MAHLER Symphony No. 6 / Abbado

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GUSTAV MAHLER

Symphonie No. 6
Berliner Philharmoniker
Claudio Abbado
Int. Release 02 May. 2005
1 CD / Download
0289 477 5573 9 CD DDD GH
2 SACDs DDD GSA2
"Abbado remains the high priest of Mahler, the man with the key to a unique kind of beauty with these musicians. It's almost a religion. If you hear it, you're converted." The Financial Times, June 2004


Track List

Gustav Mahler (1860 - 1911)
Symphony No.6 in A Minor

Berliner Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado

Audience Applause

Total Playing Time 1:19:36

. . . iridescent in its truthfully recorded textures, lithely phrased and letting the multitudinous emotional climaxes speak without applied emotion . . . the emotional worlds of the first three movements are profiled with perfect clarity, while the marshalling of all the finale's seething cohorts raises everything to five-star level.

Eloquence is the touchstone of Abbado's latest reading. A surprise, perhaps, given the work's fundamental life-and-death struggle, but all the more striking for his integrated overview of the essential conflicts, developments and structures revealed with keening potency rather than exaggeration or blatancy.

. . . Claudio Abbado, arguably today's top Mahlerian . . . the cycle of choice. The conductor virtually owns the work, and an adoring band of Berliners gave him their all . . . it shares all the virtues of his Lucerne Fifth: the supreme command of both detail and line, the unsurpassed rhythmic flexibility and expressivity, and the sensitivity to period-appropriate touches such as telling use of portamento. Its growth over those 25 years emerges in both surprising and unsurprising ways. Despite the identifying and savoring of details, there is no stopping to smell the roses in an interpretation unrelentingly urgent yet never driven. Only an orchestra as fine as the Berliners, and as attuned to his ways, could sustain Abbado's brisk tempos. They express the urgency of death that stalks this music. They're the engine of powerful, explicit, and precise feeling.

The excellence of the sound is even more obvious when the whole orchestra makes its presence felt after the enigmatic opening measures of the finale: this orchestra has power to burn . . . this is a very impressive performance, which has grown in my estimation in the short time I've known it . . . one can easily apprehend the intimate knowledge of Mahler's music at work here, and it joins the other recent Abbado recordings (from Berlin and elsewhere) on my short list of Mahler performances that are worth revisiting often.

Abbado maintains a stoic approach to this most death-obsessed of Mahler symphonies, yet every detail registers with extraordinary playing by the Berlin Philharmonic.

The performance is on the high level you'd expect from a great Mahler interpreter leading a great orchestra.

Every detail registers with extraordinary playing by the Berlin Philharmonic.

A Mahler Sixth DG has added to its series of second-time-around Abbado Mahlers that augurs to become the cycle of choice. The conductor virtually owns the work, and an adoring band of Berliners gave him their all.

The man has proved himself a modern master of things Mahlerian, and this performance has certainly the touch of mastery about it. Above all is the sense of forward drive supreme. From beginning to end, the piece seems of a whole, everything in it rushing toward that final culmination of fate, tragedy, and death.

The excitement of the concert performance can be felt in every minute of this live recording . . . You will be hard pressed to find a Mahler Sixth with more warmth, breadth and dignity.

He remains a Mahler conductor par excellence, and the Berliners are extraordinarily sensitive to the shifting moods of the work.

Mahlers wuchtig-ekstatische Symphonie in a-moll ist hier . . . in einer wunderbaren Einspielung zu hören . . . Die unsichtbare Form eines Werkes versteht Abbado wie kaum ein anderer hörbar zu machen.

. . . noch immer ist hier die Spannung mit Händen zu greifen, die im Saal herrschte, als das Eliteorchester und sein ehemaliger Chef erstmals wieder aufeinander trafen . . . Wunderbar flüssig und sinnvoll; superb die Instrumentalisierung. Abbado bekommt was er stets will: schöne Musik.

Unglaublich: Claudio Abbado, 70, legt im Mahler-Zyklus mit den Berlinern eine Sechste vor, die noch mal Maßstäbe setzt. Zwischen himmelhoch jauchzendem Überschwang und brutalen Schicksals-Hammerschlägen erzählt er die "Tragische" als stürmisches Auf und Ab der Lebensgefühle. Glänzend ausgehorcht ist die Aufnahme eh: alles hochpräzise hörbar, vom Harfenton bis zu fernen Herdenglocken. In Sachen Intensität zieht Abbado längst mit Bernstein gleich.

Abbado hat immer wieder überrascht: durch seine tief durchdachten, technisch perfekten, intellektuell inspirierten, überhöhten Klangarchitekturen . . . und da überzeugt er auch jetzt mit der Sechsten Symphonie . . . Alles wird so unmittelbar in Klang umgesetzt, wie es komponiert ist. Strenge Metrik, saubere Intonation, perfekt tarierte Klangbalance der Instrumentgruppen.

Der Live-Mitschnitt ist ein Ereignis. Abbado wühlt nicht im Espressivo, er verzichtet auf alles grell Geschminkte und nervös Überzeichnete, ohne einen Takt zu glätten. Sein Mahler ist kein fiebrig Getriebener. Vielmehr verleiht er dieser oft panischen Musik mit einem unglaublichen Detailreichtum einen Zug ins Objektive und Überzeitliche, der ihre abgründige Kehrseite umso unheimlicher ins Licht rückt. Der Schrecken ist die Normalität. Damit ist Gustav Mahler endgültig zum Klassiker geworden.

So schnell war man sich noch nie einig, so die Jury . . . So ging die Palme an Claudio Abbados Interpretation der Sechsten mit den Berliner Philharmonikern.

Der vorliegende Live-Mitschnitt mit den Berliner Philharmonikern, der im Juni 2004 -- anlässlich der ersten Wiederbegegnungen des Orchesters mit seinem ehemaligen Chefdirigenten -- aufgezeichnet wurde, ist jedoch mehr als ein blosses "Remake" der technisch brillanten, scharf konturierten Aufnahme aus Chicago . . . profitiert er hier vom opulenteren, runderen Streicherklang des Berliner Orchesters. Vor allem aber verfügt der Dirigent heute über einen noch längeren gestalterischen Atem als damals. Dies zeigt sich besonders deutlich in den beiden wie aus einem Guss geformten Ecksätzen, in denen Abbado mit einem Minimum an Rubato auskommt und dennoch, mit dynamischen und artikulatorischen Mitteln, die Ausdrucksgegensätze denkbar plastisch herausarbeitet. Der Sogkraft dieser flüssigen, eloquenten Wiedergabe kann man sich jedenfalls kaum entziehen; und die Intensität, Klangschönheit und Transparenz des Orchesterspiels erweckt vom ersten bis zum letzten Takt Bewunderung.

Réalisation d'orchestre . . . admirable, d'une clarté polyphonique si souveraine qu'on en vient à mieux comprendre l'intérêt que Schönberg portait à cette oeuvre . . . la 6e reprenant sa place dans l'histoire de l'évolution du langage orchestral . . .

La soberbia visón de Abbado ayuda enormente a su comprensión.

La versión de Abbado, como no podía ser de otro modo, mantiene una calidad excepcional.
A Lifelong Passion For Mahler

Abbado conducts the Sixth Symphony in Berlin

An unusual event occurred in June 2004 in the Berlin Philharmonie: Claudio Abbado, artistic director of the Berliner Philharmoniker from 1990 to 2002, mounted the rostrum for the first time since his departure and conducted three concerts featuring works by Frank Martin and Gustav Mahler. For the first time in the orchestra's 123-year history, a principal conductor who had given up his permanent position to become a free-lance, returned to the Philharmonic for individual concerts. Before a note of music had sounded the maestro - adored and revered by the Berlin audience - was received with tumultuous applause, and at the end he was acclaimed with an "ear-splitting ovation" (Münchner Merkur). That the concerts represented anything but a routine appearance for the Philharmonic as well was obvious from the musicians' palpable joy over their reunion with Abbado and from their extraordinary readiness to follow him "blind".

Claudio Abbado is a passionate Mahler conductor. His career has always been closely bound up with Mahler's music - in London, Vienna, Chicago and, of course, in Berlin. But the Sixth has a special significance for Abbado and his relationship to the Berliner Philharmoniker, because it was with this symphony that the young conductor made his dazzling Mahler debut with the orchestra in 1969. In his years as principal conductor in Berlin Abbado went on to conduct all of Mahler's symphonies, some of them repeatedly, others, like the Seventh, which he performed only at the end of his tenure, less often. Thus the orchestra's familiarity with Mahler's works grew considerably during Abbado's twelve years in Berlin, a fact confirmed by the sensational successes enjoyed by the Philharmonic and Abbado with Mahler's symphonies throughout Europe and in the US, Japan and Israel.

Abbado has always maintained a deep involvement in Mahler's music and always pondered the works afresh, studying the latest musical and biographical sources. He has modified and even revised his interpretations. In the Sixth Symphony Abbado has come to find more convincing the order of the middle movements that Mahler adopted when he conducted the work's 1906 premiere: with the slow movement - Andante moderato - coming second, and the agitated Scherzo, marked "Wuchtig" (Weighty) in third position. This gives us the opportunity to hear and understand the work anew.

Intellect and passion, drama and lyricism, analytical clarity and overall sonority - these complementary aspects describe the special qualities of Abbado's interpretation of the Sixth in particular, one of, if not absolutely, the most difficult of the Mahler symphonies.

Abbado neither over-dramatizes Mahler's Sixth nor overloads it with emotion or spurious tragedy. The listener is not oppressed: there are outbursts of great weight and violence, and there are even catastrophes in this music - think only of the outer movements - but never does this result in mere noise or an undifferentiated, homogenized sound. Abbado's art consists of bringing clarity to the complex structure, not allowing the symphony to disintegrate into disparate components, but of always having the whole work before his eyes and of preserving its sense of cohesiveness. Abbado treats the slow movement with the greatest refinement, with a wonderful feeling for the quiet passages, for the many nuances of colour and shadings. The orchestra plays with all its brilliance but never lapses into merely producing beautiful sounds.

With this recording Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker have achieved a unique Mahler interpretation - deeply searching and impressive, thrilling and gripping.

Helge Grünewald
3/2005