For this 2014 Ars SACD, Joolz Gale and Ensemble Mini present the 2012 chamber orchestra transcription of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 9 by scholar Klaus Simon. This arrangement was commissioned by Gale and the orchestra, and inspired by the various chamber reductions of Mahler's works that were performed on concerts of Arnold Schoenberg's Society for Private Musical Performances (1918-1921). Then as now, the purpose of such arrangements is to make the score performable by small ensembles. Simon's version captures all the essentials of Mahler's work, and Ensemble Mini gives it a serious reading, as one imagines Schoenberg would have approved. Bearing in mind that much of Mahler's original score had numerous chamber-like passages, enough is preserved without major changes, except in tutti sections where the group is a bit over-stretched. But there is a definite loss of timbral subtlety and nuanced dynamics that a full-scale orchestra can produce, and the bare-bones reduction seems more like an exercise in historical practice than a necessary service for performance today. Schoenberg's aim had been to make Mahler's music accessible at a time when it wasn't possible to find large orchestras to play it or sympathetic audiences to appreciate it. But the situation has changed dramatically, so it is possible to find countless recordings of the Ninth by major symphony orchestras, and it is even performed with regularity by community orchestras. While this recording holds considerable interest for Mahler specialists and fans, newcomers to Mahler should hear several first-rate recordings of the full symphony before giving this chamber version a try.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphonie Nr. 9|