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An intensely expressive Mahler Ninth
Ancerl offers an intensely atmospheric reading of the Andante, songlike (great horns!) and menacing. Scherzo and Rondo sound properly sarcastic, and the Adagio is soulful and moving; but it is a shame that the C# minor middle section is too fast compared to its D flat surroundings. Nevertheless, a great reading in great sound.
The classic Mahler 2
Klemperer delivers a fastish reading full of purpose. Good orchestral playing, good soloists and choral singing, and a recording that is more than adequate for the early sixties.
The first - till one of the best
A great recording since all this years. Bernstein discovered Mahler for all of us.
The playing is quite astounding...the recording is a beauty...
If you think the ne plus ultra of symphonic fatalism is Tchaikovskys Fourth, then you haven't spent enough time around this monumental statement from Mahler, never mind scratched below the surface for the subtext.
According to Alma Mahler, the Sixth Symphony is autobiographical, but written in advance of events; musical second sight if you will. Her husband was as happy as at any time, yet here he was writing the darkest, most devastating music: this symphony, and his Kindertotenlieder - songs on the death of children. The Symphony's Scherzo has inside it what Alma called 'the arrhythmical play of little children'...but by the time we get to the coda, the childish voices become more and more tragic, finally to die out in a whimper. Mahler himself wrote that in the Finale 'the hero...is assaulted by three hammer-blows of fate, the last of which fells him as a tree is felled' - so when in 1907 the Mahler's eldest daughter died of diphtheria, Mahler lost his post at the Vienna Opera, and his life-threatening heart condition was diagnosed, you can understand Alma's emotional accusation that her husband had been tempting fate with his Sixth Symphony.
Mahler's view was that in common with other artists, he sometimes had the power to look into the future through his creations, but that he was powerless to influence events. And given his reaction to the dress rehearsal for the first performance of the Sixth - uncontrollable sobbing backstage - he seems to have been terrified by his musical vision, so much so that one of the three hammer-blows was struck out, so as not to tempt the very fate he was describing in his music.
So how do you climb this emotional mountain? There's a tightrope to walk between honesty and hysteria, emotional blackness and emotional blackmail...between Boulez and Bernstein, if you want me to come right out and say it. You won't budge Lenny's army of fans: for them only his Mahler fully explores the emotional extremes...but others come away exhausted, feeling beaten into submission. As a Bernstein disciple, it's fascinating to find Tilson Thomas tending more towards emotional moderation...which is not to say you're given an easy time, not at all. There's a ferocious energy and electricity to the San Francisco Symphony's performance that's harnessed to the natural flow of Tilson Thomas's interpretation; no extremes of tempo and rubato, no emotional hype - just an impression of inevitability as this massive orchestral machine goes about its business...and isn't that exactly what this symphony needs? This Mahler 6 talks to you where others scream for attention, and it's more powerful for its moderation. When the climaxes come in the terrible, crushing Finale, they're especially agonising for not having been pre-empted.
The playing is quite astounding; while you wouldn't mistake this for the Vienna or Berlin Philharmonics, the San Francisco Symphony strings have warmth with tremendous agility, the wind solos are superb, and the impact of the brass is tremendous. The recording is a beauty, clear as the cowbells in the last movement, and you should note that this is a two-layer disc, so it'll replay as a standard two-channel cd, or as a multi-channel SACD. If you're an early-adopter, I have it on good authority that this is one of the most impressive surround-sound super-audio offerings so far (although I can't prove it yet for myself; I dont get paid for these reviews! But if anyone wants to offer me the use of a suitable player and surround system, I'd be happy to find it a home...).
So, a really promising start to Tilson Thomas's Mahler cycle from San Francisco, on the Orchestra's own label (distributed outside America by AVIE).
There's just one point to add, something I didn't want to allude to earlier as it might have coloured my comments. This recording is from live performances, the first of which was on September the 12th 2001...and we can only imagine the impact this violent, tragic symphony had on its American audience, the players and conductor within hours of watching the Twin Towers collapse. The booklet talks of the performance helping all involved gather their thoughts and emotions as they attempted to come to grips with chaos. The last movement's two fateful hammer-blows have probably never seemed so awe-ful, so absolutely final.
Andrew McGregor - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3
An entertaining listen, as changeable and dynamic as any of the composer's best work.
Sir Simon Rattle has a long and well-documented history with Mahler's symphonies and especially the ‘Resurrection’, having recorded it previously with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. It's tempting to go back and listen to that original recording to establish whether or not any wild, youthful quirks or hoary comforts have snuck into either that one or this brand new one, but ultimately such comparison doesn't reveal exactly how well Rattle and his Rabble handle the work. In many ways the symphony itself is as turbulent and changeable as Rattle's time at the helm of the legendary Berlin Symphony, which makes for an entertaining listen, as changeable and dynamic as any of the composer's best work.
Spreading the work over two discs is perhaps inevitable, but splitting after the very first movement is actually rather canny – Mahler specified that there be a five-minute gap after the movement for the audience to settle down in. Listening to this live performance of the first movement, the audience needed it. The funereal opening yields to incredibly wide contrasts, clattering col legno in the lower strings in particular giving the impression that the 'Resurrection' is something we might never actually arrive at. Throughout, Rattle marshals his players enough to let the schizophrenic terror of the movement have its effect.
With the five-minute gap duly observed, the remainder of the symphony retains the opening's wilful habit of shuddering between extremes. Momentum is paramount in the early stages of the darkly capricious third movement, but the goal is what Mahler called the "death shriek" of the movement. Here, it's given plenty of orchestral clout, but it's the way Rattle encourages the orchestra to die away from it that impresses. Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena's careful turn in the concertante-style fourth movement is the only element on the whole disc that could have used a little more eruptive force, but as a moment of calm before the storm of the finale, it's still plainly enjoyable.
Beginning with another iteration of that "death shriek", terror is once again firmly established in the finale, and it's with a glorious sense of impending doom that we are guided through offstage brass fanfares and tittering woodwind. Exultantly we are drawn onward, though, toward the inevitable choral closing section, which is positively heaven-sent when it finally arrives. It's a stretch for any choir to perform it convincingly given the exceptionally wide vocal range, but the tension is so deftly and powerfully built throughout it that it doesn't seem testing at all. Tension is built in a pleasingly covert manner by Rattle, by this point surely convinced that the hard work is over, until the concluding release. It's one of the more climactic endings in the symphonic repertoire, and in Rattle's hands it is supremely thrilling. "Die I shall, so as to live!" so the chorus belts – and it seems that's exactly what was going through their heads.
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This is the one! Plug in the headphones and listen to this huge huge symphony!
one of the runners up
Why not go for Solti which is always reliable. Start with his no. 6 which is the best account ever recorded.
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