Mahler: Symphony No. 9

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LABELS: Saison Russe
WORKS: Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: Russian State SO/Evgeny Svetlanov
The latest issue in Svetlanov’s Mahler cycle is masterly in conception, imperfect in execution and badly let down by a recording which lacks even the reticent decency of previous Moscow Conservatory-based instalments. Until the engineer decides to open up space around the strings in the final hymn of farewell, this Ninth is a bizarre evocation of those pre-electric days of recording when a handful of musicians huddled round the acoustic horn. There are some strange pleasures to be gleaned, partly intentional in the case of boxy cellos emanating from the left speaker and second violins from the right, like an out-of-phase peasant-band in a splendidly clumsy scherzo; and nothing could make Svetlanov’s presto charge through the Rondo-Burleske sound dull. The peaks of Mahler’s symphonic mountain, however, remain sonic molehills. David Nice