Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Acis and Galatea: 2018 London Handel Festival

Katie Hawks makes quite a claim for Handel’s Acis and Galatea when, in her programme article, she describes it as the composer’s ‘most perfect work’. Surely, one might feel, this is a somewhat hyperbolic evaluation of a 90-minute pastoral masque, or serenade, based on an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has its origins in a private entertainment?

Oriana, Fairest Queen: Stile Antico celebrate the life and times of Elizabeth I

Stile Antico’s lunchtime play-list, celebrating the Virgin Queen’s long reign, shuffled between sacred and secular works, from penitential to patriotic, from sensual to celebratory.

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Songs for Nancy: Bampton Classical Opera celebrate legendary soprano, Nancy Storace

Bampton Classical Opera’s 25th anniversary season opens with a concert on 7th March at St John’s Smith Square to celebrate the legendary soprano Nancy Storace.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A newly discovered song by Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more - perhaps as many as one hundred - were written and have been lost or destroyed.



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):