ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 6
CATALOGUE NO: 2055648 (NTSC 16.9; DTS 5.1; PCM Stereo)
It would be easy to make a journalistic meal out of the way a drained Abbado holds his hand on his heart in the everlasting-seeming half minute’s silence at the end of this Mahler Six. But there’s not a hint of emotional excess about this awe-inspiring performance, draining only by virtue of its total concentration and bewildering armoury of tonal beauties. At the end of a classical first movement, all its climaxes placed with absolute rightness, Abbado looks not grim and drained, but proud and happy. As well he might be with what, four years into his partnership with the Lucerne superband, remains the greatest orchestral playing of our time. Some members have vanished: there’s no Hagen Quartet this year, and one top oboist, Albrecht Mayer, has been replaced by another, Kai Frömbgen. But the essence of supreme mobility to match Abbado’s miraculous, at times dangerous rubato is unchanged.
If the Andante doesn’t quite seem to merit its place here second rather than third, it still reaches a mountain plateau of perfection, with concertante solos from the woodwind and subtlest first horn, Alessio Allegrini, tending the flame at its most fragile. The finale is tireless in its energy, unleashing the real mania in the march kept in check at the start of the Symphony. For the second year running, I miss the option of a ‘conductor camera’, used in the 2004 Mahler Five,
but the range of shots is unerring and keeps the cowbells out of sight as something other-worldly in an already supernatural performance. David Nice