WORKS: Symphony No. 9
PERFORMER: Bamberg SO/Jonathan Nott
CATALOGUE NO: Tudor 7162 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Anyone who came to know and love Mahler’s most profound symphony through the highly-coloured landscapes of Leonard Bernstein or Claudio Abbado may wonder where the lurid, looming sounds or the sudden emotional spurts have gone in Jonathan Nott’s even-handed interpretation.
Maybe it’s just because I’m in agreement with his steady pacing and his careful placing of the biggest climaxes that I’m tempted to say he puts no foot wrong. The vast first movement inclines more to the stately unfolding of Bruno Walter in later years, though Nott never aspires to the self-conscious grandeur of, say, Benjamin Zander (on Telarc).
There’s space, silence in the twilight zones and unerring inner clarity of the embattled textures, but also just the right amount of impetus towards the movement’s three big collapses. Others may have bared more fangs in the scherzo and Rondo-Burleske, but Nott makes sure his Bambergers have plenty of anger in reserve for Mahler’s horrifying turns of the screw.
The great Adagio finale, too, delays the most impassioned strains until it really counts. The Bamberg strings adopt an imposing noble tone here, even if their thinner sound in pianissimos gives away the fact that they’re not quite on the Berlin or Vienna level.
As compensation, the sound in both its formats could hardly be more truthful or perspective-conscious, and allows Nott to tell a finely-balanced tale in the way that DG never did for Abbado, Bernstein or Karajan. This is a fine achievement in a towering symphony. David Nice