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The sixth of nine,
This review is from: Mahler - Symphony No 6 (LSO/Gergiev) (Audio CD)
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Of Mahler's nine complete symphonies the 6th is probably one of his lesser known, often pushed behind the more popular first, second, fifth and eight. Composed in 1903-4 during a happy period (his marriage to Alma Schindler and the birth of their second daughter) the work underwent many revisions before its premiere performance in 1906, conducted by Mahler, with the concert program showing the nickname `Tragische' (Tragic) for which it is still known.
The work is scored for large scale orchestra, with Mahler's typical duplication of instruments- in this case two harps - and the inclusion of some unusual percussion instruments such as a hammer intended to produce a "brief and mighty but dull" sound.
Mahler's compositions, considering his fame it's difficult to believe he wrote fewer than twenty, lie on the fringes of many people's musical tastes but for others provoke a lifelong passionate study of the composer and his music.
The 6th symphony, this version is 77 minutes long, demonstrates the dramatic, turbulent and often bleak emotions which typify Mahler's work and presents a challenge for those more accustomed to the shorter and more easily accessible symphonic works of, for example, Mozart. I think musical pieces like should be treated as a journey, best enjoyed when time permits them to be played in their entirety from start to finish to enable the range of emotions to be placed in context with the whole composition.
This `live' recording (there's no audience noise) was made by the London Symphony Orchestra at their resident Barbican Centre, London, during November 2007 and represents the first of a complete Mahler symphony cycle to be recorded throughout 2007 to 2009. The LSO performances are outstanding and the recordings match those of their usual standard, being presented here in multi-channel audio for those with an SACD player.
The LSO recently produced a stunningly exciting complete Beethoven symphony cycle and presumably this Mahler cycle will follow the same format of releasing each CD as it is recorded, then offering the entire works as a box set upon completion.
I made the mistake of buying the individual LSO Beethoven releases as they became available and then buying the box set when it was released, and judging the excellent quality of this first Mahler release I'll probably do the same again.
One complaint (shared by others) - and there's time for the LSO Live label to rectify it on subsequent releases - is the lack of track list and times on the back of the CD.