2nd March 2020
For an hour and a half, Semyon Bychkov electrified not only the Munich Philharmonic, but the audience in the Philharmonic Hall. The performance of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth captivated from the shattering beginning to the last breath with which this music fades away. A brief pause united performers and audience before the audience burst into applause.
Bychkov, who has already conducted the Philharmonic in several Mahler symphonies, now also proved himself a supreme navigator of the seemingly chaotic dissolution of the world and musical cosmos that Mahler portrays in his last completed symphony. It was impressive how he maintained and conveyed clear-sightedness in the crashing climaxes and polyphonic layering of the sweeping first movement.
And it was with pleasure that it was possible to follow the sometimes self-quoting events in the individual instrument groups: in the differentiation of the high and low strings; in the varied use of the richly ornamented winds; in the brass which oscillated between free and damped sounds; in the harps; and the massive percussion.
The members of the Philharmonic showed great commitment in all four movements. They made the second movement a wild combination through fairy-tale parades in the Landler and suppleness in the Waltz. In the rondo burlesque, conductor and orchestra highlighted the rawness that Mahler embedded in the fugue (and was manifested unashamedly by the winds)… The finale opened with the conciliatory sound of the violins, a broad stream of strings that culminated in a fine thread, leaving winds and horns to be the focus once again.