The Most Dangerous Ding Dong

Here’s one of our favorites, David Hurwitz, on a new recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony:

Having enjoyed David Zinman's Mahler cycle to date, I came to this release with high expectations. What a disappointment! This is a lame, undercharacterized performance. It has one thing going for it: a nice clarity to the string counterpoint (and this work has lots of it), but this is a purely technical issue since emotional expression seems not to be high on Zinman's list of priorities. The opening funeral march is about as flat-footed as they come. Its two big outbursts don't so much climax as simply fizzle. This "wet noodle" approach positively kills the second movement. Could anyone call the opening "vehement", as Mahler demands, or is it simply neat as a pin? At nearly 19 minutes the scherzo sags badly well before its quiet central section. The adagietto is pretty (when is it not?), and the finale has the most string counterpoint and so bounces along reasonably well; but the final chorale has the weakest brass playing on disc combined with a tempo that starts off too fast but winds up too slow. The ample acoustic further blunts the music's impact.

Positively scathing. But, David’s not done yet!

The most dangerous thing about this whole production is the cover...

Hmmm. Dangerous cover. Hmmm? What could he possibly be talking about? What could possibly be dangerous AND on the cover? I suppose if the cover was laced with arsenic, then it could be dangerous. Or if the cover was fabricated out of used needles, then it could be dangerous.

This just doesn’t make sense, though. He must be talking about an image. So what image could possibly be dangerous?

(possibly the first full-frontal male nude to grace a Mahler symphony album).

Oh. A penis. A ding dong. How stupid of me (slaps forehead with palm).

Figure 1. Paleolithic police sketch artist's rendering of suspect album cover.


Sator Arepo said...


It's fine that he did not like the recording/performance. And his critiques were specific, which is refreshing.

1) Don't use the phrase "string counterpoint" twice in the same paragraph.

2) WTF does "the ample acoustic" mean"? What? Who? Where? Acoustic, I think, should modify something. "Acoustics" would be different; I am confused by this phrase.

3) Complaining about penises is stupid...duh.

That's all I have for now.

Empiricus said...

Now, I'm sure David was merely exaggerating; he's trying to say that the recording lacked a certain danger or excitement--penises are, in fact, not all that dangerous, especially in painting form.

I just wasn't in the right mind frame to pick apart the "The adagio was pretty (when is it not?)" bit. That just flat out irks me. When exactly does a performance get a free pass from criticism? Only when the piece is really, really, super-really pretty?

Anonymous said...

I think they must have put the penis on the cover to make up for lack of it on the recording. At least from David's description!

"uh___, uh___, he said D-O-N-G, huh, huh, huh..."

....ps great labels!