Mahler 9

Gustavo Dudamel / Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

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Mahler 9 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Gustavo Dudamel's historic Mahler Project was a highlight of music-making in early 2012, for he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in Gustav Mahler's nine completed symphonies, in a series of critically acclaimed concerts. The first CD to be issued from the marathon event is Deutsche Grammophon's 2013 release of the Symphony No. 9 in D major, one of the most challenging of Mahler's works to interpret and one of the most satisfying to hear when it is played with insight and originality. Dudamel and Los Angeles give this symphony a coherent and compelling performance that makes sense on the small scale of the score's details, which they deliver with sensitivity and clarity, and on the larger scale of form and the work's over-arching trajectory, where the conductor's pacing and phrasing carry the work to its inevitable goal. While some conductors choose to make the music jaggedly pointillistic, abruptly expressionistic, or just plain neurotic, Dudamel looks past such conventional approaches to make this Ninth a long, sustained song, rather in the spirit of Das Lied von der Erde. The expressions are overwhelmingly passionate and brooding, with plenty of acerbic bite and sardonic wit interjected to make the piece identifiable as Mahler's own, with all his obsessions and quirks. Yet Dudamel brings a special logic and steadiness to the welter of emotions that make it clear that the Ninth is still music with its own message to communicate, and not a confessional autobiography. It is refreshing to hear the piece played with real melodic sweep, and to understand that Dudamel's vision of the symphony is organic, developed, intensely lyrical, and mature. Deutsche Grammophon provides spacious and resonant sound that captures every note with wonderful tone colors.

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