Although cutting his teeth early on as a conductor with Wagner and Bruckner, Daniel Barenboim was late coming to Mahler, reflecting the commonplace prejudices of an earlier generation—epitomized by his conducting idol Wilhelm Furtwängler—that Mahler was trivial and bombastic music that was much ado about nothing. Coming to Chicago where a long Mahler tradition existed meant that Barenboim would have to give Gustav a chance. Lackluster and confused performances and recordings early in Barenboim’s CSO tenure of “Das Lied von der Erde” and the Mahler Fifth reflect his then uncertainty about the music, an uncertainty which has been starting to lift in recent years and was crowned by a memorable performance last week of the Fifth that showed an understanding of Mahler that it would have been great if Barenboim had arrived here with instead of leaving us with. The Mahler Ninth has only been in the Barenboim/CSO repertoire since 2003, but has since become the most comfortable Mahlerian fit between them. Elliott Carter’s 2005 CSO commission “Soundings” opens this sold-out concert, although turn-back and standby tickets should be available. (Dennis Polkow)
June 15 at Orchestra Hall.