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Mahler: Symphony No 9; Hartmann: Adagio / Dohnányi

Release Date: 04/13/1999 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 458902   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav MahlerKarl Amadeus Hartmann
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 40 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Christoph von Dohnanyi’s reputation for brisk, objectified Mahler is not borne out by this unexpectedly long-breathed and evidently long-pondered reading. The first movement may not offer the white-hot commitment of Sir Simon Rattle, but neither is it anything like as disengaged as Pierre Boulez’s controversial account. Like Boulez, Dohnanyi gives himself plenty of space to articulate the structure and clarify detail, presenting the main ideas with the lyricism (and some of the glacial calm) of Herbert von Karajan’s famous recording. At 11'21'' (the Mit Wut section at fig. 9), cellos and basses don’t come in with sufficient resolution. And I did not always care for the penetrating quality of the first trumpet on what is a vivid but not Read more always entirely natural-sounding sound stage. (Despite what sounds like a loud cough 2'17'' into the finale, there is no indication that the recording was taped live.) On the other hand, the morendo coda is exquisitely done, and, if the recapitulation disappoints – the expression oddly casual as though the maelstrom of the previous 20 minutes counted for not very much – Dohnanyi is only taking the marking literally: this is ‘like the beginning’.

The second movement is more characterful than you might expect, its Landler theme trippingly light at the outset, the waltz more heftily Teutonic (Tempo II). The conductor’s relatively straight approach suits the Rondo-Burleske and the more lyrical middle section has greater emotive power than some recent interpreters have allowed. The Adagio receives a fine, mainstream performance that really sings. Which is not to say that we get anything like Bernstein’s explicitly weeping strings at the start, let alone Benjamin Zander’s hyped-up expressivity. Throughout, I was impressed by the certainty of the articulation and the audibility of counter-melodies even if there is now and again a certain dispassionateness which risks making the argument seem a bit too effortless. The ‘gripping, continuous narrative’ SJ missed in the Boulez is certainly present.

The Hartmann coupling is both unexpected and welcome; it has been sitting in Decca’s vaults for so long that EMI has recorded and released a rival version in the interim as part of its ongoing cycle. The present account displays all Dohnanyi’s lucidity and high seriousness, although it is Metzmacher who offers the more virile characterization in a recording that has a wider dynamic range. No doubt the Bamberg saxophone sounds less beautiful than its Cleveland counterpart, and yet Hartmann’s folk-like material is the more compelling for some extra give and take in the phrasing. The Bamberg cymbals crash with more vulgar abandon too.

Quibbling apart, Dohnanyi deserves credit for such adventurous programming and many readers will be intrigued to come across a neglected figure of the post-Mahlerian generation who wears his musical influences with perverse pride – I counted Reger, Berg, Hindemith, Stravinsky (The Rite) and the Bartok of Bluebeard’s Castle. Decca’s packaging is handsome, but why does it allow just one track per movement in the main work? The older DG recordings offered more comprehensive, ‘analytical’ access.

-- Gramophone [6/1999]
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 9 in D major by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/1997 
Venue:  Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio 
Length: 84 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Symphony no 2 "Adagio" by Karl Amadeus Hartmann
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1994 
Venue:  Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio 
Length: 15 Minutes 20 Secs. 

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