Gerard Schwarz

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D major; Symphony No. 9 in D major

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So deeply dedicated a pair of performances that one can only congratulate the performers on their attempt but so profoundly flawed a pair of performances that one can only regret they tried, this coupling of Mahler's First and Ninth with Gerard Schwarz leading the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic does not, in the last analysis, measure up. There's no doubt Schwarz and the Liverpool Orchestra love the music without reserve and that they are giving everything they have to their performances. And at times the playing is so sincerely heartfelt that it almost succeeds. Listen, for example, to the warmly lyrical start to the First's opening movement or to the tenderly touching intimacy of the Ninth's Rondo Burleske's Trio. But when the music turns dark as in the First's final movement or in so much of the Ninth's opening and closing movements, the Liverpool players don't quite have the strength of tone or the cohesion of ensemble to do justice either to the music or to their love of the music. Too often, when Mahler's exceedingly expressive and monstrously virtuosic music is at its emotionally and musical peak, the Liverpool orchestra's energy flags, the lines fray, the intonation fails, and the intensity of the performance unravels. One can only regret this as there is so much in the performance to enjoy. Schwarz's feeling for Mahler's flexible tempos is infallible and the Liverpool players boast many fine principals, particularly among the woodwinds. But as an ensemble, there is only so much it can do with what it has, and Mahlerian agony and ecstasy are just out of their reach. Artek's digital sound is very immediate but raw in the climaxes.

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