Symphony n. 9
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2013
Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is projection towards eternity and epitomizes all his previous production. This is Mahler’s last completed symphony (his death has interrupted the composition of the tenth) and was written between 1908 and 1909-10 and performed posthumously in 1912. The symphony describes a tragic situation, it is a farewell, with frequent references to death, as Mahler himself pointed out at the edge of the score, «oh vanished days of youth, oh lost love…» and in some ways recalls the Lieder von der erde, composed nearly on the same period. Alban Berg was fascinated by the first movement, of which he wrote that «is the greatest Mahler ever composed. It is the expression of a tremendous love for this earth, the longing to live on it peacefully and to enjoy nature to its deepest depths – before death comes».
I propose this symphony in a recording of some years ago, where Gustavo Dudamel masterfully conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel manages to give the impression that everything is going to fall down, to shatter, and the quieter moments (of resignation?) serve only to make even more oppressive the return of the most painful feelings: I think that this contrast was emphasized on purpose. The first movement is a small microcosm, but the whole symphony is imbued with the feeling of an imminent collapse, especially remembering the furious final of the third movement. I dare say that Dudamel, as far as style and interpretation, has little to envy to those that have written the story of this symphony before him and I think (and hope) that we will continue to hear about this recording in the future.
A mention of honour must be added for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra with its excellent strings and a great English horn.