Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986

By Lewis M. Smoley | Go to book overview

SYMPHONY NO. 6 IN A MINOR
("TRAGIC")
Movements:
1. Allegro energico, ma non troppo.
Heftig, aber märkig
2. Scherzo, Wuchtig.
3. Andante moderato
4. Finale Sostenuto - Allegro moderato.

(N.B.: In the listings, "Revised Version" refers to that in which the middle movements listed above are reversed.)

ABBADO, CLAUDIO/Chicago Symphony - 2-DG 2707117 (1980); DG 423928–2 GGA2 (1989); 10-DG 447 023 (1995) "83:06"* Abbado offers a generally fine, if somewhat uneven reading that has the added advantage of polished playing and excellent sound quality. Best is the first movement with a strong, vibrant march and a soaring second theme Choralelike transition passages are hauntingly beautiful and abrupt mood shifts are rife with passion. Abbado has complete command of Mahler's idiom. Now that it has finally become apparent to most conductors how important the first movement exposition repeat is to the overall structure, this repeat (rare in Mahler's works) is taken more often than not, as it is here. Abbado would have enhanced the devilish humor of the Scherzo if he had not insisted upon pushing the tempo rather than giving it more weight. Suddenly, his care in rendering details wanes and too many interesting nuances are overlooked. The grazioso sections are too cautious and are paced in a tiresome manner, while other sections are restlessly driven Despite many affectations little of the irony of this caricature of Viennese style comes across. On the other hand, Abbado captures the dreamy lyricism of the slow movement with much sensitivity and expressiveness. Balances are not always appropriate (e.g., weak pizzicati in bass strings). A reflective mood pervades the softer passages, giving way to moments of poignant intensity that culminate in a heart-rending climax. Abbado elicits some strong playing in the finale, despite weak percussion. The absence of a thoroughly convincing overall conception is particularly hampered by Abbado's tendency to drag or press forward unduly at times.

ABBADO, CLAUDIO/Vienna Symphony (perf. 24 May 1967) "REVISED VERSION" Hunt CD-553 (1988); Hunt/Arkadia CMHP 553.1 (1993) "79:07"+ This live performance is only of historic value. With close-miking, awkward woodwind intonation,

-141-

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Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Symphony No. 1 in D Major ("Titan") 1
  • Symphony No. 2 in C Minor ("Resurrection") 33
  • Symphony No. 3 in D Minor 59
  • Symphony No. 4 in G Major 81
  • Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor 107
  • Symphony No. 6 in a Minor ("Tragic") 141
  • Symphony No. 7 in E Minor ("Song of the Night") 167
  • Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major ("Symphony of a Thousand") 189
  • Das Lied Von der Erde 205
  • Symphony No. 9 in D Major 225
  • Symphony No. 10 in F-Sharp Major (Unfinished) 255
  • Bibliography 268
  • Index to Conductors 269
  • Index to Orchestras 284
  • Index to Soloists 298
  • Index to Choruses 322
  • Index to Record Labels 334
  • About the Author 355
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