I joined this Minnesota Mahler Symphony Cycle quite late, with the exceptional account of the Tenth, http://www.colinscolumn.com/osmo-vanska-and-the-minnesota-orchestra-record-mahlers-tenth-symphony-for-bis/, and now here’s an eighty-two-minute Ninth, with numbers Three and Eight to come (no Das Lied von der Erde, it seems, although designated as a Symphony by Mahler, which Osmo Vänskä has recorded in a chamber version for BIS in Lahti). This Ninth, immaculately produced by Robert Suff, is, like the Tenth, fabulously played, and given recorded sound that is an audiophile’s joy – superbly natural, each instrument crystal-clear without spotlighting (Marion Schwebel, March 2022, Orchestra Hall).

Vänskä’s pacing is persuasive, the first movement initially of funereal tread if developing an emotional volatility and intensity, climaxes reached organically nonetheless, aided by an unrestricted dynamic range – Vänskä gives us an opening Andante comodo (accommodating) that is both symphonic and suggestive of a series of diary entries that find the Minnesota Orchestra delivering the tuttis with single-minded purpose and the chamber-music passages with individual character.

The second movement is at first delightfully droll but is soon subjected to contrasts that disturb the easy-going mien – a clash of dance styles – and Vänskä’s concern for detail, whether melodic or decorative, is rewarding. He drives the ‘Rondo-Burleske’ in the fast lane – antiphonal violins coming into their own, as elsewhere – with the slower middle section particularly poignant, and the concluding bars get us chillingly if thrillingly close to the abyss. The slow Finale diverges full-throated impassioned statements (strings really digging in, demands Vänskä) that advise the composer clinging onto life with all possible strength, answered by calls from faraway, then building to a cathartic climax, and ultimately a fade to nothingness that is a masterly diminution of texture from these performers to a twilight zone. BIS-2476 [SACD] is released on May 5 (download already available). Of course, Mahler then went on to at least draft Symphony Ten…