The final instalment of LSO Live's Mahler cycle was recorded last March at the Barbican, where Valery Gergiev's performances of the Ninth were regarded by many as the finest of his uneven interpretations of the composer's symphonies. Certainly, the recording has great cogency, and despite typically swift speeds, there's none of the haste that some have disliked in Gergiev's Mahler. Interpretatively, however, you will either love or loathe it. It's an unusually panicky account of a work generally considered to be about mortality and resignation. Dread is the dominant emotion, setting in near the beginning, but never quite purged by the end. There are good things along the way. The inner movements bristle with existential alarm, and the exhausted collapse at the height of the Rondo Burleske is particularly well done. But the finale doesn't move as it should, and the persistent mood of anxiety comes close at times to cramping the Symphony's expressive range. It's superbly played, but not for those who value Bernstein's introversion or David Zinman's uncompromising austerity in this work.
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss