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Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 is brought vividly to life in a concert recording by Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia performing in January 2011 to mark the composer’s double anniversary.
The Santa Cecilia Orchestra’s Mahler tradition dates back to 1907 and 1910, when the composer himself conducted the orchestra. Many eminent Mahlerians have directed his works with the Orchestra since then, among them Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Leonard Bernstein and Claudio Abbado. More recently, the Orchestra commemorated the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2010 and the 100th anniversary of his death in 2011 with a complete symphonies cycle conducted by Antonio Pappano and Valery Gergiev.
Mahler composed the thrilling, sometimes lyrical, personal and often-turbulent sixth symphony in 1903 and 1904, subsequently revised it, and conducted the premiere in 1906. His publisher gave it the subtitle ‘Tragic’, which is somewhat misleading in that it was written during a happy period of the composer’s life. Mahler married Alma Schindler in 1902 – hence the jubilant, soaring melodic ‘Alma’ theme in the first movement. The couple spent the summer of 1903 at his beloved Maiernigg mountain retreat, where he began the composition of the symphony. We can hear cowbells evoking the impression of a grazing herd of cattle and the surroundings of Maiernigg depicted through the use of celeste and tremolo strings.
Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A minor 'Tragic'
Allegro energico, ma non troppo
Finale (Allegro Moderato)
4th November 2011
“Never before has the shade of Verdi seemed so close in the bustling rhythms and the marching strings; Puccini’s shade, too, in the melodies’ long, arching, songful ache...Everything [Pappano] conducts is characterised by fiery drama, soaring lyricism, and bold projection as if through a proscenium arch...in this uplifting, operatic performance the endgame matters less than the music’s heroic fight for life. Buy this CD and marvel.”
5th November 2011
“Pappano’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia has an exuberance that comes across most strongly in the opening Allegro energetico ...Pappano, like his Roman musicians, is still building up experience in Mahler. Where he scores is in the quieter, song-like stretches of music, such as the first movement’s dream sequence and an Andante of con amore warmth.”
“Pappano’s first Mahler recording with his Roman orchestra demonstrates an attention to detail in the score unobscured by biographical hypotheses. He plays the work in the published (and musically logical) order. The opening march has terrific thrust, the scherzo is laden with Mahler’s sardonic black humour and nostalgia for folk music. The Accademia prides itself on its Mahlerian associations, with justice on this basis.”
2nd December 2011
“If you’re going to tone down Mahler’s febrile neuroticism, you have to replace it with something equally valid, and that is exactly what Antonio Papppano does here in his first recording of the composer. Out goes the tortured intensity, in comes a blazing energy and warmth that pays dividends all the way through”
5th January 2012
“His expansive approach to the first three movements won't be to everyone's taste, though it often yields surprising results...The Scherzo has rarely sounded as implacable as it does here, though the Andante, in contrast, feels altogether too laid back, until its final climax where Pappano suddenly unleashes a maelstrom that takes your breath away.”
“what a performance! Pappano treats Mahler's opening movement with a restraint that reveals the itchy energy inside...[he] builds towards the finale with a sense of the inscrutable and a pile-driver bite.”
“Anyone wanting to hear an Italian orchestra play Mahler is likely to be fascinated and impressed by this performance...the Santa Cecilia Orchestra plays with a fine feeling for nuance and shape in the more tender music...there is a lot to admire in Pappano's account and while his view of its emotional trajectory doesn't engross me as I hoped it would, it is still starkly effective.”
14th November 2011
“For my money, Pappano judges everything just right, from the chugging pulse of the cellos and basses at the very opening of the symphony, to the subtle rubato employed throughout the Andante. It is in the finale, though, where Pappano’s experience in the opera house is most evident.”
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