- Audio CD (June 6 1989)
- SPARS Code: ADD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Angel Records
- ASIN: B000002S0R
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
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Symphony 9 Import
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In addition to conducting the first performance of Mahler's Ninth, Bruno Walter also made the first recording of the score, and it is one of the most remarkable phonographic documents of this century. The recording, with an incandescent Vienna Philharmonic on the stage, was made at a concert in the Musikvereinssaal on January 16, 1938. Walter, then 61, and his colleagues, some of whom had played under Mahler, give an overwhelming reading inspired not only by the memory of the composer, but by the grim situation in Europe and Austria at that moment. Here is Mahler on the brink, coming to us from a time when the world itself was on the brink. Listening to the account is like stepping back in time, and can be a chilling experience. The sound is magnificent, with an utterly remarkable depth and presence for a recording more than 50 years old. --Ted Libbey
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But to hear all that you possibly can of it, despite the constricted 1938 sonics, you need to go to the 2004 remastering, Mahler: Symphony No. 9, which has considerably improved things over this previous one from 1989, with less swish noise and cracks from the 78rmp surfaces, more orchestral presence and much more impact given to the brass outbursts (but also a little more glare and harshness, and even a measure of saturation in some climaxes). You will also find my detailed review of Walter's interpretation under the 2004 remastering CD.
For those who already have a Mahler 9 and wish to supplement their already valuable collection with historical recordings and alternative interpretations, well, what are you waiting for? Grab this CD. You can go no more historical than this. This was Walter's last performance with the VPO before he fled Austria to escape the Nazis. One hears in the music the tension of those last remaining days before the war, or so I imgaine.
The playing of the orchestras might draw different opinions from critics, the sound is admittedly of low quality ( though in view of the date - 1938, the engineers in charge of the remastering must have done wonders), but mix them all together, and the result is potent electrifying music! Listen to the first movement and feel your goose pimples rise, for this was what it did to me on the first listening, and still does.
Get this, in this remastering or any other. It is worth your while.
George Szell considered the string playing of European orchestras during the time between the two world wars to be the ideal standard that all should strive for. I strongly believe that this recording is the supreme example of that level of playing. Not only does one hear superb bowing technique, one hears exceedingly subtle nuances very clearly as a result of the orchestra's committment to a unified musical message. All the little slides are just gorgeous.
Mahler's 9th is one of the ultimate human expressions of farewell. He looks back on his tragic-laden life and still accepts his inevitable fate in peace. This concert gives a new meaning to that farewell and this makes it such a poignant recording. My favorite along with Horenstein- LSO and Abbado-VPO.