of the symphony. This does not make me a Mahler expert by any means but I do tend to have ideas about how the symphony should go. Nott and the Bambergers have recorded about half of the Mahler symphonies now and it is clear that they have the Austrian composer's style in their bones.

The Ninth has a somewhat unusual form. It has two slow movements surrounding two faster inner movements. It culminates in one of the great movements in all of Austro-German symphonic literature, the devastatingly moving Adagio. The opening Andante comodo is done at just the right tempo and is replete with richness of texture and individual instrumental solos. The second movement, a peasant's Ländler, beings with it some relaxation of tension via rough geniality. The Bambergers get into the spirit of it with ease; surely this is at least partly because the musicians themselves have heard music similar to this all their lives in their own south Germany. The Burleske is some of the gothic Halloween music that Mahler is so famous for. If there is any weakness in this performance it is in this movement which seems a bit restrained compared to, say, that of Gergiev (whose Ninth otherwise is, IMHO, negligible). And indeed when Nott gets to the Burleske's coda his musicians really let loose for a wild-eyed peroration. One can hear in this movement Nott's penchant for fine analysis of a work's structure, as one also does in the opening movement.

The Adagio is, of course, the summum bonum of the work, perhaps of all of Mahler's symphonies (although I should expect to get some argument about that from some Mahlerians). And here Nott is at his very best. This performance is moving in the same way that Karajan's and Abbado's are. The angst and resignation of the movement are not overdone, but in their very restraint are all the more powerful. The intensity is almost unbearable. I will admit that each time I heard this movement I ended up in tears.

In sum, then, this is a marvelous recording of the Ninth. Although the very last degree of instrumental sumptuousness may be missing when compared to that of the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics or the Concertgebouw, it is still among the best I've ever heard. The rich SACD sound is a distinct plus.

An easy recommendation.

Scott Morrison
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Tremendously moving, and the best sound available June 21 2011
By William G. Kempster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The many exceptional reviews this has had overseas seem fully justified to me. Disregard the one person here who finds this routine. Its not. Do the research and I believe the impression you get will be vindicated by the recording itself. Its live, and it packs a punch. You won't be disappointed!
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Agreeable, but no better Dec 15 2009
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I cannot hear the virtues that the lead reviewer hears in Jonathan Nott's latest Mahler recording. This is straight-ahead, agreeable music-making. Among literalists -- not the style of conducting I favor -- David Zinman, who seemed rather blank in his Sony BMG recordings, is the life of the party compared to Nott. The first movement is so noncommittal emotionally that one would never guess its meaning, or that it had any. Admittedly, the bar is set very high in Mahler performance. I can't see who would pay almost $30 to hear a regional German orchestra of no great ability (I've heard them in concert) when you can have a great conductor and orchestra for half the price.

After a nondescript opening, Nott gathers energy and intensity as he proceeds. He rarely digs in, and his solo players are no better than good enough, yet events proceed nicely enough. The rustic Scherzo is direct and untroubled; there's no evidence of parody or satire, however. The tumultuous Rondo-Burleske challenges even the premiere orchestras, so NOtt is careful not to go at such a breakneck speed that ensemble will fall apart. As a result, the reading feels tame. On the whole, however, his interpretation of this movement captures more of Mahler's wild contrasts than previously. The Adagio, which others often take extremely slowly in order to milk its pathos, Nott approaches sensibly. The great wrenching theme that opens the movement isn't tragic in his hands but more lyrical and nostalgic. It's a valid point of view, and I enjoyed the performance, even though it comes off as rather mild-mannered.

In any event, I wanted readers to get a different point of view. This is a pleasant, moderately accomplished Ninth. If one wanted to explore provincial orchestras, it would pay more dividends to sample Alan Gilbert's new Mahler Ninth from Stockholm; altogether it is more expressive and better played.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
'Nott' outstanding Nov. 13 2011
By J. K. Davis MD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
First, I must admit I listened to the stereo layer of this disc as I don't have a multi-channel SACD setup for music. Other than for someone trying to assemble an all SACD Mahler symphony collection, I don't see the appeal of this performance. This is more temperate Mahler, like Zinman, Bertini and too many others. Try Levine or either Abbado or Karajan recording for a completely different experience.

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