Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

Carmen in Orange

Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

EMI Classics 5-01228-2
12 Oct 2011

Simon Rattle’s Mahler 9

Recorded between 24 and 27 October 2008 at the Philhamonie in Berlin, this release offers the dynamism of a concert performance with the sound quality associated with EMI’s fine recordings.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 9.

Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle, conductor.

EMI Classics 5-01228-2 [2CDs]

$15.99  Click to buy

Some interpretations of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony benefit from live recordings, and Rattle’s is one of them, with tempos and textures that convey the score as vividly as Mahler composed it. The details of the score are important, as evident in the fair copy of the work, which was not yet performed when Mahler died. Those who have had the privilege of examining that manuscript, though, are aware of the revisions that it contains as the composer annotated it thoroughly. In contrast to the earlier draft score, which contains some personal exclamations, about youth, love and farewell, the fair copy lacks such indications. Instead, it contains details of scoring, articulation, expression, and phrasing that convey instead the vitality of the music, which emerges with appropriate style in this recent recording of the work.

As much as many have special feelings about the “Finale” of the Ninth, the first movement stands out a seminal work that bridges the Romantic world and twentieth-century music. In this recording Rattle offers a thoughtful reading of the first movement, which lasts almost twenty-nine minutes. It is a spaciously planned performance that unfolds convincingly, with the musical logic behind the score evident in its execution, with the brief motifs found at the beginning of the movement clearly defined so that the musical narrative proceeds logical from the opening as the larger themes of the exposition take shape. The details of accompanying figures, including fanfares, glissandi, and other elements support the thematic content of the piece likewise have their place, as the contrast between smaller musical ideas and the larger structure becomes a dynamic feature of Rattle’s interpretation. More importantly, the sense of line, of musical continuity, is always apparent in this performance.

A similar masterful interpretation guides the performance of the two inner movements, with the second benefitting from the fine playing of the Berlin Philharmonic as it renders the details of the score with nuance and delicacy. The various orchestral colors remain as distinct in the performance as they occur in Mahler’s score. Tempos are likewise fluid, as Rattle brings the score to life as convincingly here was in the first movement. The sometimes angular lines in the low brass are characterized well, without the result ever seeming grotesque or otherwise departing from the fine sense of style that emerges from this performance.

The brass section brings this kind of finesse to the third movement, which has a sense of urgency that guides the ideas as they unfold. Here the woodwinds demonstrate their fine timbre and sense of ensemble in the textures Mahler scored carefully in this music. As clear as the details appear in this performance, they serve the line, which supports Rattle’s keen sense of the musical narrative in a virtuosic performance of the “Rondo-Burleske.”

Yet it is the “Finale” that many listeners recall strongly, and here Rattle offers a reading that supports the score without lapsing into heart-on-the-sleeve sentimentality. In following the details of Mahler’s score, Rattle serves the sense of music well, as it rich textures and full sonorities of the work are rendered vividly. The tone is entirely appropriate to the tempos, as it is possible to hear the articulation of chords and pitches resonate well throughout the movement. This interpretation is consistent with the elegiac sense that emerges in Rattle’s performances of “Der Abschied” in Das Lied von der Erde, a sense that is all the more admirable for the lack of verbal text in the Ninth to serve as a guide. The contrasts of texture and dynamics support the music line, which is clearly presented here as in the other three movements of this exemplary performance of Mahler’s Symphony no. 9. The conclusion complements the first movement, with the dynamic tension sustained through the final pitches, as they dissolve into silence at the end of this remarkable recording.

This is Rattle’s second recording of Mahler’s Ninth, with the other released separately and later reissued as part of the set of the composer’s symphonies by the conductor. As strong as the earlier recording may be, the second merits attention for subtle differences that it contains. The exceptional playing of the Berlin Philharmonic allows Rattle to create an outstanding recording of this masterpiece.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):