MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A Minor – Berlin Philharmonic/Claudio Abbado – DGG Multichannel SACD

by | Aug 15, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A Minor – Berlin Philharmonic/
Claudio Abbado – DGG Multichannel SACD (2 discs) 00289 477 5684, 79:37

Abbado’s third recording of this symphony was made during a live
concert in June of last year when the conductor returned to the podium
of the Berlin Philharmonic for the first time since he had resigned in
2001.  He had already recorded four other of the Mahler symphonies
before and following the cancer operation he had which removed his

This is a heartfelt and emotional reading of the work – to my thinking
the most difficult of Mahler’s symphonies to “get.”  Mahler
couldn’t make up his mind about the order of the second and third
movements.  Abbado follow the order of the work’s first two public
performances, playing the Andante movement with its inspired melody
first after the opening movement, followed by the Scherzo which is a
sort of  short parody of the initial movement. Abbado’s Andante is
quite a bit shorter than many other recordings of the work. The final
and longest movement finds Mahler overcome with a desolate sadness. The
two famous hammer blows in the movement signify the depths of despair –
verging on madness.

The Berlin Philharmonic has started a Mahler cycle with its new
conductor, Simon Rattle, but Abbado seems to be continuing the Mahler
series he started with them earlier.  While it’s difficult to beat
what is arguably the finest orchestra today, I find the 9/12-15/2001
live recording by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony
to plumb even deeper emotional depths and to benefit from a more
open-sounding and naturally reverberant surround soundfield. 
Considering the timing (starting the day after 9/11), no wonder it’s an
emotional performance! It is also more Mahler for the money, being
87:30 in length.  I’m curious why DGG didn’t put the Abbado
recording on a single SACD, since the total is under the 80-minute
limit for a single disc.

– John Sunier

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