MAHLER: Symphony No. 9, Chailly cond., Blu-ray – Accentus (2014) 

by | Dec 13, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

MAHLER: Symphony No. 9, Chailly cond., Blu-ray (2014) 

Performers: Gewandhaus Orch./ Riccardo Chailly
Studio: Accentus Music ACC10299 (9/30/14) [Dist. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM Stereo
Languages: German, English, Japanese, Chinese
No Region Code
Extras: Discussion
Length: Concert: 85:59; Disc.: 29:13 
Rating: *****

I’m always torn when there is a video performance of one of the great symphonies. Sometimes I like to just listen, finding the video of the orchestra and conductor a distraction.

Not so in this latest Blu-ray with Riccardo Chailly and the breathtakingly good Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig. Chailly has had some spectacularly good discs in this series, and this new version of Mahler’s last complete symphony doesn’t disappoint. I’ve heard the Chailly Mahler 5th and 2nd, and both are exemplary performances.

Chailly’s exuberant and reverent interpretation of the symphony is excellent,  to my ear right up there with the best of the Bruno Walter recordings, but with much better sound. I found that watching Chailly and the orchestra added immeasurably to my enjoyment of the work. I’m sure this was a multi-camera shoot with extensive after the fact editing, because no instrument entrance is missed with a closeup.

Soundwise, the DTS 5.1 recording is very natural without unrealistically spotlighting instruments. The sound of the orchestra is a concert-hall acoustic, and it works wonderfully. The main distinct sounds I hear from the surrounds is the applause.

Along with the symphony is an extra; a fascinating discussion with Henry-Louis de La Grange, the renowned musicologist and biographer of Mahler. The discussion is enlightening, and adds a welcome layer of information to this riveting symphony.

The Ninth Symphony was written in 1908 and 1909. Some call it the beginning of modern music. Although the symphony contains the standard four movements, it varies from the norm with the first and last movements being quite slow. It’s a towering work, and while not programmatic, it demonstrates Mahler’s love of nature. Leonard Bernstein said of the Ninth: “It is terrifying, and paralyzing, as the strands of sound disintegrate … in ceasing, we lose it all. But in letting go, we have gained everything.”

This Blu-ray disc is a welcome addition to Chaiily’s ongoing Mahler cycle.  I’ve never watched a Blu-ray concert on disk that was more suited to the medium of high definition video. The discussion with La Grange is not just bonus filler, but it feels like you are in the room as he and Chaiily discuss this monumental work.

Highly recommended for both the video and the sparkling recording.

—Mel Martin

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