MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in a minor – Bamberger Sym./ Jonathan Nott – Tudor multichannel SACD 7191, 80:34 [Distr. by Naxos] (11/19/13) ****:
There are so many recordings of the Symphony No. 6, several in high resolution. This recording is part of an excellent Mahler cycle by conductor Jonathan Nott and the Bamberger Symphony. Although the disc is identified as a 5.1 recording, my Oppo BDP-103 says correctly it is a 5.0 mix. No matter.
The structure of this symphony, subtitled the ’Tragic’ has always been controversial. Mahler changed the order of the middle movements for performance, and even the number of hammer strikes in the fourth movement has been a matter of debate. The ‘Tragic’ tag is also odd, as the symphony was written during a particularly happy time in Mahler’s life due to his marriage and subsequent birth of his daughter. The Symphony premiered on May 27, 1906 conducted by Mahler himself.
The Symphony is one of Mahler’s most conventional, but that does’t make it uninteresting. Quite the contrary. The bold opening notes and the energetic finale make for an engaged listening session. It is far from the most popular in performance, being overshadowed by the Symphony No. 1 and the Symphony No. 5. Even the Second and Fourth symphonies receive more performances and recordings.
The SACD sounds very good. Although this is a recent release, it’s not actually a new recording, dating from 2008. It is crisp and detailed, and the front channels show stable imaging of instrumental positions. The surrounds are subdued but add somewhat to the feeling of realism by capturing the recording location, although as a whole the recording is a bit dry.
Of the SACDs I’ve listened to I prefer the Channel Classics for sonics, and the Michael Tilson Thomas for interpretation. This release stands on the firm middle ground with a solid recording and performance.
This is a fine recording in what has been a reliable and musical Mahler cycle from Nott and Tudor. I’m glad to have it in my collection.