I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: conductor Valery Gergiev is uneven, arguably the most inconsistent major conductor on the international scene. When he’s at his best, he’s sensational.
And yes, I can understand that Gergiev + Mahler + the London Symphony Orchestra = sold-out venue, in this case Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center this afternoon. The problem is that the formula is not necessarily good for the music itself. And though the LSO played brilliantly for teh most part, Gergiev’s sometimes micromanaged, sometimes messy, and completely erratic way with Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 undermined the work’s fury, made too elegant outbursts of rage in the third movement, and completely missed the Kubler-Ross-like home stretch from grief to acceptance. I’ve seen memorable performances of this work under Maazel (with the Cleveland Orchestra during my college years) and Haitink (with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), but if anything, the present performance made me miss the great Klaus Tennstedt more than ever.