Wednesday, May 18, 2011

OK OK.....

here's something for Mahler's 100th anniversary (of being deceased).

Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado are probably the first conductors to have performed Mahler's music for the entirety of their careers. And in both their cases, they now display a mastery of the material which nobody has ever achieved. I didn't much care for this Mahler 9 when the BBC broadcasted it in 2009. But now I see that this performance is one of the great ones - effortlessly commanding every single detail of the structure with all the sure-footedness of a Beethoven Symphony. I still prefer Abbado in this symphony (to Haitink and just about everybody else save Bruno Walter and Barbirolli), and I still think that Haitink seems to 'Brucknerize' Mahler, trying to make the music into something more orderly - and therefore milder - than what Mahler intended. But the fact that this score, formerly thought of as a loose baggy monster, can be laid out with such effortless command is an amazing achievement in its own right.

And if this is that good, just wait. Haitink is performing the work next week with his old orchestra, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. If Haitink's been living with this music for his whole life, it's in part due to the Mahler he must have heard as a kid, championed by his great predecessor, Willem Mengelberg. No orchestra in the world has played Mahler more, for longer, or better than the Concertgebouw. Don't believe me? Listen to this.

(Should be self-explanatory)

Mahler oftened said that he would settle in Amsterdam after retiring from conducting. One can hear why.

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