Symphony No. 9
Telarc 1996, Live Recording
Disc 1 - Movement I
Disc 2 - Movements II-IV
Disc 3 - Commentary for listening to and conducting Mahler's 9th Symphony, by Benjamin Zander
People fiercely debate their Mahler records, but this one has risen to the top. Many consider this to be one of the greatest recordings of the 9th in the digital age, and still others consider it among the best ever. Listening to the commentary disc, it's clear Zander takes his analysis to a very deep and detailed level, and it shows in the music. Every phrase is carefully calibrated under Zander's baton, without sacrificing the emotional impact of the symphony. The orchestral playing is first rate. Zander coaxes incredibly soft and delicate playing from the strings at times, and you'll feel just as the audience apparently felt: afraid to move a muscle lest you break the spell.
It must be said that the recording quality is merely good. Those expecting the usual razor-sharp, hugely dynamic Telarc sound will be disappointed. But the sound, while somewhat dry like most live recordings, is still modern and clear and by no means prevents one from enjoying the superb music offered here.