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MUSIC REVIEWS : Skilled Performance of Mahler's Ninth

April 05, 1993|HERBERT GLASS

Any notion of "enjoyment" relative to Mahler's Ninth Symphony might seem a ridiculous anomaly.

But in the Pasadena Symphony's performance, at the Civic Auditorium on Saturday, of this vast battleground of Romantic indulgence and Modernist terror--under the right circumstances, a uniquely cathartic exercise despite its emotional, temporal and sonic overkill--the Pasadena musicians seemed to be having the time of their lives without slighting the score's agonized grandeur.

Mahler built virtually every excess to which his interpreters could be tempted right into his score with precisely detailed tempo, dynamic and expressive indications. Which hasn't prevented a couple of generations of his later baton spokesmen from adding gobs of themselves to the heady brew.

The beauty of Jorge Mester's leadership on Saturday was its utter control and utter simplicity. The complexities were the composer's, and were subsumed on this occasion by an architectural overview that bound the symphony's four huge movements into something resembling a closely reasoned structure. Hardly a simple task.

The Pasadena Symphony responded to Mester's urgings--whose constant aim at clarification heightened rather than diminished the aching passion of the outer movements--with masterful aplomb: the strings richly homogeneous, the countless woodwind detailings superbly pointed, the brasses stentorian or speaking in deathly whispers, each in accordance with the score's demands.

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