Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 10/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Mahler Symphony No. 9 is typically seen as Mahler's omen of death because it was written at the time of the composer's heart ailment and the death of his daughter. Endearing stories about composers not outliving their Ninth Symphonies (Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner among others) contribute to the legend that the Mahler 9 portrays the end of the composer's life.
In this performance, Karel Ancerl takes a unique view of the music. Compared to other versions I have heard including the Haitink, Lopez Cobos and Karajan's 1982 concert version -- which most critics consider the benchmark performance of this score -- Ancerl's performance at first seemed "fast" to me. His tempo in the first movement seemed almost jaunty compared to others and his total time of 78:53 is rapid compared to most recordings.
However, as the vast first movement continued to unfold, an alternate description of the music began to appear. Ancerl's approach was no longer universally fast; it was more episodic, moving from urgency to tentativeness to happiness to victorious emotions.
At about 11:35, Ancerl suddenly crashes and returns to the depth of despair, with happiness recurring at 15:30. And this with 11 minutes to go in the first movement! It is quite a contrast to Karajan's outlook of extended tragedy.
The second movement landler is more traditional in Ancerl's hands, with the Burleske in the third movement becoming more of a grotesque dance of instruments than the other versions I've heard.
In the finale, where Karajan made his name with this work by maintaining tension throughout the more than 30-minute span, Ancerl projects extended sorrow without tension while maintaining the pain inherent to Mahler's end of life vision. It later morphs to stream of consciousness before evolving to the final inevitable abyss of nothingness that critics and musicologists testify is Mahler's end.
I enjoy this performance, in which the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra plays with authoritative virtuosity. Recorded in 1966 in the notoriously clangorous Rudolfinum, the sound on the Ancerl "Gold Edition" CD has been improved and is in league with modern DDD recordings. Every instrument can be heard and the recording is head and shoulders above the Karajan 1982 classic.
All told, this is a fine performance from one of the eminent conductors from the golden era of classical recordings in sound that rivals the best from today. For $10 or less, this is excellent value and should be considered by all Mahler lovers."
A superb interpretation of Mahler #9
L. Johan Modée | Earth | 11/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This classic Karel Ancerl recording is, in my opinion, one of the best accounts of Mahler's ninth symphony that is available at present. Here we have it in a new remastering, which improves the original stereo sound.
The playing of the orchestra is outstanding, especially the brass department (note the typical horn vibrato) and the recording quality is very good for its age. But, above all, this CD is to be treasured for Ancer's superb interpretation, which is as good as an interpretation can be: moving, powerful, balanced, convincing, non-mainstream, and provoking.
Strongly recommended! "
Absolutely crushing Mahler!!
A. Vetter | NY | 07/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great version of the 9th. I have particularly come to enjoy the last two movements. The neurotic elements of the 3rd and the heavenly parts of 4 sell it to me. You can't miss with this recording. Enjoy!!"
A top choice
J. Grant | North Carolina, USA | 05/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While ther are many very good Mahler 9ths out there, there are only three that I personally consider essential. Those being Walter's 1938 VPO, Walter's stereo 1961 CSO, and this one by the often overlooked and under-appreciated Karel Ancerl. The the remastering is quite good and the performance is outstanding, particularly the finale."
Less is more, in the Kubelik mold
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 05/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rafael Kubelik seemed to have missed the boat in some quarters when he produced a Mahler cycle on DG in the mid-sixties that was the opposite of Bernstein's from the same era -- its light textures and almost carefree mood pulled against the angst and turbulence that Bernstein brought out. Solti followed up with a powerhouse cycle that also made Kubelik seem less than cosmic, shall we say. But Karel Ancerl has the same light touch, and fifty years on one can appreciate that Mahler can have his intended effect if interpreted less intensely. Certainly the Kubelik cycle, with a few exceptions, holds up better than Solti's has.
The Czech Phil. is the ideal orchestra to give us rustic textures and lightly flowing lines. Almost nothing in this Ninth is momentous in terms of sound -- no crushing tuttis, none of the earthshaking impact one gets from Berlin and Vienna. Ancerl's reading emphasizes flow and line. the volcanic eruptions in the first movement don't tear the music, or the listener, apart. The Scherzo is charming more than satiric. The Rondo-Burleske, which for me was the high point, bounces along bumptiously with a nice chemistry of carefreeness and gallows humor. The final Adagio impresses others more than it does me; I almost leaned on the four-star button. It seems to me that this music cries out for tragedy rather than melancholy, just as the funeral march in the Eroica does, but eminent conductors haven't felt that way. Ancerl's is the least intense reading I've heard that remains convincing (just). but then, his intention all along has been to avoid crushing emotionality, and the Mahler Ninth is fascinating enough in its multi-dimensions to bear any number of perspectives.
In all, if you like Kubelik's idea of Mahler, Ancerl's version has more charm in the orchestral playing and perhaps marginally better sound. Although it fits on a single disc at just under 80 min., little in this account feels rushed. Just don't expect the intense focus and draining emotions of Bernstein and Karajan."