Mahler: Symphony No. 6

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Simax
WORKS: Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: Oslo Philharmonic/ Jukka-Pekka Saraste
CATALOGUE NO: PSC 1316

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This has to be a mountain-peak of achievement for Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the Oslo Philharmonic, surpassing even the orchestra’s very fine earlier releases with Mariss Jansons. The team’s foothold on the first three movements is sure and unexaggerated. Saraste lays out the first movement, marching with classical spaciousness and plenty of broad upsurge for the passionate lyric contrast. The horrid fairy-story of the scherzo, which mercifully follows (I’ve yet to be convinced by the argument of placing the Andante second in the Symphony’s sequence of movements), has a fabulous, sometimes scary momentum. The slow movement has the right, luminous sense of pace, too, with horn and trumpet superlative throughout.

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But it’s the finale, to which all roads must seem to lead, where Saraste pulls all the stops out – utterly compelling from the first violins’ opening Alpine-range phrase and the tuba in the murk through to the lacerating impetus of the marches to end all marches. String welters in the wake of the first two hammer blows – the third is given too, though it’s the second which has most impact – have never sounded clearer, not even under Boulez or Haitink, and there’s a vocal, sometimes screaming dimension throughout. Perhaps the sound is a shade reverberant – have the engineers added echo to a packed Oslo Konserthus? – but it allows all details in Saraste’s magnificently thorough interpretation to shine through. David Nice