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Mahler: Symphony No 6; Berg, Schubert / Gielen, Et Al

Release Date: 01/22/2002 
Label:  Swr Music   Catalog #: 93029   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav MahlerAlban BergFranz Schubert
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Michael Gielen's Mahler Sixth is a grim affair indeed. Setting off with a relentlessly heavy tread, Gielen leads a first movement that is the very opposite of the athletic pacing of Bernstein and Karajan, rather closer to Barbirolli and Chailly at the other extreme. Barbirolli is slowest of all, and his Philharmonia lacks the SWR Orchestra's bright coloring, which Gielen masterfully uses to stress the music's anguish (and also its temporary relief, as in the tranquil interlude). It's only when turning to the Chailly that you notice how much more energy and vitality is to be found in the score, even at this tempo (listen to the crackling electricity of the Concertgebouw trumpets). The scherzo (also at a slow pace) displays even more Read more reticence--not once do the climaxes shriek the way they do with Bernstein, Bertini, or Neumann. Gielen does render the gentle first trio with much beauty of phrase, but the transition to the second is marred by the timpani's half-step sharp mistuning.

With the Andante this performance really hits its stride, moving at a more flowing pace, and calling forth warm and bucolic playing from the orchestra. Gielen builds a magnificent climax that emerges like a sudden sunrise clearing all before it as the horns toggle higher and higher. Best of all is the finale. It's as if Gielen bet the house on this one movement, and won. The opening is disturbingly gloomy (though not scary like Bernstein and Chailly), and the march moves forward with strong momentum, wonderfully accented by the insistent sideline carping of Mahler's polyphonic figurations, which fully register at this measured tempo. Gielen brings a highly emotional sweep to the lyrical second subject (evoking memories of Tennstedt's pain-etched reading with the London Philharmonic), and by playing up these temporary moments of euphoria he underlines the inevitable tragedy that follows. And the hammer blows? Awesome! Solid, sharp, deep, and with tremendous impact thanks to Hänssler's bracingly vivid recording.

Alban Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra receives a spectacular performance, joining with Karajan's as one of the best available. Gielen recreates the highly charged atmosphere of the Mahler (perhaps to underline the two works' connections) and leads the SWR players in an arrestingly virtuoso performance (especially of the frenzied finale). Last comes the Adagio from Schubert's uncompleted Tenth symphony. By its inclusion here we are asked to hear the roots of Mahler in Schubert's late style. But what you really hear is some rarified and refined Schubert, making you curious about the rest of the symphony. (If only Philips would release its Marriner recording!) This beautifully played movement caps one of the more compelling Mahler releases this year.
--Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 6 in A minor "Tragic" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904/1906; Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1999 
Venue:  Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Germany 
Length: 84 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Pieces (3) for Orchestra, Op. 6 by Alban Berg
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915/1929; Austria 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  Hans Rosbaud Studio, Baden-Baden 
Length: 19 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Symphony no 10 in D major, D 936a: Andante by Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/05/1998 
Venue:  Konzerthaus Freiburg, Germany 
Length: 11 Minutes 20 Secs. 

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