Classics Today 10/10; Gramophone: Editor's choice.
The love affair between Alan Gilbert and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra began in December 1997 with a performance of Mahler’s First Symphony. In 2000 Gilbert became chief conductor and artistic advisor of the orchestra, remaining in that post until 2008 – a period which has been described as ‘a golden age’ in the history of the orchestra. For his farewell concert as chief conductor, Gilbert chose to close the chapter by performing Mahler’s last symphony, No. 9 in D major, and the present recording was made in conjunction with this very special occasion. It was a fitting choice of repertoire in another respect as well: Mahler composed his Ninth in 1909-10, after having accepted the post of music director of the New York Philharmonic, the very orchestra that Gilbert now goes on to take charge of. The symphony is often regarded as the composer’s monumental – both in terms of scale and emotional scope – leave-taking of the world. In his insightful liner notes, Arnold Whittall acknowledges the difficult circumstances in Mahler’s personal life at the time of composition, but rather than nostalgia he finds in it a momentum propelling the symphonic genre far into the future: ‘Mahler’s Ninth is one of the crowning glories of symphonic history, and many would argue that it has only rarely been equalled, and probably never surpassed, in the century since its completion.’