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Mahler: Symphony No. 6; Piano Hybrid SACD

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Oct. 3 2006)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD
  • Label: Ondine
  • ASIN: B000HRMEM8
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #175,242 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Disc: 1
1. I. Allegro Energico, Ma Non Troppo. Heftig, Aber Markig
2. II. Scherzo
3. III. Andante Moderato
Disc: 2
1. IV. Finale (Allegro Moderato)
2. Piano Quartet Movement In A Minor

Product Description

Product Description

Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - Piano Quartet

Mahler himself called his Sixth Symphony the "Tragic," and described it as posing "riddles" accessible only to those who had "digested" his earlier symphonies. As always, he made extensive alterations not only during rehearsals but also after the publication of the score and the 1906 premiere, producing two authentic versions; the existence of a third is in dispute. He revised the orchestration, including the number of the famous hammer strokes, and changed the sequence of the two middle movements, causing still unresolved confusion and dissention. This recording opts for the sequence of the first version and the instrumentation of the second.

Cast in four movements, the Symphony is purely orchestral and relatively traditional; however, its initial vehemence and ultimate bleak despair contrast starkly with Mahler's successful personal and professional life at the time. His wife later explained this with dubious autobiographical and symbolic interpretations involving herself, their children, even premonitions about Mahler's own health and the still undreamed of future European catastrophes. She also described it as his most personal, deeply felt work, recalling that they both wept when he first played it for her. Indeed, its emotional immediacy, its extreme mood swings--from driving violence to melting lyricism, from playfulness to bitter parody, from triumph to hopelessness--seem to mirror Mahler's mercurial, tormented personality.

The performance is austere, intense, and expansive, but never sentimental, lush, or really warm, even in the profoundly moving Andante. The climaxes soar ecstatically, the Scherzo is diabolical, the opening menacing, the trills and hammer blows terrifying. The single-movement Piano Quartet, a student work, is mostly of historical interest, thematically, harmonically and texturally so primitive that the metamorphosis to Mahler's "real" style appears quite miraculous. The orchestra's fine principals with Eschenbach as pianist do their imaginative best, adding dynamics, rubatos, drama, and excitement. --Edith Eisler

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa181b924) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I would never conduct Mahler six the way Eschenbach does here. Yet, I too am totally won over by this recording. Perhaps the lion's share of the credit has to go to Philly. When Eschenbach deviates from the score - or my ideas of how the piece should go - he does so in a most unarming and convincing manner. Let me put this another way: Michael Tilson Thomas also finds new and unusual places to suddenly slow down, or do a big piece of rubato (the Alma theme). Yet, MTT's decisions strike me as being mostly thoughtless and annoying. With Eschenbach, I find myself saying, "oh, that's different, but it works". I also think that Philly is darn near ideal for this piece; more "Slavic" sounding than "Austro-Germanic". That means hefty low strings; strong low brass; solid percussion; piercing trumpets; uniformly dark sounding horns; piercing clarinets; loud bassoons, etc. And then there's that incredible violin section, which - to my ears, anyway - seems to have lost little since with their salad days with Eugene Ormandy.

As far as I'm concerned, Gramophone magazine can keep the Abbado/Berlin Mahler 6. Berlin is like an overgrown chamber orchestra with a great violin section. Philly is like a big, fat symphony orchestra with a great violin section. Choose your weapon wisely - consider the piece. Also, to be fair, the sonics are simply better here.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa182f444) out of 5 stars Despite artistic liberties, one of the best around Dec 10 2006
By MartinP - Published on
Format: Audio CD
In this recording, Eschenbach repeatedly has his players do things that I tend to find irksome. He's one of those conductors who seem to think Mahler's "nicht eilen" means "slow down", whereas it only means "stick to the tempo, for as an experienced conductor I, Mahler, know very well that orchestra's tend to rush in passages like this". He also doesn't mind ignoring tempo indications altogether, or instigating tempo changes several bars before the point where the score has them. Every second transition is preceded by a huge ritenuto, some in the first movement so quirky that I got the feeling the score was missing a beat. Yet halfway through I was ready to throw the score aside altogether and just wallow in all the beauty, power, emotion and sheer musicality. In spite of (or maybe even thanks to?) the liberties they take, Eschenbach and the Philadelphia O plumb the depths of this music in a way few others have achieved, least of all the recent, much overrated Abbado. You need to turn up the volume to benefit from the full effect of this recording, and even then the first movement may strike you as just a tad too genteel. But it's "reculer pour mieux sautir". The Scherzo is raw and dark and its lonely, desolate ending is deeply affecting. The Andante gets simply the most beautiful performance in any of the 11 recordings I know of this work, Chailly, Barbirolli, Bernstein, Karajan, and MTT among them. It acquires a prayerlike quality and a deep sense of mystery, the strings even contriving to realize Mahler's peculiar request to play "ohne Ausdruck" (without expression) - and that's a compliment. The sprawling finale is firmly held together, and combines waves of increasing power with passages of quiet repose that for once sound as more than an excuse to give the players a moments rest. The placement and sonorities of bells and cowbells are perfectly judged. Throughout, the sounds emanating from the orchestra are breathtakingly beautiful, and fortunately the recording allows the listener to hear almost everything.

The recording is indeed a wonder in itself. It was made in the excellent Verizon Hall - live in concert, as occasional stiffled coughs soon make clear. Yet it leaves almost nothing to be desired. The bass is rich and present, tuba and bass drum coming through spectacularly. And the hammer, well, I seriously wonder whether it didn't damage my headphones; it may not sound like the stroke of an ax, as Mahler imagined (more like a bomb exploding), but its effect is overwhelming. There is bite to the brass, the horns are well-defined, and the woodwinds are not covered up by the strings the way they are in Berlin. The timpani are a bit boomy, and harp, xylophone and celesta sound rather distant, but that's about as much as there is to complain. Except of course for the applause that is left in at the end. Why?? Here's a piece where after the final chord all you want is silence (indeed, no applause would be the greatest token of true appreciation in concert, even), but no: the hollow pizzicato has barely sounded out or there are the hollering bravo's. Weren't these people listening at all? Inevitable in a concert hall, I suppose, but why leave this in on CD? It's completely pointless. Nevertheless: if you're looking for a top-choice modern Mahler 6, buy this disc (and get the rarely recorded early Piano Quartet as a bonus!); just make sure you have your remote handy towards the end.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa20d89d8) out of 5 stars Great Mahler from a surprise orchestra Oct. 13 2006
By P. Weber - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is an absolutely stunning Mahler 6. Quite simply: great sound, great playing and a winning interpretation by a conductor who understands Mahler. This certainly beats recent accounts by Thomas and Abaddo. All four movements have ideal tempos, though Eschenbach is very flexible and knows where to let it breath. Although the andante is liesurely in tempo it is incredibly moving and never drags. The hammer blows in IV are like a bomb blast. Too often we have to settle for poor sound or a dull interpretation, but here we have a great American orchestra and a top recording team. Don't miss it!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa20d8b94) out of 5 stars intense and wonderfully played Feb. 3 2008
By Kostas A. Lavdas - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Another disc in Ondine's refreshing series with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach. Mahler's Sixth, possibly because of its classicism in comparison to most of her sisters, lends herself to readings that would otherwise appear un-Mahlerian. Among US orchestras it is the Cleveland Orchestra that has given us two superb examples that, in spite of their differences, can be considered as falling within this broad `classicist/structural' approach. Cleveland did a very fine job first with Georg Szell (CBS) and, later, with Christoph von Dohnanyi (Decca).

The new recording by Philadelphia /Eschenbach takes a different route. It is certainly neither structural nor austere in its approach. It might be better compared with more impulsive performances, being a journey of discovery rather than a structural rendering. In the first movement, after some passages of great intensity, Eschenbach tends to over-sentimentalize the so-called Alma theme. The Andante gets an intimate and wonderfully played reading. The Finale is, I think, one of the most convincing on record. Still, in the Finale's opening bars one misses the tremendous aesthetic effect achieved by the Berlin Philharmonic in Karajan's recording (DG). All said, Eschenbach's is a reading that might appeal to most contemporary Mahler audiences.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa182f90c) out of 5 stars Very good playing, but Eschenbach's interpretation is ordinary May 16 2010
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The Philadelphia Orch. hasn't exactly been under a lucky star recently. Between financial troubles, the forced exit of Eschenbach, and acoustic jiggery with their new Verizon Hall, the orchestra suffers from low morale and erratic management. I am firmly on the side of seeing Eschenbach go, having heard the bad results he was achieving after an initial honeymoon. But this Mahler Sixth dates from around the time of the honeymoon. Signing with a small foreign record label is quite a comedown for the once mighty Philadelphians under Stokowski, Ormandy, and even Muti. But everyone put the best face on it, and as can be heard here, the musicians give the performance their all. (I believe Ondine has since backed off, and the orchestra has moved on to an in-house label devoted to MP3s of live concerts. Strangely, it features a lot of Eschenbach.)

Eschenbach falls firmly into the solid second rank of conductors, and although he is adept at Mahler, not a single thing happens here that is very distinctive, much less eye-opening. The mood is even throughout, the execution first-rate, the ideas non-existent. At times, as in the opening of the Scherzo, he drags the tempo and loses tension. The first movement's emotional extremes are evened out, much as Mariss Jansons did in his two recordings. But we live in a world where reviewers hype anything and everything, so this quite ordinary performance hasn't lacked for extravagant admiration. At Amazon the five-star brigade forms a solid phalanx.

Reading reviews is always a game of "who do you trust?" I can't induce anyone to trust me over the five-star generals, but when one of them claims that the Philadelphians play the ravishing Andante more beautifully than any of eleven rivals, including the Berlin Phil. under Karajan, my response is skeptical. I hear quite the opposite, but then, who do you trust? In this case, Eschenbach's lack of intensity in the Andante blots out beauty of tone. He ambles aimlessly through the opening of the finale, too. I was continually reminded that good enough isn't good enough in the Mahler Sixth. This is a daunting work, and only the greatest conductors plumb it to the depths. Eschenbach isn't at that level.