SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
* MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 – London Symphony Orchestra /Valery Gergiev – LSO
Published on April 16, 2008
Since its release on April 8th, this recording has made quite a splash in the music world and introduced Gergiev – acclaimed mostly for his conducting Russian works – as a first rate Mahlerian. This season, London is going to be hearing all of Mahler’s symphonies conducted by Gergiev in a festival of the works, but this is the first recording in the series. And quite a disc it is!
First, this is one of the fastest Mahler Sixths you’ll find. The music becomes more sunny and less morose, as though a weight has been lifted from it – a weight that Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas and others tend to stress. But Gergiev is very flexible with his beat and sections that cry out for more elongation for effect get it. Everything is very intense – don’t mistake this for pop concert Mahler – just more quickly paced. The LSO members goose-step thru the first movement’s opening march section at a good clip, but that makes more of a contrast with the later trumpet-playing of what’s been called “Alma’s Theme.” The Andante doesn’t dawdle but it captures the alpine scenery section beautifully with the cowbells and solo trumpet.
The Scherzo, which he places following the Andante (not the reverse as MTT and some others do), seems to put emphasis on Mahler’s rather spooky sound effects in the orchestra. Its faster pace doesn’t make it any less mysterious. The Finale is Gergiev’s masterpiece, with the hero’s march section delivered with plenty of confident percussion, making it all the more shocking when those two hammer blows strike down the conqueror in his tracks. Mahler said they should be like “the stroke of an ax,” and they are. All concerned play their hearts out. The hi-res surround engineering is superb, though the Barbican seems to have less interesting reverb than some of the other Mahler recording venues. I’ve always had the Sixth at the very bottom of my list of the Mahler symphonies, but this exciting SACD erases that ordering for certain.
If you’d like an introduction from Valery Gergiev to this recording, watch one of his several You Tube videos on the subject.
– John Sunier