This is a superbly played and, in the main, a superbly conducted account of Mahler's daunting 'Tragic' Symphony. Abbado strictly obey's Mahler's initial indication of Allegro energico ma non troppo by setting off at a standard march tempo of 120 beats per minute and keeping the music of a tight rein thereafter. This is even more evident in the 'symphony-within-a-symphony' of the last movement, where he manages to integrate the various tempi well nigh perfectly - especially in the final elegy, with the crashing 'fate' motive with which the work ends hammered home with great emphasis (for me, other conductors fall at the last fence by taking it just a shade too fast). The problems lie the inner movements, especially the Andante moderato which, interestingly, Abbado places second, whereas most conductors today place it third (Mahler never made his mind up about the order of the inner movements anyway). Having played at least one Mahler symphony under Abbado's direction, I am aware that he does not favour sentimentality, but I feel that he veers too much in the opposite direction here, not always allowing the music time to make its point and almost seeming impatient to move on. Similarly, there is a lack of real engagement in the drama of the nightmarish Scherzo (for example, where are the snarling, mocking horns after figure 78 in the score? Abbado's are far too polite). Listening to these movements under Boulez, Bernstein or Kubelik will prove the point. While the playing of the BPO is well nigh perfect throughout, the recording first rate and the two great hammer blows in the finale properly devastating, for me, Abbado just misses the mark by a whisker. A little less polish and more involvement would have placed this release on the very top of the pile, but as it is, in my estimation Boulez and Bernstein (particularly his second recording and his DVD) are still just ahead.