C0696. KURT SANDERLING Cond. BBC Phil.: Symphony #9 in D (Mahler). (England) BBC Legends Stereo 4232, recorded 17 July, 1982, Manchester. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 684911423228
ďThe great German conductor, Kurt Sanderling (b.1912) retired from conducting in 2002. Among his many admirers is Sir Simon Rattle so itís quite interesting that this live Sanderling recording of Mahlerís last fully completed symphony should appear almost contemporaneously with Rattleís superb new account. For me, this Sanderling reading is objective, noble and patient and, above all, itís a reading of great integrity. Thatís a combination of qualities that brings its own rewards in this work. In some ways, and especially in its integrity and determination to let the music speak for itself.
One feature of the whole performance, is that Sanderling and the BBC engineers achieve excellent balance within the orchestra. The string lines are accorded their rightful position in the sound spectrum and the brass and woodwind sections come over clearly without excessive dominance. The percussion section is nicely balanced Ė listen out for the tam-tam. The horns are given a fair, but not excessive, degree of prominence but thatís abundantly justified both by Mahlerís writing and by the splendid playing of the BBC Philís horn section. Some may feel that the harp is a bit too forward in the balance during the first movement but the instrument is a crucial element in the scoring of this movement and Iím delighted to hear it register so well.
As the first movement unfolds Sanderling never wears his heart on his sleeve but I donít feel he short changes the listener. The emotion is kept in perspective in a thoroughly musical reading. In a word, the performance is controlled. When the big moments arrive Sanderling and his players have ample power but itís the more subtly scored pages that really catch my ear, especially since the BBC Phil members are playing out of their skins for their distinguished guest conductor. When we reach the coda (23:07) the mood is wistfully nostalgic as a very thoughtful and satisfying account of this towering movement comes to a close.
This is a performance of great integrity and musicality. I donít think Sanderling ever conducted more than a handful of Mahler works but this recording suggests very powerfully that he was totally at home with the idiom. A reading such as this can only have been the result of extensive study of the score and reflection about the music. Iím glad to find that he doesnít seek to ring out the last drop of Ďmeaningí or emotion from the symphony. When I want that approach there are other conductors to whom I can turn but Sanderling is very satisfying. His direct and unpretentious way with the score presents the music without frills and, especially, without an undue imposition of his own personality Ė though thatís not to say that the reading lacks character, for it doesnít. It only remains to say that the BBC Philharmonic plays splendidly for Sanderling, as you may have gathered already from my comments. Furthermore, the analogue recording is excellent, being both full and clear. Itís a fine achievement and Iím delighted to see it restored to general circulation.Ē
- John Quinn, MusicWebInternational