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Mahler Symphony No 9
Staatskapelle Dresden/Harding
Barbican Hall, London, January 10, 2007

Michael Sinclair, who runs single-handedly The Opera Critic, one of the most successful classical music websites, relies for its appeal mainly upon comparative reviews gleaned from the world's print and electronic media. He contributes sparingly himself (mainly about events within reach of his antipodeal home).

Musical Pointers is happy from time to time to defer to the expertise of colleagues on other websites in a collaborative spirit, and this is a particularly good opportunity to do so. Mahler's Ninth has been a key presence in my musical life since buying the 10 or more of the 1938 Bruno Walter 78s as a youngster.

In a good performance it renews itself as my favourite work in all music. Daniel Harding's with the great Dresden orchestra was one such, and will have left everyone present eager to hear more Mahler under his baton. There was no egoism on display - he's not one of those who "conduct the audience" - and it was a pleasure to watch the ebb and flow of the score being moulded by his expressive gestures to the orchestra, its asperities never underplayed.

I was especially overwhelmed by the Dresden strings, whether in full sonorous tone, like none heard from other orchestras in recent concerts, or in pared down vibrato-less pianissimo. Praise too for the January London audience, which managed to suppress its seasonal coughing through many long moments of intensely silent listening; an outbreak of relieved applause from one corner of the hall at the end was quickly stifled until Daniel Harding was ready for us to express appreciation in the only way conventionally available.

At which point it is a pleasure to give way to two colleagues, writers who both expressed our own feelings more thoroughly and eloquently than could Musical Pointers' editor; Douglas Cooksey for Classical Source, and Edward Seckerson in The Independent.

Peter Grahame Woolf