RPO/Gatti – Mahler 9

Symphony No.9

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Daniele Gatti

Reviewed by: Alex Verney-Elliott

Reviewed: 14 January, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Daniele GattiIn one of his last performances as Music Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Daniele Gatti gave us a spellbinding performance of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. Gatti, conducting from memory, gave an extraordinarily powerful and coherent performance of arguably Mahler’s finest symphony.

The colossal Andante comodo first movement can often sound disjointed and sectionalised but Gatti held this vast structure together as an arching structure and secured exactly judged climaxes creating a great sense of tension and contrast between lyricism and drama. The RPO strings are presently in better form (in terms of weight of sound and presence) than those of some other London orchestras.

In the second movement Gatti secured a rhythmic tautness and maintained the right degree of swagger, lilting grace and raucous attack with wonderfully pointed woodwinds and rugged brass, the grotesque and deliberately distorted dance-rhythms given with aplomb and panache. The Rondo-Burleske third movement appropriate savagery, sounding gruff and uncouth and all over the joint, the RPO’s playing being anarchic and rugged yet without ever sounding coarse or shrill: Gatti had the guts to make the music sound mad.

To close, Gatti let the slow finale flow with a natural ease and flexibility, the music breathing without forcing upon it unnecessary tempo changes or mannerisms (this music can sound dragged-out or sluggish, too much a ‘farewell’ – it should be remembered that Mahler began work on a Tenth Symphony). Even the concluding eternal pauses never seemed fragmented, Gatti securing the unfolding line of the music; the sensitive RPO strings securing pianissimos that vaporised into thin air. The distilled final passages held the audience in utter concentration: there was something rather special about this enlightening performance.

  • On 18 March 2009 in the Royal Festival Hall, Daniele Gatti conducts the RPO in Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony & Beethoven’s Choral Symphony
  • RPO

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