Mahler

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Channel Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: Budapest Festival Orchestra/ Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CCSSA 36115 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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You can always expect insights from Iván Fischer’s energised Budapest Festival Mahler, and he has his own distinctive view on this most traumatic and ultimately transcendent of symphonies. The opening Andante comodo can feel a little cramped, always moving onwards, with phrases keenly articulated to suit the lean, slightly neutral Budapest string sound. Greater impact comes from apocalyptic trombones as messengers of death, most penetrating of any I’ve heard and genuinely terrifying both flat-out and snarlingly muted. The coda is no place to dream, either, with Fischer enjoining slides from the horns in thirds, maybe aiming to simulate the effect of alphorns in remote meadows.

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In the scherzo and finale, Fischer has a rather less legitimately disconcerting habit of bumping the end of an episode when he knows a different speed is around the corner. The main events of the death-hymn finale, though, are more convincing than their counterpart in the first movement; here the forward direction is much more apt. As one would expect from this master of mood and atmosphere, the dying falls are mesmerisingly done. The natural sound picture comes under some dynamic stress at the biggest climaxes, and the acoustic can be a touch dry, which gives the characterful orchestra plenty to fight against. Maybe this isn’t among the frontrunners in the biggest symphonic challenge of them all. But for those who can’t have too much of this masterpiece, Fischer is essential for further enlightenment. David Nice