My first impression of this performance was that Levi is rushing his fences. He takes the opening movement at quite a lick, as fast as any I know; indeed, the whole performance is on the propulsive side, but stick with it: he knows what he is doing and has a clear, over-arching grasp of the architecture of this symphony and it ends up feeling absolutely right. His underlying principle here could be lifted from "Measure for Measure": "Be absolute for death". He runs to embrace disaster and dissolution, yet along the way - particularly in the beautifully reflective third movement and the bucolic cowbell interludes - he is able to encompass moments of quiet contemplation and even serenity. It's a long way from Bernstein's more overtly tortured interpretation but just as valid. Levi's decision to exclude the first movement repeat was obviously made on artistic grounds rather than the desire to fit the whole symphony on to one disc, as that repeat was recorded during the sessions but not spliced in. Obviously Levi did not want it to delay his headlong rush towards the ultimate tragedy. The hammer blows are devastating: a soul-shattering thud that slams the iron gates on hope. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra plays like the greatest band in the world here; they are flawless - and captured by Teldec in wonderful, spacious sound with a terrific dynamic range. This interpretation is perhaps nearest to Szell with the Cleveland, but in appreciably better sound. To me, expecting as I was to prefer a more conventional, "big name" conductor, ths disc emerges as something of a sleeper - but it goes straight to the top of my list.
on 29 December 2007
Levi and Atlanta SO gives very exciting and gripping performance of 6th. Like his other recordings, Levi lets each instrument express and sing its part to the full. The first movement is fast and furious. Inner movements are fine. The last movement is very soulful and hammer blows are explosive. One of the great recordings of the 6th in decades! Telarc's sound is amazingly vivid and present.
This is an excellent Mahler 6, by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Yoel Levi; do I detect a pro-European bias from many reviewers?
Brilliantly recorded in Telarc's DSD "Surround Sound" in 1998, the warning on the back of the CD case is no joke. The hammer used to sound the blows of fate in the fouth movement made me jump out of my skin!
Not just a "hi-fi experience", this is a very recommendable Mahler 6, better than most, and the one I most often reach for from my shelf.
Give the Americans a go!