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Mahler: Symphony No. 6 [Hybrid SACD]
Mahler, Valery Gergiev, London Symphony Orchestra
Mahler: Symphony No. 6 [Hybrid SACD]
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #1

Valery Gergiev's eagerly anticipated debut recording for LSO Live is also his first recording of Mahler's music and the first in a complete cycle of the composer's symphonies. Recorded in November 2007 as part of his sensa...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Mahler, Valery Gergiev, London Symphony Orchestra
Title: Mahler: Symphony No. 6 [Hybrid SACD]
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Lso Live UK
Release Date: 4/8/2008
Album Type: Hybrid SACD - DSD, Import
Genre: Classical
Style: Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 822231166122


Album Description
Valery Gergiev's eagerly anticipated debut recording for LSO Live is also his first recording of Mahler's music and the first in a complete cycle of the composer's symphonies. Recorded in November 2007 as part of his sensational concert series of the symphonies, Gergiev delivers an intensely emotional account of this pivotal work. Does Mahler's Sixth Symphony foretell the tragedy of his later life, or does it have a more cerebral purpose? Whatever the composer's motives for writing it, tragic it certainly is: driven, bitter and sweet by turns, and ending in devastation - utterly compelling.

CD Reviews

Not bad, not good, just another Sixth
MartinP | Nijmegen, The Netherlands | 04/19/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Before I heard this disc, my experience with Gergiev's Mahler consisted of two very different concerts: a spellbinding Sixth in Rotterdam, sometime in the early 90s; and more recently a near-catastrophically muddled 8th in Amsterdam. This disc sets the record straight in so far as to prove that Gergiev is as adequate a Mahler conductor as any. The British press has hurled an inordinate amount of abuse at this recording, which I find mostly undeserved. Gergiev may lack a distinct individual vision, but he clearly has a grip on the architecture of the piece, and the playing throughout is quite fine, disregarding a few moments of suspect intonation and an occasional rough entry. Instruments in the lower registers come through particularly well, and the horns are brilliant throughout.

Critics, freely projecting their prejudice without apparently actually listening, have called the recording blunt and rough, whereas to my ears one of its main faults is that it is generally too polite, and lacking in bite. Just before nr. 84 in the Scherzo, for instance, it is obvious the oboes haven't got a clue what the word "grell" means (or maybe they did, but the engineers failed to catch it). On the other hand I love Gergiev's brisk, purposeful tempos - there are so many recordings where the first movement's "non troppo" kills the "energico", but here the pace is just about perfect. Elsewhere, too, tempos are consistent, unmannered and well-judged, even though Gergiev like so many seems to think that "Nicht eilen" means "slow down".

The problem is that in a field so crowded, adequate hardly does it, and in the final reckoning for me this disc lands squarely on the heap of also-rans - it is a recording that does not plumb the true depths of this piece, but to which I will return occasionally for some felicitous details. Such as the fine, tender, unsentimental Andante; the beautiful realization of the pastoral interlude in the first movement; or even just the dizzying rushes of semiquavers in the quartet of bassoons, for once clearly audible, towards the end of the finale (after #150).

Unfortunately, the appeal of this disc is significantly lessened by disappointing, colourless sound, at least when listened to on a regular CD-player. I am used to dry sound from this source, but in this case I found it unpleasantly congested. It's almost as if a thick curtain is drawn between orchestra and listener. Violins (antiphonally seated as they should be) sound thin and at times disembodied, winds lack presence and attack, and climaxes never quite open up as they should. The hammer blows don't register at all, while the bells in the finale, as so often, register rather too clearly and are too rhythmically and tonally distinct.

Top choice for this piece remains with Karajan, Chailly, Bernstein and Eschenbach, all magnificent in their very different ways.
Truly exciting and quite fast (but not THE fastest)
B. Guerrero | 04/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"First, the facts: Gergiev's Mahler 6 is in andante/scherzo order, and has two hammer strokes (not 3). Timings are, I - 21:59; II - 13:53; III - 12:34: IV - 28:45. Now the review.

I completely concur with the previous reviewer. It's unfortunate that Gergiev has been taking a lot of flack for his Mahler in the London press, but there's no way for us outsiders to judge his results beyond this first release. But if you're going to take a fast and furious approach to any Mahler symphony, the "tragic" 6th one is a great place to start - especially given the rather lean and mean, British sportscar-like attack and sound-world of the LSO; combined with The Barbican's relatively dry acoustics. This orchestra knows their Mahler as well as any on the planet, and they always respond best to conductors who bring some genuine excitement to the table. Just think back on some of these golden oldies with the LSO: Solti M1; Horenstein M1; Stokowski M2; Bernstein M2; Kaplan M2; Horenstein M3; Benjamin Britten's M4; Rudolf Schwarz M5; Jame De Preist M5 (great playing, but De Preist ruins the ending by slowing down waaaay too soon); Levine M6 (Gergiev is even better!); Tilson-Thomas M7 (really better than his S.F. one); Bernstein M8 (hugely underrated!); Leopold Ludwig M9; Solti M9 . . and on and on it goes.

Yes, Gergiev is a tad fast with the symphony's opening march, but he's joined by some very illustrious company from previous decades: Bernstein, Kubelik, Solti, Karajan, Kondrashin - all these guys were quick goose-steppers. Mahler writes "Allegro energico, ma non troppo". All that he's asking for is an energetic allegro, but no faster. In my opinion, many conductors and critics have been making too big a deal of the "non troppo" part of that description. The more important issue, however, is whether the conductor succeeds in achieving sufficient contrast between the opening march - fast or slow - and the movement's contrasting second subject; the so-called "Alma theme". I believe that Gergiev does. Better yet, unlike with Haitink's latest Chicago go-around on Mahler 6, Gergiev builds up steam and genuine excitement (imagine that!) in the movement's concluding coda passage, but without the kettle drums drowning everybody out - a way too frequent occurrence (Haitink is just sluggish throughout).

Andante: thank goodness that somebody these days can observe Mahler's "andante moderato" tempo description. In fact, the word "langsam" (slow) never appears once in the score (it's all over the famous Adagietto from Mahler 5!). Gergiev clocks in just a few seconds short of 14 minutes, which is pretty much what Mahler himself consistently clocked-in at. More important - and again, unlike Haitink/CSO - Gergiev just nails the first "Alpine" passage, located just five minutes in: ascending, unison horns; on-stage cowbells; naive sounding solo trumpet; swirling violin trills - all of this simply couldn't have been done any better.

Scherzo: this is the second best scherzo I've ever heard in M6; the best being Simon Rattle on both of his recordings (a live Berlin one does exist). Mahler's numerous, sudden tempo shifts all pivot on a dime here, just as they should. In addition, Gergiev plays up Mahler's deliberate sound effects, so that the scherzo sounds as spooky - downright expressionistic, really - as it does nervous. Let's face it, this is Mahler at his halloween best.

Finale: well, it just gets better! Gergiev unleashes the strings, brass, and percussion of the LSO (woodwinds are a bit recessed), and they have themselves quite a field day. But there's some genuine thinking and a few subtleties displayed here too. For example, I like how Gergiev speeds up while approaching the first hammer-stroke, but approaches the second one with great trepidation - the soldiers feeling reluctant to get themselves sucked into another huge cataclysm. The final allegro "charge" passage is outstanding, and I like how he gets his low brass to play with lots of sleezy vibrato in the slow, funereal dirge that follows. But now I'd like to draw your attention to another big contrasting point between this M6, and the Haitink/CSO one - released on the same day by the same distributor, no less!

The final allegro (fast) "charge" section - starting about 18 minutes in - is capped by a brief but important passage that I like to call, "the false victory parade". Both Gergiev and Haitink get their horns to loudly belt out that victory parade tune (Haitink slows down for it), but Gergiev is far better in bringing out the percussion underneath it. This is yet another example of the CSO percussion sounding too reticent under the excellent Chicago brass at a critical climactic juncture (but I'll save all that for a more appropriate review). Gergiev is excellent here, as he is with everything else in the last 10 minutes of the symphony. My only complaint is minor one: I would prefer that Gergiev had been slower with the symphony's final A-minor outburst at the very end (Chailly does that superbly!). But when everything else in the finale is executed so well, it's a very minor complaint indeed."
A not so subtle Mahler 6
Christopher OBrien | Chicago, IL United States | 04/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This reading has left me feeling a little short of excited. The adrenaline rush is there on a superficial level, but that ultimately wears off as it becomes apparent that the multitude of shadings, colors and moods of this piece are just not being explored to the extent that I desire from this particular symphony. Does anybody here remember Spinal Tap? Well, in that film the guitarist refers to his amplifier that "goes to 11". Well, this reading steps up to 11 and doesn't ever seem to let up, and the conductor does not explore the various contours of the score. For my tastes this can become rather numbing. There is no denying that there is energy and plenty of sturm und drang to go around for everyone and I certainly appreciate that in my Mahler. However, there needs to be more variation within the reading in order for me to fully immerse myself in the piece. Eschenbach and Fischer and two examples of conductors with recent readings that cover the entire emotional spectrum. And then there's Bernstein I and II, Levi, Kubelik, Chailly and Bertini among others. Simply, there are many more engaging 6ths out there for your consideration, and if you do enjoy this reading then I urge you to supplement it with others."