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Symphonies No. 6 [Hybrid SACD]

Gustav Mahler , Gustav Mahler , Michael Tilson Thomas Audio CD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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5.0 out of 5 stars The end of innocence: Peering into the abyss. June 5 2002
Format:Audio CD
In little more than a year, I have now heard four remarkable recordings of Gustav Mahler's Sixth Symphony, each special in its own way and each vying for shelf space next to the version which had long been my favorite, Leonard Bernstein's second recording, with the Vienna Philharmonic, on DGG.
Two of the first three (Benjamin Zander with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and Thomas Sanderling with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra) got the benefit of some commentary of mine elsewhere at Amazon. The third (Michael Gielen with the SWR Orchestra of Baden-Baden/Freiburg) had been in the queue for similar commentary treatment. And then this Michael Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Symphony Orchestra live performance arrived, putting detailed commentary on the Gielen recording on at least temporary hold.
Tilson Thomas (MTT, for short) has gauged this symphony largely along lines most similar to those of Zander in the outer two movements and Bernstein/Vienna ("Bernstein II") in the inner movements, as a "tale of the tape" (comparative movement timings) shows. Each of these three performances has many strengths and few weaknesses. While I personally think that Zander accomplishes the near-impossible in his shattering realization of the final movement, MTT is very close indeed (and provides two hammer blows vs. three, for those "who are counting"). All three are rather evenly matched in the opening movement, but I give a slight edge to MTT by virtue of the atmospheric effects he is able to achieve with the brief "respite" provided by the celeste and cow bells late in the movement; beautifully done. There is little to choose between Bernstein II and MTT in the second-movement Scherzo; they are within a few seconds of each other and "of a piece.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On revisiting MTT's Mahler 6th Dec 12 2003
By Grady Harp TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Though I voiced my opinion of this superb recording of the Mahler 6th Symphony by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in February 2002, I returned to this recording after hearing MTT conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic live in a revisited Mahler 6th. The performance on the recording is a live performance, and indeed the performance with the LA Phil in the incredibly fine new Disney Hall was as 'live' as orchestral performance can be! The interesting comparison is MTT's choice to change the order of the movements of this mighty tragic symphony. In the two years since he recorded the 6th he has rethought the movements and in an eloquent program note he shared his reasons for altering the lineup. The first movement of course remains as does the last - in position as Mahler intended. The novelty was following the 1st movement with the Andante THEN playing the Scherzo just before the Finale: Allegro moderato. The effect is stunning. After the long thundering discourse of the first movement the insertion of the Andante (one of the most languidly beautiful reveries of Mahler's many great slow movements)allows for absorption of the impact of the opening movement. Then the Scherzo can bridge with wry, nasty tongue in cheek comments before the power of the finale sets in.
The SFO plays well for MTT: his performance with the LA Philharmonic revealed even more attention to inner voices and intensity of feeling, perhaps in part due to the superior brass and woodwind sections at his command. Every nuance can be appreciated in the sonics of Disney Hall. This new approach by an ever-growing conductor should be recorded as well. The evening was resplendent! MTT's approach to Mahler continues to command our respect and alter our lives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding March 27 2003
Format:Audio CD
As a professional trombonist and Mahler enthusiast I was very curious about this recording. I have seen MTT conduct in London and was highly impressed. The Mahler 6 is very special to me, as it was to Mahler. I have been wary of buying Mahler played by anyone but European orchestras, so there was some apprehension, I must admit. That disappeared very quickly as I heard a great, well thought out and rehearsed interpretation, supported by world class playing and a recording offering really fine detail while not losing the big picture. My worst nightmare in this piece was realized (on my first listening) when it became clear that the repeat of the exposition in Mvt. 1 used pre-recorded music - listen to the "squeak" at 2'09", the "sniff" at 2'11", and again at 6'55" and 6'57" (both occur on @ beats 3  and 4 of the measures). This kind of re-hashing became evident to me in recordings made in the 1960's and 1970's, the most notorious of which is Karajan's BPO recording of this very same work. This may seem petty, but as a professional musician and music lover, I find it offensive. I realize that most recordings (including live ones like this one) rely on multiple performances and non-live re-takes, but I would rather have a fresh take than re-hashed. A Grammy perhaps, but it shouldn't contain such cheap shots.
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5.0 out of 5 stars glorious tragedy March 11 2003
Format:Audio CD
Originally when I first heard this symphony I really didnt get it. I understood the basic framework but when somebody would tell me something about the work, I just couldn't follow. Then I just sat down outside the music building at my school and committed myself to the work. I listened so closely to the music that I broke through whatever was keeping me from it. I listened to it from a totally emotional perspective, releasing all thoughts of music theory or compositional elements. From this perspective, I learned how to listen to Mahler. His sixth being his most devastating and tragic, hence the title, is the deepest and yet seemingly, most accessible. The universal opinion as to the plot seems to be of a hero for humanity, who is representative of everything humanity is, evil, love, hate, joy etc.. In the 4 movements of this symphony we see many shades of this character.
The first movement is rather militaristic with very gritty and staccato marches appearing throught the 24 minutes of the movement. This harshness is interrupted by what has been called, Alma's theme, a very lush and swiftly majestic melody that shows the hero's human characteristic of love and devotion. This giant movement keeps switching between majesty and tragedy ultimately ending with Alma's theme, suggesting the possibility of hope.
The next movement depends on what recording you have, for this recording, the scherzo comes next, which I think is the best way to do it. This movement, the shortest in the symphony, has been called a parody of the first movement, which is kind of mis-leading.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not For The Beginning Napper
Now don't get me wrong, Mahler's always good for a nap...but if it's a "I need a good night's rest before my big interview tomorrow" type of sleep you need, head over to... Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2003 by Robert Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best symphonies played by the best
It is in my personal opinion that this is the best Mahler 6 recording I have ever listened to simply because the orchestra under the direction of MTT responds to details that in... Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2002 by Alex Bedner
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint of heart
This is a great recording of this great work, a unique and special one, and not for everyone. This live performance cannot be separated from the context of events - this CD was... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2002 by George Grella
4.0 out of 5 stars Brave and Bold
Mahler's 6th symphony is either the highpoint(ask Bernstein, Solti or Karajan) or the lowpoint (ask Abbado, Rattle and Chailly) of a Mahler cycle. Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2002 by Rodney Hrvatin
2.0 out of 5 stars All Bluster No Substance
When it comes to playing the very loud sections of this score Tilson Thomas is in fine form but then so is virtually every other Mahler 6th recording. Read more
Published on June 25 2002 by "orlac"
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best
I cannot add much to others that have praised this recording and performance. The sound is wonderfully clear. Read more
Published on June 13 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars There Are Better
One of the finest performances of the Mahler 6th in concert that I have heard was by Tilson Thomas and the Buffalo Philharmonic back in the 1970's. Read more
Published on June 11 2002 by NNNNN
5.0 out of 5 stars More to come!
If you read the featured review in the May 2002 issue of Grammophone, you'll know that they raved over this recording and performance by MTT and the SF Symphony of the Mahler Sixth... Read more
Published on May 3 2002 by John L. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars From the soul of Mahler comes a fitting elegy for our time
The timing of this new recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 in A Minor could hardly be more correct. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2002 by Grady Harp
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