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A fine consolidation of Abbado's previous Gramophone 2005 CD Award of the Year for the same symphony,
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.6 [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Abbado has the enviable reputation of being one of the world's finest Mahler conductors. This has been further reinforced by his set of performances held at Lucerne with his hand-picked orchestra constituting the Lucerne Festival orchestra. This very large orchestra, apart from containing musicians of outstanding individual abilities, also lays great stress upon their empathy and experience with the world of chamber music. Thus is achieved the unusual combination of orchestral size allied to individual and corporate sensitivity. This suits Abbado's particular vision of Mahler and this is apparent throughout this very fine performance which some would describe as close to definitive.
Abbado has made two previous and successful recordings of this symphony for CD in 1979 with the Chicago Symphony and then in 2005. This latter recording with the Berlin Philharmonic was voted record of the year by the jury at the influential `Gramophone' magazine. The current recording was made in 2006 and differs little from the 2005 audio-only CD. Of course there is the undoubted huge advantage of actually seeing the interpretation unfold before our very eyes.
This symphony is often considered to be Mahler's most tragic symphony and much has been made of the significance of the hammer blows incorporated in the music - the blows of fate. Tragic events of Mahler's life are associated with this and these are regularly referred to as the death of his young daughter, the diagnosis of his own fatal illness plus the loss of his job. Another possibility is the effect of unrest preceding the 1914 war. However all of these events came after the composition of the symphony which was first performed in 2006 and which had been written at a particularly happy time in Mahler's life. So how does Abbado see these conflicting situations?
The first movement march comes over here as fairly jaunty rather than tragic. The cowbells take their place as depicting mountain scenery. Observation of Abbado's face shows delight, pleasure and encouragement. No sign of a tragic interpretation here. The second movement is essentially a peaceful and serenely melodic invention and yet again this is the impression we get from Abbado's body language. The scherzo follows and still the jaunty mood prevails. Abbado, in line with other conductor's reverses the order of these two central movements in order to balance the musical content more evenly within the context of the whole work. Mahler himself pondered over this balance before the final publication.
The last movement brings a considerable change however. In this very long 30 minute movement the mood clearly darkens and Abbado's body language is altogether more sober. At this point it is reasonable to read tragedy into the work without really understanding the motive for its inclusion and the conclusion is certainly bleak. In this performance Abbado holds the audience in total silence for a remarkably extended period before turning to acknowledge applause. There can be no doubt that he sees this symphony as ending in tragedy. This is projected as a considerable contrast with the mood of the first 3 movements and is thus all the more powerful as a concluding statement.
The generously spacious layout of the orchestra allows the camera work to succeed in providing both sensitive detail as well as panoramic views. This visual element makes a telling contribution as we are able to see the changing body language of the conductor and this adds to our understanding of the sounds he brings to our attention. The sound is presented in wide-ranging DTS 5.1 and stereo formats and captures all of this with admirable lucidity.
I would therefore suggest this is a clear contender for potential purchase by collectors and should give much pleasure and satisfaction to all eventual purchasers of the recording. This is a quality product in every way.