Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: The Philharmonia/Kurt Sanderling
CATALOGUE NO: 2292 45816-2 DDD
Masur manages to find something fresh in the hackneyed and over-recorded First Symphony, particularly in the rustic parts of the first three movements (though his double-bass solo is much too refined – too good, I might almost say). The lazy, somewhat somnolent first movement is particularly engaging. It is interesting to compare it with the same music in the second Wayfarer song, where Hagegård brings out that vulnerable young-manliness which, in the symphony, seems to have been relegated to some faintly melancholy past. Masur handles the weak spots of the symphony (and there are quite a few of them) with discretion, though not without a hint of rhythmic unease in the long finale. The playing is generally superb, and my only real reservation is that the recording is cramped and, at the end of the symphony, inclined to shriek.

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Sanderling’s Ninth, however, is disappointing. Marvellous playing by the Philharmonia cannot conceal the conductor’s poker-faced response to heart-rending music. The long opening Andante moseys along like a leisurely drive through the countryside, with hardly any sense of loss. The finale sounds thin and inconsequential, as it can all too easily do when tension has been lost. Balance is so poor that I had to replay passages to check that the woodwind were there at all, while the ubiquitous horn solos stand out like the Last Post on Remembrance Sunday. Stephen Walsh