Bruno Walter's live 1938 recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 9 in D major holds a special fascination for music lovers: not only is this recording valued for its historic circumstances -- it was made on the eve of the Nazi annexation of Austria and Walter's hasty departure for France, thus marking the end of his career in Vienna -- but it is cherished for its important connection to Mahler through Walter's deeply expressive interpretation, which is both historically and personally informed. Not only did Walter premiere the work in 1912, following Mahler's death, he continued to perform it over the next decades as a heartfelt testimonial to the genius of his colleague and friend. Walter's championing of Mahler was essential to the next generation's growing acceptance of the Ninth and the other symphonies, and led significantly to the revival of the 1960s and '70s. The Vienna Philharmonic is remarkably full in tone for a recording of that time, and clear in essential details, though the digitally refurbished sound also heightens some audience noises, particularly in the softest passages. Listeners familiar with this work should have no difficulty following the music's direction once they are adjusted to the limited frequency range and occasional distortions of tone; but newcomers are advised to listen to modern recordings first, and then give Walter's vintage rendition a try when the symphony is fully absorbed.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 9 in D major|