Symphony No. 9
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
BR Klassik 900205 79:58 mins
This new release of Mahler’s profoundest symphony is a live recording with all the detailed eloquence and intensity one might expect from Simon Rattle in concert. Yet it also suggests a maturing in his approach, an interpretive longer-sightedness, in which Mahler’s huge movements are unfolded as wholes rather than as sequences of apocalyptic moments.
There is nothing exceptional about Rattle’s choice of tempos, and his movement timings are squarely within tradition: 27, 15, 12 and 24 minutes respectively. But even in the most shadowy lingerings of the opening Andante, a sense of forward momentum is never lost, while its succession of complex surges is steadily built towards its climactic turning point, with the doom-like blasting out of the movement’s halting inaugural rhythm. Again, by keeping the articulation crisp and refusing to make a meal of every clod-hopping detail of the following Ländler, Rattle succeeds in holding interest in what can sometimes seem an over-extended movement.
The end of the satirical ‘Rondo Burlesque’ third movement must be among the fiercest to be heard on a recording, yet it is a savagery incrementally generated over the whole movement. As for the Adagio finale, Rattle’s subtle balance of expressive and structural values results in a ‘farewell’ less of nostalgia and regret than of stoical inevitability. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra rises nobly to his demands – violins right and left to clarify Mahler’s often complex interweaving – in a firm, generally clear recorded acoustic.