Mahler¥R Strauss

COMPOSERS: Mahler,R Strauss
LABELS: Profil
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler,R Strauss
WORKS: Mahler-Symphony No. 9R Strauss-Tod und Verklärung
PERFORMER: Staatskapelle Dresden/Giuseppe Sinopoli
A slow-burn approach combined with beautifully layered sound meant one either loved or hated the late Giuseppe Sinopoli’s unique conducting style (and sometimes both at the same time). His Philharmonia Mahler cycle still yields ocasional, breathtaking insights, and there are some here, too, in this even more attenuated live Dresden performance of the Ninth from 1996. Just when you’re about to give up on the lumbering battles of what has the longest first movement on disc, with the orchestra barely following Sinopoli into the flames, a muted brass chord or a hollow timpani stroke catches the breath in Mahler’s twilight zones. Clearly the supple, volatile approach of Claudio Abbado in Berlin makes more sense here; and compared to the feral antics of Barenboim’s Berliners (Warner), this other Staatskapelle, Sinopoli’s ‘ethical’ orchestra, which clearly admired him, is a reticent bunch further diffused by the soft acoustics of Dresden’s Semperoper. But they do bring a special dedication and inwardness to the great final Adagio; and the audience’s concentration is palpable.


Bizarrely, the dying Strauss really felt he had captured a rite of passage in his callow youth with Death and Transfiguration, and Sinopoli clearly believes that too. It’s hard not to listen to the protracted death rattles and the anxious striving for redemption without a lump in the throat, remembering that shortly after this 2001 performance Sinopoli died midway through a performance of Aïda in Berlin. By any standards, though, it’s a fine, grave interpretation, missing only the last degree of forward movement in agony and remembered heroics. David Nice