ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphony No. 9


GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphony No. 9 - Symphony No. 10 (Adagio) - Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne - Markus Stenz (Conductor) - 4260034866546 - Released: August 2014 - Oehms Classics OC654

It has taken me over four months to finally decide to sit down and write a review for this new recording, the final release in the very fine complete Mahler symphony cycle on Oehms Classics with conductor Markus Stenz. About five others in the series grace the pages of this website including two that are considered to be definitive recordings. I know this is all very suggestive, but the main reason why I kept putting off publishing a positive review for this CD has been my inability to get completely absorbed and consumed by this account of the Symphony No. 9 in D Major, a symphonic work that has the word 'captivating' stamped all over it. And I'm sure it's not because Markus Stenz isn't pushing the right buttons. He's got the musicians of the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne giving it all they have during the cataclysmic passages in the first movement, and passionately feeling the final strands of the last movement, but as a whole the dots don't quite connect. A limited number of recordings of this symphony are 'awesome' in my opinion, and this one is missing the one ingredient to bring it up to that level.

Now having said that, and the reason 'why' I did finally decide to add more bits to the internet and publish this review, is because this account of the Adagio from the Symphony No. 10 is profoundly breathtaking. Too bad they didn't opt for the completed Cooke version of the work, as I believe Stenz, based on his reading of this first movement, would have delivered a riveting performance of the whole work, especially the intensely emotive final movement. Here, as in his interpretations of the other symphonies in this cycle, Stenz displays the ability to highlight specific lines of the score, just enough for the listener to hear different facets of the musical narrative, that actually justify the music's course. I've heard hundreds of Mahler recordings before and yet Stenz, especially in this movement, has me hear things I didn't know were there.

So, while the No. 9 is par for the course, 10 is a hole-in-one on every green.

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2015