BBC Classics BBCL 4179-2, 79:15 (Distrib. Koch) ****:
Bruno Maderna (1920-1973) is remembered as much for his groundbreaking musical compositions in post-WW II Italy as he is for his conducting prowess. With Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono, Maderna followed in the aesthetic footsteps of his teacher and mentor Hermann Scherchen, establishing a program at RAI, Incontri Musicali, devoted to the exposition of new compositions which applied Italians’ use of Schoenberg’s serial techniques as well as electronic music. As a conductor, Maderna remained a staunch romantic, not only favoring works of Schumann and Brahms, but interpreting them in a manner more reminiscent of Tennstedt and Mitropoulos, than of Boulez and the wave of stern revisionists.
This performance of Mahler’s last completed symphony dated 31 March 1971 strives for cosmic yearning of spirit, often understated in its elastic ardor and torment. All of the tensions in this dark music, especially in its convulsive Rondo-Burleske, resolve themselves into the Absolute, whose inklings already make themselves evident in the falling figures of the harp, the “ewig, ewig,” of The Song of the Earth. The tempos slow to a protracted dissipation of all self, all desire, into an Atman of which Hesse’s Siddhartha only dreams. The purity of line will remind many of the Mahler heard under the baton of Carlo Maria Giulini. Elegant and immeasurably thoughtful, this is a Mahler Ninth to warrant another look and listen.
— Gary Lemco