Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No.9 – Jonathan Nott, Bamberger Symphoniker







Jonathan Nott is a British conductor who has been the music director of the Bamberg Symphony for some time now and has been drawing very positive reviews for his concerts there as well as with his recordings with the orchestra.

The Ninth has a somewhat unusual form. It has two slow movements surrounding two faster inner movements. It culminates in one of the great movements in all of Austro-German symphonic literature, the devastatingly moving Adagio. The75px-Mahler_Gustav_von_Sz%C3%A9kely[1] opening Andante comodo is done at just the right tempo and is replete with richness of texture and individual instrumental solos. The second movement, a peasant's Ländler, beings with it some relaxation of tension via rough geniality. The Bambergers get into the spirit of it with ease; surely this is at least partly because the musicians themselves have heard music similar to this all their lives in their own south Germany. The Burleske is some of the gothic music that Mahler is so famous for. If there is any weakness in this performance it is in this movement which seems a bit restrained but when Nott gets to the Burleske's coda his musicians really let loose for a wild-eyed peroration. One can hear in this movement Nott's penchant for fine analysis of a work's structure, as one also does in the opening movement.

The Adagio is, of course, the summum bonum of the work, perhaps of all of Mahler's symphonies (although I should expect to get some argument about that from some Mahlerians). And here Nott is at his very best. This performance is moving in the same way that Karajan's and Abbado's are. The angst and resignation of the movement are not overdone, but in their very restraint are all the more powerful. The intensity is almost unbearable.

In sum, then, this is a marvelous recording of the Ninth. Although the very last degree of instrumental sumptuousness may be missing when compared to that of the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics or the Concertgebouw, it is still among the best I've ever heard. The rich SACD sound is a distinct plus. 


flac, scans

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