Myung-Whun Chung

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

For this 2015 Deutsche Grammophon release, Myung-Whun Chung leads the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra in a revelatory performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 9 in D major, which is often regarded as the composer's farewell to music and life. Notwithstanding the fact that Mahler went on to write a substantial part of his unfinished Symphony No. 10 (making discussion of a farewell to music moot) and was feeling healthy and optimistic for his career, the Ninth is still a powerful essay on his anguished inner life, his neuroses, his fear of death, and his ultimate resignation to fate, all of which are central to the music's drama, though not to a specifically autobiographical program. Chung and the orchestra grapple with the symphony's raw emotions and demonic drive, and make it a compelling and even draining experience, especially in the furious Rondo-Burleske, which includes some of Mahler's most violent and self-mocking passages. Even so, the effectiveness of the musical expression comes from Chung's careful study and close attention to details, and his profound understanding of the Ninth gives it the pacing and energy to feel spontaneous and volatile, yet inexorable and complete. While Chung is best known as an expert interpreter of French music, particularly of the works of Olivier Messiaen, he proves here that he is a true Mahlerian, and fans of the composer should regard this recording as essential listening.

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