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Symphony No 6 "Tr

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 26 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal Music Canada
  • ASIN: B000006ONY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #138,087 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. I. Allegro Energico, Ma Non Troppo: Heftig, Aber Markig
2. II. Scherzo: Wuchtig
3. III. Andante Moderato
4. IV. Finale: Allegro Moderato

Product Description

Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A Minor, Tragic

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Let me start by saying that I own several Mahler Sixths (M6s). I have Barbirolli/EMI, Bernstein/NYPO, Sanderling, Szell, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), and LEVI. And I have heard others.
Yet, Levi is one I come back to time and time again. To wit:
I have yet to hear a better recorded or played M6. The sonics of this recording are superb, ultra nonplus! Although I find the *volume warnings* on the casing to be a little facetious. As for the ASO's playing, it's phenomenal, not a single note is fluffed in this extremely complex symphony. (Read the booklet notes to find out why.)
Interpretatively, Levi's M6 is absolutely proportioned and balanced. He doesn't oddly stretch tempi or anything of the sort. Frankly, I find his finale to well-nigh perfect. And be ready for the final section, because the hammerblows will BLOW YOU AWAY!!! The scherzo is beautifully characterized. The "Altvaterisch" (literally "Old-Fatherish") trios have a slight lift to them that's really plucky and truly harkens one to the image of "children playing" (ref. Alma M.). The Andante is played "just right", neither too fast (ref. Szell), nor too slow (ref. Barbirolli/Bernstein/Rattle).
It's the first movement where some people have a problem with the Levi M6, where I do not. What is it? The Levi M6 omits the exposition repeat of the first movement. No one knows whether this is an interpretative choice of Levi's or just a timing factor (to constrain this music to one disc).
As a member of the Gustav Mahler Discussion Forum, I know that interpolating the expo repeat back into the movement only stretches it out to about 22-minutes, which really wouldn't change the movement interpretatively (at least to my mind).
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I own 11 versions of Mahler's "tragic" symphony, and I must say that this is near the top of my list at about #3 or #4. It is recorded in amazingly clear sound. The four sections (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion) are all captured vividly. I usually don't take to fast first movements of the 6th, but here I can tolerate it because there is much energy and the Atlanta Symphony plays magnificently. The second and third movements were also done very well. The hammer blows in this recording are two of the best I have ever heard; it sounds like bombs are going off!
However, I will give this recording only 4 stars out of 5 for three reasons. One, even though I'm a trombone player, I feel that the trombones and the whole brass section in general were sticking out too much at times, destroying the polyphony that is so important in Mahler's music. Two, there is no exposition repeat in the first movement. If this was because Levi wanted to emphasize the tragic fall of the hero in the last movement, then fine, but I think the repeat was cut in order to fit the symphony one one disc. I feel that the repeat is needed because the major-minor motif that is so important in this symphony needs to be emphasized. Besides, Mahler called for it! Third, after the second hammer blow, it seemed like Levi lost his way and the energy that was flowing so well throughout this performance seemed to be lost somewhat. It sounded like the musicians were tiring, as this is an exhausting work. This makes the ending almost anticlimatcic. Despite these shortcomings, this is a very fine performance of Mahler 6 and one that I am glad to have in my collection. I would put Boulez's recording on DG ahead of this one because he doesn't miss a step through the whole thing.
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Were it not for the missing repeat in the first movement, this would be one of the finest sixths out there. The Atlanta Symphony has the perfect sound for a piece of this kind. The sheer size of the orchestra demands crystal clarity, and you don't get much clearer than the ASO under Levi's baton. I agree that the fast march tempo in the first movement works well here. This symphony is kind of a transition from light to dark, from life to death (the opposite of the fifth and seventh symphonies) and the fast march tempo gives the beginning of the symphony the life it requires. There is some fine playing and soulful reading taking place here; Levi and his fellow musicians fully understand what is needed to make each phrase effective. The second movement feels much as the first only more serious and weighty. Again it is well-played and every detail is made clear. The third movement brings with it sublime beauty (which Levi and the ASO bring out with true passion) but also a sense of farewell. One does not want to leave this place of comfort, but the wash of moving harmonies and lyrical melodies carries us away into the battle that is the fourth movement. Atlanta shows off its vituosity in this struggle between the hero and fate. Every detail is rendered precisely and brilliantly. Telarc has captured the hammer blows remarkably. The final blow of fate at the end is terrifying beyond words. I still give this CD four stars, however. Upon reaching the end I realized that the entire symphony felt off balance with itself, simply because the repeat in the first movement was omitted. A small but important criticism is that the liner notes could have been more comprehensive. Overall, a remarkable job done by all involved, but the first movement repeat is needed.
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