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Symphony No. 9


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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A stunning performance of Mahler's ninth April 5 2008
By L. Johan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This performance of Mahler's ninth was recorded in studio in July 1982, in fine analogue sound. What we hear is Kurt Sanderling conducting the BBC Philharmonic, and, in my view, it must be seen as one of the very best performances that we have of this demanding work.

Sanderling is a first rate Mahler conductor, at least in so far we focus on late works. We have stunning performances under his baton of the tenth symphony (Berlin Classics, Cooke's edition: Mahler: Symphony No. 10 [Remastered] [Japan]), and of Das Lied von der Erde (on Berlin Classics, with Schreier and Finnilä: Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde). There is also two other recordings of his interpretation of the ninth, on Erato with Philharmonia Orchestra in 1991 (Mahler: Symphony No. 9) and on Berlin Classics with Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester in 1979 (Mahler: Symphony No. 9).

Among his three recordings of the ninth, the present one is the one to have. Unlike the two other recordings, although they are quite good too, the BBC recording has caught a performance of a lifetime. In terms of the structural grasp of the movements, it is clearly superior, with the Berlin 1979 recording to be the second best.

The conception of first movement is determined, with a flowing march-like tempo that suggest a clear line through the movement's conflicting parts. The climaxes are overwhelming, especially the great "collapse" of the movement at 148-210 which is truly outstanding. Wonderful playing from the BBC Philharmonic here. The movement stops at 26'26 (cf. 1979: 27'28; 1991: 27'50), thus more than one minute faster than on his two other recordings.

The Ländler (2nd movement) is beautifully rustic and witty, with the orchestra showing off with great woodwind playing - all due to Sanderling's superb attention to tempo shifts, orchestral details and the contrapuntal structure. It clocks in at 16'01 (cf. 1979: 16'38; 1991: 16'38), thus being Sanderling's fastest account of this movement.

The Rondo-Burlesque (3rd movement) demonstrate excellent "dirty" trumpet and clarinet playing, indicating Sanderling's consistent conception of the work's "insane" logic which is so central in this movement, with its brutal mix of lyricism and Dionysian burlesque. Stopping at 13'04, it is marginally slower than on his two other recordings (cf. 1979: 12'28; 1991: 13'03).

Finally the finale is delivered from a non-dragging, naked and clean conception, very much unlike, say, Bernstein's 1979 Berlin recording on DG (26'12) and Bertini's on EMI (28'43). Kubelik's brisk interpretation on Audite (21'46) is closer to this sharp conception of Mahler's complex musical vision of loss, death, and memory. But at 23'48 the interpretation is faster than on his 1991 recording (24'28) while it is marginally slower that the 1979 Berlin recording (23'22).

So, to sum up, this is a great, overwhelming, stunning recording of the ninth. Fine orchestra, excellent sound, and a consistent conception from a serious conductor.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A goodish Mahler Ninth of no special moment Nov. 23 2011
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
From where I listen, the lead reviewer writes with stars in his eyes. Far from being the performance of a lifetime, Sanderling's 1982 studio broadcast for the BBC seems rather ordinary to me. There is no "march-like tempo" in the first movement (mostly because it isn't a march), and the provincial BBC Phil. hardly executes the score with the virituosity and panache of a great orchestra. Here and there the violins struggle; the solo horn i watery and wobbly at the outset. Kurt Sanderling continued to conduct into advanced old age, however, and since this is a relatively early account of the Mahler Ninth (the conductor turned seventy that year), I agree with the star-struck reviewer that this is his best rendition.

Sanderling was a variable conductor who mostly remained in the marshes of the mundane but was capable of rising to the occasion. His decision to stay in the "wrong" Germany after WW II consigned him to some poor orchestras, including his own Berlin Sym., so I imagine a good-to-average British ensemble was a refreshing step up. The real difficulty I find describing this Ninth is that nothing out of the ordinary happens. One notes a few things, like the leisurely, lingering pace of the first movement. He tends to make a hash out of Mahler's complex polyphony in the first movement and Landler. The Rondo-Burleske, although nice and biting on occasion, doesn't surpass half a dozen rivals, and in terms of execution lags considerably behind them. The Adagio finale is well paced, at a fairly fast timing of 23 min., and restrained in its expressiveness, if that's what you like - I prefer the opposite myself.

In all, I'm mystified why anyone would have an epiphany listening to a goodish Mahler Ninth from thirty years ago. BBC's stereo sound is also goodish.


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