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Mahler - Symphony No 6
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
DG 477 5684GSA2

In June 2004 Claudio Abbado returned to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic, the orchestra he'd directed for more than a decade, in a series of performances of Mahler's Sixth Symphony. DG was on hand to record the concerts and here's the fruit of those “sessions”. Abbado's view of this work has developed in the years since his recorded cycle of Mahler symphonies (with the Chicago and Vienna orchestras) and has achieved an intensity rare even in such a concentrated work. The Berlin Philharmonic play like gods: rarely have they mustered the intense sadness, the almost crazed power or the sheer translucence they offer here. The Andante, played second (as at the 1906 premiere in Essen), is given with a tenderness that brings a lump to the throat and the sheen of the strings is quite exquisite. By contrast the Scherzo has a vehemence and anguish that is all the more powerful for restoring once again the emotional temperature offered in the opening movement. The finale is a creation of powerful extremes: moments of sadness verge on a hysteria that is fantastically well portrayed by the BPO. Here, Abbado seems to be staring Fate in the eye, yet he won't surrender: here is a man who has come close to death and survived, and the music-making in this performance seems to draw on a well of experience, both physical and spiritual, rarely glimpsed and even more rarely articulated.



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