Mahler Symphony No. 6 (Tragic)
Sony Classical 19075822952 83:51 mins
Following the undeniable originality of his Mozart-Da Ponte operas and Stravinsky Rite, a Mahler symphony was always going to be the ultimate test of whether Teodor Currentzis and his MusicAeterna players can attain the ‘living legend’ status some already grant them. Certainly there are passages here as phenomenal and white-hot as any I’ve heard in the Sixth Symphony: try the whiplash return to the hurly-burly after the high-pastures idyll at the centre of the first movement, or the build-ups to the first two hammer blows as well as the welter of their aftermaths.
Was Currentzis, for me almost unwatchable in his flapping conductor’s style, going to go for the same exaggeration in sound alone at the first hurdle, the supposed portrait of Mahler’s wife Alma in the big second subject? Unfortunately yes: the momentum lost certainly isn’t what Mahler imagined, beautiful though it sounds, and the comparable billowing in the finale is also a shade too exaggerated for my taste. But it’s good to hear how a Scherzo of driving energy can work on the heels of the first movement, and the Andante, though it treads dark earth rather than the ideal water of a more fluent performance, is authoritatively sustained and built towards a climax that’s never rushed. The real drawback is the glassy patina over the sound: is this a true representation of Moscow’s House of Audio Recording acoustics, or has post-production gloss been added? At any rate it robs the interpretation of the last degree of feral intensity.