- Symphony No. 9 in D major
- Rituel: In Memoriam Bruno Maderna, for orchestra
- Notations (11 pieces developed from piano version), for chamber orchestra: I. Modéré - Fantasque
- Notations (11 pieces developed from piano version), for chamber orchestra: II. Très vif. Strident
- Notations (11 pieces developed from piano version), for chamber orchestra: III. Très modéré
- Notations (11 pieces developed from piano version), for chamber orchestra: IV. Rythmique
- Notations (11 pieces developed from piano version), for chamber orchestra: VII. Hiératique. Lent
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Several of Michael Gielen's Hänssler releases feature unusual programming, but this double CD of the "Symphony No. 9 in D major" by Gustav Mahler and two important works by Pierre Boulez is possibly the most arcane match-up of them all. Or at least it seems so until the indirect influence of the older master's austere late style on serialism comes to mind, and the open textures and delicate orchestration of both Mahler and Boulez are pointed out; then the combination is at least understandable on theoretical grounds. And some may argue that the theme of death that dominates Mahler's last completed symphony makes the coupling with Boulez's "Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna" appropriate on a deeply expressive level, though the inclusion of the abstract "Notations I-IV" and "VII" is less easily explained. Even so, many listeners will think the programming of a tonal post-Romantic symphony and two atonal avant-garde works goes too far; and some will need convincing that the performance of the symphony is good enough to carry the package, since the other works are less familiar and unlikely to be played often. Gielen's Mahler recordings are scrupulously clean and crystal clear in practically all details, and apart from a tendency toward brisk, even urgent, pacing, his interpretations feel authentic -- at least according to contemporary thinking on Mahler's practice. But if you are looking for a more grandiose, expansive reading with extreme emotions and exaggerated tempos, then Gielen's performance of the "Ninth" with the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg is far too meticulous, controlled, and tidy to please. It may be stretching things to suggest that only musicians can really appreciate this recording, but it seems that Gielen's transparent, note-perfect rendition is ideally suited for study with a score. The Boulez pieces offer a different musical experience in both their serial techniques and abstruse expressions, but listeners may note with some satisfaction how the ominous opening of "Rituel" corresponds uncannily to the beginning of Mahler's work, and that the dark, haunted tone throughout is well-matched to the symphony's somber, requiem feeling. The audio reproduction is superb, so the symphony has powerful depths of sound (especially vibrant in the trombones in the first movement), as well as ultra-refined nuances in the delicate textures of Notations.