Monday, May 18, 2009

Staatskapelle Berlin - Mahler - 05/17/09

Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Mahler: Symphony No 9 in D Major

After the Guarneri String Quartet’s helluvah of a farewell at the Metropolitan Museum on Saturday night, I made my way to Carnegie Hall yesterday afternoon for the conclusion of their “Mahler: The Symphonies in Sequence” program with, predictably enough, his symphony No 9. This regretfully would be the first, and obviously the last, I would hear of the series, but the privilege to hear it performed by the prestigious 450-year old Staatskapelle Berlin under the baton of no less than Daniel Barenboim softened the frustration. Composed during trying times in Mahler’s life - his young daughter’s death, his unhappy departure from the Vienna Court Opera and the discovery of his heart condition – it is a magnificent journey of 80 minutes whose four movements are played without intermission and constitute a hell of a marathon for all involved.

Like the Pathétique, it was to be its composer’s last completed score, and its general structure is often reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s own poignant swan song. The long, multifaceted first movement remains one of Mahler’s grand creations and received a crisp, tight treatment from the orchestra. The second movement took its time to leisurely and spiritedly unfold its aimless chaos while the third one was imposed upon us with fierceness and urgency. After a longer pause than usual, maestro Barenboim quietly ushed the musicians into an achingly beautiful Adagio, sublimely brought out by the orchestra’s incredibly lyrical string sections. It eventually ended the symphony with stirring stillness... eventually followed by a raucous 10-minute standing ovation. A fitting conclusion to a grand performance, and a grand weekend.

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