WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Mahler: Symphony no 6, Lieder / Karajan, Ludwig, Berlin PO


Release Date: 05/12/1998 
Label:  Dg The Originals Catalog #: 457716   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 9 Mins. 

Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Karajan's classic Sixth confirmed his belated arrival as a major Mahler interpreter. Only Bernstein, in his more emotive, less consciously beautifying way, left recorded performances of comparable strength and conviction. Both saw the first movement as an up-tempo march, but Karajan brought a quite different, Brucknerian breadth and focus to the Andante.

-- Gramophone [12/1998]
Karajan's classic Sixth confirmed his belated arrival as a major Mahler interpreter. Only Bernstein, in his more emotive, less consciously beautifying way, left recorded performances of comparable strength and conviction. Both saw the first movement as an up-tempo march, but Karajan brought a quite different, Brucknerian breadth and focus to the Andante.

-- Gramophone [12/1998]
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 6 in A minor "Tragic" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904/1906; Austria 
2.
Kindertotenlieder by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1904; Vienna, Austria 
Language: German 
3.
Rückert Lieder (5) by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
Language: German 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Karajan’s powerful Mahler 6 April 18, 2020 By Scott Freije (Los Angeles, CA) See All My Reviews "How you like this piece depends on a lot of factors, two main ones being the opening tempo of the march in the first movement and in which order the scherzo and andante are played. On both fronts I agree with Karajan. Mahler famously changed his mind, originally with the andante as the second movement, later he moved it to third after the scherzo. I have no strong overall objections to playing the andante second, Abbado pulls this off well in his recording with this same orchestra. It is a different interpretation and playing, the Berliners lack the heft and bravura here under Karajan. I find the andante works as a beautiful contract midway in the symphony between the combined impact the first movement and scherzo have with the epic finale. The andante is one of the highlights of this recording, which let's be honest, Karajan nearly stretches into an adagio but I am completely won over by how stunningly beautiful his Berliners play. This is one of the demonstration recordings of the sound Karajan created in Berlin at their most glorious with few of the drawbacks. Yes, other conductors feel more comfortable with the peculiarities of Mahler’s orchestration but I feel Karajan is often wrongfully slighted in how well he conducted Mahler. He is often criticized with an overly smooth sound dominated by strings at the expense of other orchestral colors. The recording he made of Mahler’s 4th symphony falls short of others because of this. I do not find this to be the case in the 6th. He embraced Mahler’s music late in his career, all we have on record are a decent 4th, an amazing 5th, a definitive 6th, Rückert Lieder and Kindertotenlieder beautifully sung by Christa Ludwig, an ok Das Lied von Der Erde, and a recording of the 9th that is one of the greatest achievements in recorded classical music. Karajan’s expertise in the 2nd Viennese school of composers aids his handling of this work. If you like the sound of those recordings, as I do, then this recording has similar merits with inspired playing. Listen to a little over midway through the first movement how delicately Karajan balances the percussion instruments, cowbells and all, with the orchestra. Others exaggerate these effects more, sometimes to a cruder effect, but Karajan’s is a perfect mix of orchestral color to my ears. The solo contributions from the first violin, horn, and clarinet feature the superb musicianship of this orchestra. There are many times when the overall power of the Berliners steamrolls over everything in an avalanche of sound. This is clear right from the beginning with the cellos and double basses really digging into their instruments at just the right tempo that is powerful and fast. The last 80 seconds of this movement are equally impressive. The force of sound, beauty of tone, and all virtuosically played at a quick tempo is unequalled by any other recording. Not even Bernstein manages to overwhelm the listener to such effect in either of his New York or Vienna recordings, nor can Solti with Chicago match Karajan’s firepower. The first minute of the scherzo is another demonstration moment. Plenty of power from the percussion and lower strings to start and just shy of one minute it fades away with a high piccolo softly sustaining a high note as the strings chug underneath. They are so responsive to Karajan’s every impulse you get the sense this orchestra can turn on a dime and still pack plenty of punch. Karajan’s andante is one of the longest but is so beautifully phrased and played that I keep returning to it after listening to the many other great recordings of this work. This is a symphony well served on disc, Bernstein/Vienna, Sanderling/St. Petersburg, Barbirolli/Philharmonia, Chailly/Concertgebouw, Solti/Chicago, are great, even Haitink with Chicago, Levi/Atlanta, and Jansons’ London Symphony Orchestra recording have exciting things to say about this piece. With how great those and other recordings are, it is Karajan’s treatment of the “Alma” theme in this movement that rises to the top. This is a dark piece and plenty of recordings are able to capture this side of the symphony but the key to unlocking the depth of this piece is being equally committed to the beauty expressed in this movement to avoid reducing the work to nihilistic tragedy. The playing is so beautifully committed time itself becomes distorted as you get swept away by the power of this music. It is emotionally opposite to what comes next in the tragic finale and why I like the andante placed third as the fulcrum of the symphony. How effective the drama of this music is hinges on this movement and you won’t find it more beautifully played than this. Listen to the last three minutes of this movement for some of the finest orchestral playing I have ever heard. From the start of the finale where the sound billows up like smoke to the crushing power of the famous hammer blows, Karajan’s Berliners have plenty left in the tank to navigate one of the longest movements in Mahler’s symphonies. Rarely is Karajan praised for his humanity but it is exactly this quality that makes his interpretation so memorable. The tragic loss at the end is more deeply felt by how effectively Karajan creates the character of the hero in the first movement and love shown in the andante. Mahler wrote this during one of the happiest times of his life yet it is one of the saddest symphonies, a harbinger of the tragic turn his life would later take. The 6th has become one of his most popularly played symphonies by modern conductors. It is one of his purely symphonic works with no additional choirs or soloists required in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or gargantuan 8th. On one end, this is his most classically structured symphony yet one of the most modern in his writing and orchestrations that would influence generations of composers to follow. My general criticism of recent recordings and performances is that there is a sense that orchestras and conductors have grown too comfortable with the work, softening its edges and rushing through in facile performances that fail to embrace the true depth of this symphony. None of that is a concern here where we get the full range this score has to offer; the tragic loss, powerful drama, and heart stopping beauty. Karajan balances all these elements and clearly communicates the music with a clarity of line unmatched by his rivals. The quality of playing is perfectly captured by the Deutsche Gramophone engineers, this is one of the best sounding recordings from this team. I have lived with this symphony and this recording of it for decades and keep returning to it over the years, reconfirming it as my favorite. From the conducting, playing, and sound recording, this is the best Mahler 6 in my collection of over 60 recordings." Report Abuse
Review This Title