Mark Gorenstein / Russian State Symphony Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

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Timed at 95 minutes and occupying two CDs, this live audiophile recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 9 in D major is approximately 15 minutes longer than the average duration. Yet this may come as a surprise when the performance is actually heard, because it doesn't feel like an inordinately slow or drawn-out version. Mark Gorenstein and the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia (otherwise known as the Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra) certainly aren't hellbent to rip through this symphony at top speed, but neither are they especially sluggish, except for their expansive tempos in the Adagio, which adds nearly ten minutes to the whole performance and seem a little exaggerated, even by conventional standards. But it's really worth the time it takes, insofar as slowing things down even a little allows many details to shine through, and the pacing of the symphony overall is consistent, so the additional time taken is used wisely and spread out where needed. The greatest advantage of this recording is the direct, unprocessed sound provided by Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm, which gives every aspect of the concert performance its due (including occasional background noises, which are inevitable). The orchestra is remarkably transparent in its textures and rich in tone colors, and the depth and spaciousness of the audio puts everything in its proper place. One might wish that Gorenstein had infused the music with more fire, particularly in the Ländler, and given the Rondo-Burleske a more acrid character, but on the whole this is a worthwhile interpretation that stands up to scrutiny.

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