Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, his final completed work (the Tenth was left unfinished), formed the first of two programs in the Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Miami residency.
The opening Andante comodo can be perplexing – a long journey rife with misleading clues as to where it is going and when it will arrive there. Franz Welser-Möst led the Clevelanders along a scenic route, evoking beautiful sounds: strings were rich and vibrant, there was clarity within woodwind and brass, the prominently scored harps were excellent, and lower-pitched instruments were especially resonant in this fine acoustic. Welser-Möst brought tremendous power to climactic passages and tenderness to the movement’s closing minutes, which featured numerous fine solos.
In the second movement, of three dances – two Ländler, fast and slow, separated by a brash waltz – Welser-Möst skillfully managed their transformations and interchanging, and the succeeding ‘Rondo-Burleske’ proved a tour de force, taken rapidly and spinning ever more wildly, but never out-of-control, to a startling finish, which heightened the contrast with the opening of the final Adagio, here balm to soothe nerves worn ragged, played beautifully whether tuttis or individually within a structure that Welser-Möst perceives as being a theme-and-variations, the concluding section given with utter calm, fading away gently.