Various Artists, MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 in D major

Amelia Raitt

By Amelia Raitt

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Personal and professional crises collide in Mahler's final symphony, the epic 9th in D major. Back in Europe after being shoved aside from his conductor's gig at the Met in favor of Arturo Toscanini, Mahler soon learned that his wife had been cheating on him. Couple these issues with his growing understanding of the enormous influence that Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique would have on subsequent generations, and you can begin to understand how the tense, slow-moving first movement came to be.

What's less clear, however, is how Mahler would expect one to dance to the second movement's "dance of death," with its masterfully skewed chord sequences. The third movement, the "Rondo burleske," is also delightfully off-kilter, showing off Mahler's considerable counterpoint skills, making way for the stunning set of climaxes that color the final movement. Per usual, the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra turns in a sterling performance of the piece, conducted by Rudolf Barshai.