Mahler Symphony No 9. Song Cycles

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Mahler Symphony No 9. Song CyclesMahler Symphony No 9. Song Cycles

MAHLER Symphony No 9. Song Cycles

  • Symphony No. 9
  • Kindertotenlieder
  • (5) Rückert-Lieder

Unavailable on Compact Disc for more than a decade, Herbert von Karajan’s analogue recording of the Ninth here makes its second appearance in just over a year. It is among the first releases to bear DG’s new 2CD logo and the series certainly looks promising. The design has been well thought out to include a (wittily concealed) session photo, full notes (RO’s essay on the symphony is now reprinted from the original LP set) and, for once, full texts and translations. The documentation confidently refers to ‘original-image bit-processing’ but the transfers sound suspiciously similar to those on the previous, French-originated DG Double reissue of the identical programme (4/95).
Like Sir Georg Solti’s discovery of Shostako-vich, Karajan’s public advocacy of Mahler came late in his career and yet, until the release of his famous CD-only 1982 digital concert relay of the Ninth (a Gramophone Award-winner), he seemed content to regard this earlier analogue version as among his finest achievements in the studio. The digital performance was remastered for Karajan Gold without anyone thinking to provide a coupling, so the present collection represents much better value, although the interpretation of the symphony is marginally less refined. Perhaps Mahler’s development of rhythm and line is tougher and should be more sharply contoured than the conductor was ever prepared to admit, but, at the very least, his relatively detached attitude and generally broad tempos enable his players to get round the notes to glorious effect. (Barbirolli and Bernstein, working with the same orchestra, have very different goals.) Under Karajan, there is a tensile strength about the Berliners’ string sound that is most impressive and only occasionally overbearing. The closing pages are predictably exquisite.
Christa Ludwig’s mature, carefully considered song performances make a very considerable bonus. If she is perhaps less responsive to the mood of each song than Baker and Fassbaender – the one intimate, almost self-communing, the other more bitingly dramatic – she articulates the text with unrivalled clarity and there can be few readings of comparable nobility. With Karajan on the podium, these are performances on the grandest scale. A bargain.'

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