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MTT and the SFS in Mahler’s Ninth

15 November 2013

So much myth has accreted to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony that it is difficult to know where to begin any more. A farewell to life? A farewell to a culture? A farewell to tonality? An affirmation in the face of death? A piece more from eternity than earth?

All of the above, really, and such are the exalted heights of Mahler’s achievements in this greatest of his symphonies that a satisfactory performance – let alone anything beyond that – is rare…. How to make Mahler’s vast musical spans seem whole when the music material, so curt to begin with, breaks down so often? And how to look forwards, to a Schoenberg already far beyond Mahler’s strained tonality by the time this symphony was finished, as well as back?

Michael Tilson Thomas didn’t really answer any of those questions in this Ninth, but it was spectacularly well played by the San Francisco Symphony. Read the rest of my review at Bachtrack here.

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