SIMON RATTLE AND THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIC; Mahler, Symphony No. 10 (EMI Classics)*** 1/2
Conductor Simon Rattle is rapidly becoming one of today's leading Mahler interpreters. His performances, whether with his old City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra or with the Berlin Philharmonic (where he takes over as music director next year), are potent explorations into Mahler's singular musical world.
This is readily apparent in Rattle's newest recording of the Mahler Tenth. Together with the incomparable Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle brings new depth and meaning to the tortured phrases and plaintive melodies in Mahler's final (and unfinished) symphony.
Mahler sketched out the entire five-movement symphony before his death in 1911 but only managed to complete the opening "Adagio" and parts of the first Scherzo. In the 1960s, English musicologist Deryck Cooke put together a performance version of the work according to Mahler's sketches, and it is this edition that is usually performed today.
In this new EMI release, which, incidentally, won a Grammy for orchestral performance at this year's awards ceremony, Rattle and his orchestra give a convincingly decisive performance that is full of passion, vitality and spiritual intensity. Rattle captures Mahler's heart and soul and also probes the composer's dark side. This is without question the finest Tenth available on CD today.
BRUCE BRUBAKER, PIANO; Glass Cage: Music for Piano by Philip Glass and John Cage (Arabesque)*** 1/2
Even though the title might indicate equal amounts of John Cage and Philip Glass, in reality only about 10 out of the album's total playing time of 63 minutes are devoted to Cage. The rest is taken up by works by Glass, America's venerable minimalist.
At first glance, pairing these two composers might seem rather odd, given their disparate approaches to composition. However, pianist Bruce Brubaker has carefully selected pieces that are compatible in mood and spirit.
The two brief works by Cage, "A Room" and "Dream," are tranquil and melodic and have obvious minimalist tendencies in their thematic repetitiveness.
Of the selections by Glass, "Satyagraha" and "Mad Rush" are unquestionably his loveliest pieces on this album. Both are soothing, reflective and soulful — and overpowering in their understatedness. The melodies and harmonies are rich and voluptuous.
The final piece on this CD is Glass' five-movement "Metamorphosis." The work is maddeningly monotonous, yet surprisingly varied.
Brubaker is an outstanding proponent of this music. He understands it and has an obvious kinship to it that translates into stimulating and exciting interpretations. His performances are simple and straightforward and, above all, expressive.