One of the most grown-up review sites around

2019
50,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

TROUBADISC

A most rewarding CD
Renate Eggebrecht violin

REFERENCE RECORDINGS

Nick Barnard review
Michael Cookson review



Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases


Anderson Choral music


colourful and intriguing


Artyomov
Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble


one of Berlioz greatest works


Rebecca Clarke Frank Bridge
High-octane performances


An attractive Debussy package


immaculate Baiba Skride


eloquent Cello Concerto


tension-filled work


well crafted and intense


Laangaard
another entertaining volume


reeking of cordite


Pappano with a strong cast


imaginatively constructed quartets


the air from another planet


vibrantly sung


NOT a budget performance


very attractive and interesting


finesse and stylistic assurance


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 9 in D (1908-9) [78:12]
Symphony No. 10 Adagio (1910) [23:21]
Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Markus Stenz
rec. 2011/14, Studio Stolberger Strasse, Cologne
OEHMS CLASSICS OC654 SACD [78:12 + 23:21]

During the heyday of the Mahler revival, some commentators, and even some conductors, had a propensity for viewing Mahler's Ninth Symphony as representing the composer's reflections on life and farewell to the world. It's a lovely Romantic conceit, and it's total hogwash. For one thing, what we call the Ninth Symphony was not Mahler's actual ninth symphony: Das Lied von der Erde is essentially a symphony with voices, but the superstitious composer, fearing death, avoided assigning it a number. Then there's the matter of the Tenth Symphony: unfinished, yes, but complete in short score, with one movement, the opening Adagio, fully playable as orchestrated -- even if, as Deryck Cooke pointed out, the woodwind staves are "suspiciously empty" much of the time.

On the evidence of this recording, conductor Markus Stenz would seem to share this perspective on the Ninth. The first movement is briskly and tightly paced: the conductor lets the spare textures and strongly "felt" rests convey the needed sense of space. Rhythms are consistently buoyant: the strings' paired upbeats maintain their anticipatory, "upbeat" quality; dotted rhythms in tutti, are springy; the Etwas frischer at 5:00 has a kind of waltzy lilt, though it's not a waltz. Stenz proceeds with a minimum of fuss, moving straightforwardly into, and through, the big climaxes, keeping the turbulence in firm control. Only the development section hits a lull, despite the surely organized counterpoint after 16:31. The recap is beautifully phrased, however, and the ending brings a nice sense of resolution.

The Ländler is similarly forthright, but the playing carries enough of the necessary tonal weight. Stenz makes a slight, and effective, pullback on the first set of pickups, although he permits later ones to rush. The shift into the faster Tempo II at 2:25 is immediate and assured; the passage maintains the sense of a galumphing peasant dance, even as the textures get busy. Tempo III is tenderly phrased, while the return of Tempo II in the home stretch suggests a whirling ballroom dance.
 
The characterful Rondo-Burleske benefits from incisive attacks and crisp woodwind articulations, and Stenz's attention to colour is again welcome: the oboe-and-clarinet unisons have an appropriate trumpet-like bite, while the high, light first violin line after 5:47 registers as a distinct musical element rather than a vague halo. On the other hand, uncertain tempo projections -- a L'istesso tempo at 1:48 that actually moves slightly faster, a Tempo I subito at 10:05 that begins rather carefully -- muddle the movement's structural cohesion.

It's in the Finale that Stenz's rigorous, no-nonsense approach falls short. The movement begins promisingly: the violins' introductory gesture is clearly shaped; the first theme is dignified and spacious. The flowing tempo allows you actually to hear motivic relationships obscured in the more marmoreal readings. But small details are neglected: the strings haven't time to caress the gruppetti, which are basically flicked; in the spacious final minutes, which hold together better than most, the double pickups just go by, with no real weight. It's all thoughtful and musicianly, but ultimately disappointing, despite full-bodied climaxes.

As if to underline Stenz's non-valedictory point, this issue appends the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony, extravagantly given a full disc to itself. (It looks like Oehms may have had this in the can for a while and, after completing the cycle, had nowhere better to put it.) It's not clear exactly what edition is being used: it's not identified, and it omits some of Cooke's speculative wind "fillers" and even one or two of the obbligatos. Stenz's performance is mostly fine, even if he tends reflexively to move forward at the Nicht schleppen ("don't drag") markings, which don't mean that, exactly. The chorales for strings and trombones have a full-throated intensity, while contrasting episodes become flickering, ghostly dances.

Stephen Francis Vasta

Previous review: John Quinn

 



We are currently offering in excess of 50,400 reviews


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount



Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger