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Mahler: Symphony No 9 / Fischer, Budapest Festival

Mahler,G. / Budapest Festival Orch. / Fischer,Ivan Release Date: 06/09/2015
Label: Channel Classics Catalog #: 36115 Spars Code: DDD
Composer:  Gustav Mahler Conductor:  Iván Fischer Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest Festival Orchestra Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Mixed Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins.

"This is in a very special class, a sonic dazzler, quite apart from its bold musical qualities. A potential Award-winner!"

– Gramophone [6/2015]

Ivan Fischer conducts a lovely, impulsive Mahler Ninth. The performance comes as something of a relief after his tepid reading of the Fifth, but here, happily, he’s back on form. Interpretively, his vision of the work recalls Bruno Walter’s, or more recently, Kurt Masur’s underrated New York recording. He gets through the piece in about 75 minutes, and although tempos are swift there’s no suggestion that the piece is being underplayed at any point. The big climaxes in the first movement, the
Read more finale, and at the end of the Rondo: Burleske all have plenty of impact. Fischer keeps the brass under control throughout, but this only makes those moments when they really cut loose all the more powerful.

Throughout the first movement, Fischer shows a really impressive control of tension. Those mostly quiet interludes between the loud outbursts are full of atmospheric dread. This music has to evoke death, not imitate it literally, as many other versions unfortunately do. The three dances in the second movement have plenty of individual character, with some excellent contributions from the Hungarian woodwinds. Fischer handles the central section of the Rondo: Burleske particularly smartly. Mahler only marks it “Etwas gehalten” (“Somewhat sustained”), for all that it’s often played adagio molto, and Fischer’s approach vindicates Mahler’s directions–it often happens in these cases.

The finale is gorgeous: flowing, expressive, with wonderfully transparent string playing that really lets the music’s polyphony breathe and sing. It has become common to stretch this music out to the breaking point, 30 minutes or more, but Fischer’s 22 makes perfect sense, and it’s how many of us came to know the music in the hands of Walter, Bernstein (Sony), Haitink, and Solti. “Refreshing” isn’t exactly a term that comes to mind on hearing this great Adagio, but that’s how the performance comes across. Perhaps “fulfilling” is the better term, because the music moves forward to its sweetly sad conclusion in a single, inevitable arch. Channel Classics provides its usual superb SACD sonics, making this a Mahler Ninth that’s not to be missed.

-- David Hurwitz,
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