Mahler, Stravinsky, Webern: Mahler: Symphony No. 6; Stravinsky: Le chant du rossignol; Webern: Passacaglia for Orchestra; Variations for Orchestra

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler,Stravinsky,Webern
LABELS: Accentus Music
WORKS: Mahler: Symphony No. 6; Stravinsky: Le chant du rossignol; Webern: Passacaglia for Orchestra; Variations for Orchestra
PERFORMER: Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 30230

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Noone should doubt the admirable principles and standards of this first-class European youth project, inaugurated in 2004 by Pierre Boulez and Michael Haefliger. But in terms of repertoire, Boulez has been here already on CD. While his Webern may have both lushed- and sharpened-up, it’s the same story as before with Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. Yet it lacks the Vienna Philharmonic’s tonal lustre that supported Boulez when he launched his Mahler adventure. That so many string phrases fall flat can’t be ascribed to the admirable young players – there was a similar glassiness about his recent concert performance of Wagner with the Staatskapelle Berlin. Nor can the lack of emotional heat, which only picks up (as before) in the final passage of march-mania. The liner-note, citing Theodor Adorno as usual, condemns ‘absurd claims of an anecdotal nature and kitschy sensationalism pertaining to Mahler’s psyche’. If only there were just a little of the psyche about the performance.

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But it all starts trenchantly enough, allowing the nightmares of the first movement development and its gracious idyll take wing. The Scherzo – rightly, in my opinion, following on – adds a Classical continuity to the usually faltering, childlike trios. But forward-moving objectivity isn’t enough in the Andante and Finale. The first disc is brilliantly programmed and gorgeously played, with Webern’s first and last orchestral showpieces followed by a work somewhere in between: Stravinsky’s Le chant du rossignol. Here, the gulf between Stravinsky’s lurid, polytonal Chinoiserie and Webern’s fragmented melodic lines is well-judged, and the solo playing
matches Boulez’s Chicago recording for quality. David Nice