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

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.

Béatrice and Bénédict at Glyndebourne

‘A caprice written with the point of a needle’: so Berlioz described his opera Béatrice and Bénédict, which pares down Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to its comic quintessence, shorn of the sub-plots, destroyed reputations and near-bloodshed of Shakespeare’s original.

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

Pelleas et Mélisande in Aix

Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.

Siegfried, Opera North

This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

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):