LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: Daniel Harding Conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 6
WORKS: Symphony No. 6 & Symphony No. 14
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio SO/Daniel Harding
CATALOGUE NO: 900132
The clever ECG design and the colour photograph inside the booklet suggest that Mahler’s Sixth ought to be nicknamed ‘The Hammerblow’ after those two great apocalypse moments in the finale representing the dull cosmic thud of overwhelming fate. At first I wondered if Daniel Harding was going to rise to them. Just before I listened to this live recording, Andris Nelsons conducted the Boston Symphony in a Prom of peerless detail and electrifying sweep. Harding begins like him, with a very energetic and clear march momentum; but he doesn’t quite raise it one notch, like Nelsons did, after the quiet mountain idyll at the heart of the opening movement. The Andante, placed second – too much the fashion, in my opinion, when the Scherzo always works much better in that position – doesn’t have quite the same inwardness as Nelson achieved.
Yet with the Scherzo and Finale Harding is well up there with the greats. The grinding horn chords which pull the Scherzo’s lopsided childhood reverie into the haunted wood as well as the annihilating final climax are superbly, spine-tinglingly executed; the vast march-mania of the last half hour has both clarity and weight, with all the terrifying fulcrums brilliantly registering in a close but vivid recording. Above all it’s the Bavarian Radio Symphony, with its fabulous first trumpet, baleful, full-toned tuba and winsome oboist, which collectively confirms itself as one of the top five orchestras in the world. David Nice