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Mahler: Symphony No. 6 "Tragic" Box set


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Product details

  • Audio CD (19 Dec 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Telarc Classical
  • ASIN: B00006EXK1
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,371 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. I. Allegro Energico, Ma Non Troppo: Heftig, Aber Markig - Philharmonia Orchestra
2. II. Scherzo: Wuchtig - Philharmonia Orchestra
3. III. Andante Moderato - Philharmonia Orchestra
Disc: 2
1. IV. Finale: Allegro Moderato (Original Version) - Philharmonia Orchestra
2. IV. Finale: Allegro Moderato (Revised Version) - Philharmonia Orchestra
Disc: 3
1. Benjamin Zander Discusses Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Gustav Mahler
2. Benjamin Zander Discusses Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Benjamin Zander
3. Benjamin Zander Discusses Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Benjamin Zander
4. Benjamin Zander Discusses Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Benjamin Zander
5. Benjamin Zander Discusses Mahler's Sixth Symphony - Benjamin Zander

Product Description

TELA 80586 2 (3cd); TELARC - Stati Uniti; Classica Orchestrale

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Somaware Systems Ltd on 18 Dec 2002
Among Mahlerians the name of Benjamin Zander needs no introduction. Ever since the release of his recording of Mahler's Ninth with the Philharmonia with its accompanying disk with Ben Zander's thoughtful insights in the world of Gustav Mahler and how that world comes to us in his music, new releases in the Telarc series are eagerly awaited.
This Sixth more than fulfils the expectations. The full horror of this extremely uncomfortable symphony hits with visceral immediacy right where it hurts most. Each movement has a well-defined role to play in Zander's understanding of this work and the Zander/Philharmonia partnership delivers gloriously: the strings bite and lash us, the woodwinds snarl and mock, percussion is merciless, the brass section blares out the despair of the "fate motive" but is incredibly soothing in the chorale-like section of the finale, setting us up for the devastating "Zusammenbruch" [collapse] when not only the music but the entire world collapses into chaos and senselessness.
For me this symphony somehow connects the tragic life of Gustav Mahler with the tragic century that his music foreshadows.
The discussion disk is vintage Zander: accessible even for a newcomer to the Mahler world and yet offering surprises for life-long Mahlerians as well. After Ben Zander's shmuss you'll never listen to the Andante again without marvelling at the incredible harmonic complexity of the theme and its many deconstructions and reconstructions.
I am thinking of something to criticise but cannot find anything. Even the conductor's audible breathing at some points does not do any harm but draws us only closer into that immediacy that is the hallmark of this fantastic recording.
I believe that the Third is next in line for the Telarc series. here is one listener who cannot wait.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scriabinmahler TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Nov 2008
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Zander's Mahler recordings are very impressive, but it fails to move me despite ticking all boxes right. Maybe that's the very reason why. I think Mahler's symphony calls for something unexpected, uncalculated, like nature which is infinitely varied and rich. Seeking perfection is symptomatic of many conductors of our generation (maybe it's listers' and critics' fault?), Abbado, Boulez and above all Rattle that control freak! Zander's 6th, I'm afraid, falls into this category. His insightful lecture on the symphony as bonus track is more eloquent than the performce itself!

There used be many imperfect yet memorable Mahler recordings in 60-70s, by Stokowski, Horenstein, Solti, Bernstein, Ormandy, Klemperer, Levine, Kubelik. I want to go back to that era in time machine!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Very good, but middle of the road 9 Nov 2002
By MartinP - Published on Amazon.com
I don't believe there exists such a thing as a bad recording of Mahler 6. This work, arguably the most structurally and stylistically cogent and coherent of the nine (ten, eleven), seems always to draw the very best from its performers; or maybe it simply is so good that it can be performed in many different ways without ever falling flat. Thus I cherish Chailly's rugged and sumptuous reading as much as the coolly detached analysis by Boulez. However, Bernstein's final recording on DG has been an easy and unchallenged winner ever since its appearance a decade and a half ago. To my surprise this recording under Zander does not change that. Surprise, because I was (and am) completely blown of my feet by Zander's recording of Mahler's Ninth. I had expected something equally stunning here, especially after raving press reviews of the concert performances - but I didn't find it. This is simply a perfectly good recording of the work, with some very good highlights, but nothing much to set it apart from, let alone place it above, the best of the existing recordings. The first movement is the least involving. There is too little dynamic contrast, and many of the myriad shadings of foreboding and horror that suffuse this movement are leveled out. Listen to bar 379 and compare that to Bernstein: HE understands the horrible implications of this plunge down from the bliss and ecstasy of love straight back into the abyss, where the obnoxious marching theme rears it ugly head once more. With Zander it is just a passing moment without much special significance, and even the violent outburst a few bars later has no shock-value. It's simply too polite and too cultivated; with Bernstein it is an assault.
Things get a lot better in the middle movements. At the start of the Scherzo the aggressive cross-accents from the very clearly recorded timpani and double basses immediately create the unsettling feeling of the music teetering on the brink of disintegration. Why wasn't this tone and sound adopted for the first movement as well? There seems to be a difference in the recorded sound itself too: as if it opens up. Instrumental attack is bitingly clear now, and inner voices register beautifully. The left-right placement of first and second violins is a great help too - it is incomprehensible to me why this layout is adopted by so few conductors!
The andante is the high point of this reading: it is played very quietly and tenderly indeed, with the few passionate outbursts all the more gripping for it. The playing of horn and woodwind soloists is ravishingly beautiful. The general effect is one of sweet serenity rather than of mystery, though: for that, again, Bernstein is matchless.
Zander offers no less than two full readings of the finale, one of them reinstating the third hammer blow and the original instrumentation surrounding it. I must say I found this original version highly effective. The third blow has extra impact because of its unfamiliarity, and because it falls at another point than where the listener expects it. It truly has the effect of a death-blow, with the cavernous brass dirge (and those heart-rending falling eights in the trombones and horns!) following it as a logical consequence. After hearing this I could imagine something of Mahler's own superstitious fear of what he had created. This recording and Chailly's are, by the way, the only ones in which the hammer blows register with anything approaching the sheer violence of their effect in a concert performance.
That said, Zander's finales suffer from some of the same drawbacks as the first movement. I was bothered by a sudden 'glazing over' of the sound in the development towards the first hammer stroke, almost as if the microphones are slowly being turned away from the orchestra (maybe the recording engineers feared damage to their equipment...?). And not only the sound, the reading itself seems aloof here, mainly a study in terrific orchestration and no match for Bernstein's red-blooded traversal of this amazing symphonic structure. I know there are those who think Bernstein's interpretations eccentric, excessive, hysterical even. However, it seems to me that these are characteristics very well suited to Mahler's no less eccentric, excessive and hysterical personality. You can hardly go over the top with a work like this, that is in itself already completely over the top in every possible way! Playing it with no holds barred pays dividends, which is why Bernstein remains the most compelling champion of this most impressive of symphonies, with all due respect to Zander and his team. Their set, it should be added in fairness, is nevertheless a true bargain and by no means a bad one. If you want to sample the 3-hammerblow version of the finale, I would certainly recommend this disc over Rattle's, which is overwrought and fussy, as most of his Mahler recordings are. Moreover, Zander's illustrated lecture on the third disc is a worthwhile and entertaining bonus.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
NOT THE FINAL SAY, BUT KILLER HAMMERBLOWS!... 21 Dec 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
A lot of details come through in this recording. But Zander's choice of tempo can sometimes disappoint. I prefer the overall headier speeds on Karajan's version (DG label). Still Zander makes a very persuasive argument for placing the Scherzo BEFORE the Andante and for having THREE hammerblows (listen to the bonus discussion CD). I too feel that THREE hammerblows are needed and wish guys like Karajan and Bernstein had conducted the original version of the 4th mvt.
NOW ABOUT ZANDER'S DISCUSSION CD -- Some of his analysis is plain off, even way off, e.g. -
4TH MVT: Zander claims the "Hero" of the symphony reaches an exultant/victorious state right before the third hammer-blow when actually what you hear is the "scarifying" (his own words) music from the start of this mvt. The true way to divide this mvt is by the four appearances of the "scarifying" theme.
1ST MVT: I'm not sure if the "Alma theme" in the 1st mvt was meant to be one of "unbridled" ecstasy and triumph. The theme is actually interrupted halfway by more march music, albeit jovial (something Zander makes no mention of). On Andante.com you can read an analysis by Henri-Louis La Grange, a pre-eminent Mahlerian, who says that this jovial march casts doubt on the "positive nature" of the Alma theme. And in the coda, this theme reaches a "bombastic" crescendo as if the hero was trying to CONVINCE himself of victory, but without really believing it. In other words -- the guy's just trying to psyche himself out. On the Karajan version you can really hear the fake optimism of this theme, especially in the coda. Karajan turns it into a maniacal frenzy. Zander, on the other hand, interprets it in a way that makes it more "positive." But again, I don't believe this was the true intent of Mahler.
I've always looked at this symphony as the portrait of someone going off to "war" even though all signs point to Hell; the guy has to play it out to the end despite knowing he's going to lose. Hence the grim nature of his "march" and the constantly re-occuring "Major-to-Minor" Fate chords. His fate was SEALED from the beginning, from the 1st mvt on.
I've never been a huge fan of Karajan's glossy "blended" sound. I guess others call it "homogenized." But I think his Mahler 6 is one of his better recordings, one in which he achieves a near-perfect balance between "blending" and frenzy. His andante, for example, is outstanding; it's also the only mvt. in which he is slower than Zander. So, if you want to get a completely different picture, one with more bite and might -- try Karajan's (though sadly he has only TWO hammerblows).
CONCLUSION: Zander may not be the final say in Mahler interpretations, but he does bring out some nice details and has awesome HAMMERBLOWS. Just be wary of some of his oversights on the Discussion CD. Still, however way you cut it, this 3-CD set is a bargain and beautifully packaged with excellent liner notes from music critic, Micheal Steinberg (his book, Symphony, A Listener's Guide is great!). In an age where Classical Music has been more marginalized than ever it's heart-warming to see such care put into packaging a Mahler symphony. The CDs are red in color with a beautiful "tragic" font-design.
SO BUY WITHOUT RESERVATION. (Just keep in mind to also get Karajan's for comparison sake and be sure to check out Tony Duggan's list Mahler recordings on musicweb.uk.net Interestingly enough, Tony says Zander's EARLIER recording of the Mahler 6 is one of the finest ever...hmmm...I should get that one too...).
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Value. A Fine, Moving Performance 28 Aug 2002
By George John - Published on Amazon.com
I pre-ordered a copy of the Telarc/Zander/Philharmonia Mahler 6th, and it
arrived today. I would like to share my first impressions. I will need to
listen to it at least once more to fully gauge my reaction.
First, a bit about the release. It's three CD's for the price of one. The
first three movements are on disk one. The second disk has the final
movement twice. The first track is the original version that has all three
hammer blows. The second track has the published version which has only two
hammer blows and a partially reduced score where the deleted third hammer
blow originally was. The final disk is Zander discussing the Mahler 6th and
lasts nearly eighty minutes.
I have only two performances of the Mahler 6th in my collection, the
Solti/CSO and the Horenstein. I admire much of the Solti especially the 1st
and 3rd movements, but have never connected fully with his 4th movement.
Possibly one problem I have had with the Solti 4th movement is by the time I
have finished the 3rd movement I have no further emotional energy to expend
for the 4th. I rarely listen to the Horenstein because there are simply too
many glaring technical errors in the orchestral playing for me to tolerate.
As for the Zander, I'm not quite certain what to say about it. I did find
it very interesting (sometimes fascinating) to listen to and it held my
attention at all times. In certain places I found it very different than
either the Solti or the Horenstein. Zander is noted for scrupulously
following scores so this performance may give us the closest idea of what
Mahler's original intentions were. Perhaps those who have listened to many
difference performances of the Mahler 6th and know the work and score well
will add some comments here.
While holding my attention and interest (there are all sorts of interesting
details brought out, perhaps too much at times?), I found myself not having
the same emotional response to this performance as the Solti in either the
1st or 3rd movements. I did note one reaction at times while listening to
the 1st movement and that was, for the lack of a better word, terror. I
felt the hair on my arms actually standing on end! That was strange.
The plus side of the relative lack (compared to the Solti) of emotional
reaction to the first three movements was that when the 4th movement came I
wasn't emotionally expended. Zander's 4th movement holds together very well
for me. The final few minutes were unlike anything I have heard before
while listening to this work. That 3rd hammer blow is crucial to the work,
IMHO. At the end I was emotionally wrecked, exactly the reaction I have
always thought I should have had, but through 25+ years of listening to this
work have never had until today.
The recording quality is good but not across the board exceptional IMO. For
example, at times the French Horns seem to be much too distant and soft. At
times the first violins seem to be too loud. I think there may be mixing
problems (DSD multi-track down to two?). The hammer blows are astonishing
though, unlike anything I have ever heard before, and extremely effective.
The performance for the most part is very good, but a bit ragged in spots
and near the end I noted one of the lower pitched instruments was struggling
getting the right pitch, but this is all subtle and does not detract much
from the performance.
Given the three-disks for the price of one, this release certainly seems to
be a good value. I would definitely recommend it to someone who doesn't
have a copy of the work. Due to my lack of experience with other
performances, I have no idea where it stands overall. My current impression
is it is not an across the board improvement over my Solti, but my opinion
may change with additional hearings. The CSO in the early 70's had IMO an
exceptional brass section that may never have been surpassed. The brass get
an incredible workout in the Mahler 6th. That's a nice plus for the Solti.
But much of the time the Philharmonia brass do an excellent job and given
the modern recording, the sound is spectacular at times.
One comment, it is very desirable to listen to this in a very quiet
environment. The dynamic range is wide and some of the passages are
exceptionally quiet. I hope some day to own a SACD player and for this to
be released in that format or alternately for it to make it to DVD-Audio
which I do own. I imagine the sound will be improved in much the same way
as the Rattle Mahler 10th, where I was disappointed with the sound on CD,
but was very pleased with what I heard it on the DVD-Audio version.
George
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Zander's insights worth the price 12 Feb 2006
By Mr John Haueisen - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
How do you choose one musical performance over another? Isn't it all just subjective--my perferences and yours or hers?

In the first place, it's hard to describe in words, what Mahler was describing in complex combinations of musical notes.

I have liked something about ALL the performances I've heard of Mahler's Sixth. Some are played faster, some softer, some clearer, some emphasize the strings, some just use cowbells, or a hammerschlag instrument that are more to my liking.

Fortunately, this particular CD set has something that sets it apart: a third CD with 80 minutes of comments on Mahler's Sixth by conductor Benjamin Zander.

Ben Zander provides insight into the symphony by providing biographical information about what was going on in Mahler's life at that time. For instance, he suggests that the three "hammer blows" in the symphony's last movement may refer to Mahler's losing his position at Vienna because of rampant anti-Semitism, his young daughter's untimely death, and his doctor's prognosis that Mahler had an incurable heart infection.

Zander also illuminates the Sixth's "Classical" form, and things such as what kind of sound Mahler desired for the "Hammerschlag" sounds and the various bells in the score.

You probably wouldn't still be reading this if you are not one who enjoys Mahler, so I will tell you simply that since you like Mahler, you'll find Zander's many comments a joy which will help you appreciate Mahler even more.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Still Searching For My Stereo Sixth 19 May 2004
By Jeffrey Lipscomb - Published on Amazon.com
Gosh, I was really hoping that this would be the one - but it isn't. I agree with Amazon critic Dan Davis' assessment of this performance's shortcomings. But I'm not much taken with Davis' suggested alternatives. Gielen strikes me as emotionally constipated, and Levi sounds cold and mechanical. And I just can't get past Bernstein's typically stagey "Look Ma, I'm Emoting!" theatrics.
Zander's Mahler is just a bit TOO civilized. I only wish his performances of Mahler were even HALFWAY as interesting as the lecture discs that accompany them. Very frustrating. As with Bruckner's, the spacious sound world of Mahler just screams for good stereo. I do have a very high tolerance for old mono recordings, largely because of my belief that the "Golden Age" of great conducting (with a few exceptions) ended sometime around 1970.
Until now, my favorite stereo 6th has been the Barbirolli, which offers a tremendously exciting finale. But like Zander, only more so, Barbirolli opts for a first mvt. tempo that is just TOO slow. At least he doesn't take the repeat: otherwise, it would have been the sort of "epic in bloat" that was Celibidache's specialty (fortunately, the Romanian conductor disliked Mahler and left no recordings).
My favorite 6ths are thus all in mono: the extraordinarily neurotic Mitropoulos (available only as part of the NY Phil. 10-disc Mahler broadcast set), the dementia-laden Scherchen/Leipzig (with some grievous cuts, on Tahra), the work's very first recording, by Mahler protegee F. Charles Adler (old sound but tremendous insights, imperfectly realized by subpar playing, on SPA LPs - it was issued in England on Conifer CDs in a miserable transfer), and the 1961 SW German Radio reading by Hans Rosbaud (Rococco LP). The latter is probably closest to my personal view of the work: Rosbaud offers a 20th Century modernist perspective (like Gielen), but with some wonderful traces of old world charm (unlike Gielen).
So, my search for a great stereo Mahler 6th goes on. Maybe I should give the Thomas Sanderling a try - it is highly regarded by British critic Tony Duggan. Incidentally, if you are not familiar with Duggan's writings, be sure to visit musicweb.uk.net and view his Mahler Symphony Survey. He is the most knowledgable, thoughtful, and perceptive Mahler critic I have ever encountered.
The quest continues: where is the Inn of the "6th" Happiness?
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