- Symphony No. 6 in A minor ("Tragic")
In June 2004, Claudio Abbado returned to lead the Berlin Philharmonic in their first performance together since he ceded the post to Simon Rattle in 2002. While Rattle's Berlin recordings on EMI have also featured Mahler symphonies, most recently the Eighth, this excellent Sixth on Deutsche Grammophon -- the result of that reunion performance -- suggests that the orchestra is still just as responsive to its former leader's direction. It's not quite as sonically dazzling as some of EMI's Berlin releases, perhaps because Abbado's interpretive style is subtler than Rattle's. The opening of the first movement, for example, doesn't generate the spine-tingling thrill that some performances do. But 20 minutes later, as the movement marches toward its end, you can't help but remark upon the perfection of Abbado's pacing, the way he's managed to sweep you up into the music's inexorable flow. Details of orchestration are conveyed with wonderful transparency, especially in the Scherzo -- highlighted by Abbado and executed beautifully by the orchestra's solo players. Add to this an Andante of idyllic tenderness and a Finale that truly earns this symphony's unofficial nickname, the "Tragic," and you have a Sixth that can stand with distinction alongside any in the catalog.
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