Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Symphony No. 9
Kristjan Järvi, cond; Gabriele Fontana (sop); Barbara Hölzl (alt); Arnold Bezuyen (ten); Reinhard Mayr (bs); Slovak P Ch; Tonkünstler O
PREISER PR 90773 (SACD: 59:44
Text and Translation) Live: Vienna
Recordings of Mahler’s version of the Beethoven Ninth are a relative rarity; the most recent (from 1993) featured Peter Tiboris conducting the Brno Philharmonic on Bridge and Gerhard Samuel in Cincinnati on Centaur (conducting Mahler’s later revised version). Tiboris’s disc of Mahler’s versions of the Beethoven Fifth and Seventh symphonies was reviewed by Richard Burke in
23:1. His remarks concerning Mahler’s “retouchings” are generally applicable to this new recording: “While many of Mahler’s adjustments to these scores are so minor that they can barely be heard, even with very careful listening, there are quite a few that are very distinct and not always welcome. Some of the doublings, for example, are unnecessarily thick, often obscuring other details.”
Reinhold Kubik suggests (in his excellent program note) that the changes that Mahler made to the Ninth are not as extensive as those he made to the earlier symphonies. When compared to recordings that follow period practices, the doublings of winds and augmented brass are certainly distinctive; there are places in each movement, however, where Mahler adjusts harmonies and counterpoint and rescores passages. While these alterations definitely take some getting used to, I was surprised at how little they affected my overall appreciation of the performance. The sound production certainly helps: It is full-bodied and resonant with excellent bass.
For one thing, Kristjan Järvi adopts quick tempos—in fact, a performance quite close in spirit to this one is the recent Ninth conducted by his older sibling on RCA. The first movement dispels any concerns that Mahler’s anachronistic retouchings would result in an overly heavy sound. In the Scherzo, Mahler cuts the repeat before the Trio, but Järvi’s smart pace produces an exhilarating performance. The Adagio is anything but slow; Järvi makes the most of the
marking, however, producing a deeper emotional impact than many performances taken at a more customary pace.
The finale is one of the most exciting and convincing that I’ve heard on disc. The chorus sings with enthusiasm and precision, and the quartet is well matched both vocally and interpretively. The audience present at the recording heartily endorsed what it had just heard; spirited applause breaks out even as the final notes are decaying.
Järvi was the principal conductor of the Tonkünstler Orchestra of Lower Austria (to give the band its full moniker in English) at the time of this recording. He and his band were obviously in sync in terms of interpretation and enthusiasm, and they have produced one of the more interesting and successful performances of this symphony to come my way. This can’t, of course, be a first recommendation for Beethoven’s Ninth, but Mahlerites and any other broadminded, adventurous souls should hear it.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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