Barenboim’s Mahler

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #9

Daniel Barenboim leads the Staadskapelle Berlin, on a Unitel Classica DVD

The last completed symphony by Mahler required repeated listening on my part before I came to fully understand and appreciate it. It is a difficult, emotional, complex work. Mahler delayed composing it, because he felt as though there some superstition because the #9 was Beethoven’s final work.

At the time of the creation of this work, Mahler had already lost his dear young daughter, who died of Diphtheria. He was also diagnosed with a serious Heart ailment, and he knew that his remaining time was short. Much of the world he had lived in is reflected in this piece. The final Adagio is a heart-breaking conclusion, as it were, not only to the symphony, but also to Gustav Mahler’s life. After spending a few years in New York, he returned to Vienna in 1911 and he died there.

The performance of this work by the Staadskapelle Berlin, as conducted by Daniel Barenboim is really excellent. The video shows very clearly how completely ready the performers are with this work. Their attention is strongly focused on Barenboim, and even in sections of players numbering, say, 28 violins, one cannot see even one player who is not giving her/his all to make this performance a total success.

There is also a bonus track where Barenboim and Pierre Boulez talk about their joint Mahler Project, in which they performed all of Mahler’s symphonies.

I could not locate a video extract of the Barenboim performance; so here’s an amazing alternative:

Mahler: Symphony No. 9: Movement 4, as conducted by Leonard Bernstein:

Gustav Mahler, Symphony 9, Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin

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