Magnificent Mahler Nine from Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Mahler: London Philharmonic Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski (conductor). Royal Festival Hall, London, 3.12.2022. (JR)

Vladimir Jurowski conducts the LPO © London Philharmonic Orchestra

Mahler – Symphony No.9

Vladimir Jurowski became the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus just over a year ago, after 14 years as their Principal Conductor and they clearly were thrilled to have him back. He is now Music Director at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

Jurowski is assembling his acclaimed Mahler cycle year by year and now it was the turn to hear Mahler’s final fully completed symphony, the Ninth. The presence of microphones attested to this performance being recorded for posterity on the LPO’s own record label; it was soon evident that sufficient rehearsal time had been accorded to this performance, not always the case with London orchestras. (Two previous LPO concerts including the recent Bruckner 9 under Robin Ticciati had several ragged edges.)

Jurowski clearly has a deep affection for and understanding for Mahler’s symphonies and this was a magnificent performance and interpretation of this valedictory work. Mahler had just lost his eldest daughter aged only four and had been diagnosed with a serious heart complaint; he had resigned his post as Music Director of the Vienna Opera.

The very long, slow opening movement had a visionary quality; Jurowski ensured that the tempo never dragged. Principal horn John Ryan was secure, principal oboe Ian Hardwick and principal timpanist Simon Carrington also stood out. At its close, after the movement had died away to nothing, Jurowski wisely chose to sit for several minutes to let the orchestra and audience catch their breath.

The easy-going Ländler had plenty of lilt and charm, the second violins led by the excellent Tania Mazzetti had plenty of punch. Jurowski neatly accentuated every phrase, infected with a smidgeon of menace and foreboding at appropriate moments.  The rough-hewn Rondo-Burleske showed the quality of the LPO’s trombone section, and the calm interlude had a visionary quality – Jurowski hardly slowed down. The more aggressive sections perhaps suited Jurowski’s dynamic temperament more than the quieter sections.

The final Adagio started with the mellow cello of principal Kristina Blaumane, plenty of despair in the movement’s darkest moments. The whole woodwind section came up trumps. At the end, the heartbeats stopped and calm pervaded the hall; even a chorus of coughers could not dispel the magic of the score. Jurowski held his arm high for several minutes to prevent premature applause spoiling the effect. When the arm came down, the audience fell into rapture. They had even, almost, managed not to applaud each movement.

The concert was dedicated to the memory of Laurie Lovelle, who retired a few years ago as a member of the double bass section where he had spent 38 years. When Lovelle left the LPO, he gave Jurowski an LP of Mahler 8 with the LSO under Leonard Bernstein and with the esteemed Highgate School Boys Choir – Laurie had been a Highgate chorister back then in the mid-1960s, as had I, and we both apparently sang in that very same memorable concert.

John Rhodes

1 thought on “Magnificent Mahler Nine from Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra”

  1. It was an excellent performance with the LPO strings sounding especially rich in the finale. I was sitting not far from the worst of the evening’s coughers, and it caused a lot of disruption.


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