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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - San Francisco/Michael Tilson Thomas

Reviews: 10

Review by billwiese June 23, 2003 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I actually attended the phenonmenal performance of this work plus or minus a day or two from the actual live recording. It was just after 9/11 so there was a special significance to this performance.

Between movements MTT was alerted that a San Francisco & worldwide music favorite, violinist Isaac Stern, had just passed away - so the remainder of the performance I attended was dedicated to his memory.

I used to think SACD was a bunch of hooey until I heard this disc (given to me as a gift). After I heard it on an SACD player I went out and got an SACD home theatre system. The total combination of a top-notch world-class performance and a great recording job plus the multichannel recording simply makes this a reference recording.

I'm a Mahler nut and have various great recordings (CDs) of him. All are excellent performance-wise (I do have my favorites, and love Lenny's interpretations, though my Maazel Mahler #5 is up there too). Unfortunately many of these CDs, esp when released in early 80s, suffer from being radically "bright". (I do hope some of these performances - even those that were "AAD" - are redigitized from masters.)

And given the quality of this, I went out and bought the SFS recording of Mahler's #1. (Another performance I physically attended, perhaps even on the same day of the recording.) Equally fine, equally grand, equally wonderful recording & 'presence'.

[And BTW - the regular stereo CD layers on these two sound pretty damned good in my truck CD as well.]

Can't wait for SFS to release Mahler's #2 and #5 in same format. MTT knows Mahler!

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Review by stvnharr November 30, 2003 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I purchased this disc last summer for the cd performance as I had no sacd player, and no intentions of getting one. At first listen I found myself captivated in the music for the full 1 1/2 hours, only moving to change the discs. The sound was simply the best cd sound I had heard in any recording. This disc is really what got me to thinking about sacd and getting a sacd player, as logically the sacd layer of this hybrid disc must be something better than the cd layer.
In stereo sacd, the sound is truly even better.
I've had a number of recordings of the 6th in my collection thru the years. I've also been fortunate enough to attend a concert of the 6th not all that long ago. I found MTT's reading, and the SFO's playing, of the symphony to be quite good. It certainly kept my attention for the full show.

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Review by beardawgs December 1, 2003 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Like stvnharr we had this disc long before we even thought of buying SACD player. It was actually our first ever SACD and in many ways it is still our favourite. One could not imagine better way to promote new audio format – excellent recording and fantastic performance.

I’ve heard SFSO with MTT at the Proms in London some 3 years ago, I actually went to hear Martha Argerich playing Schumann and wasn’t bother (too much) who’s playing the rest. It was SFSO’s first ever Proms concert and they blew away acoustically notoriously disastrous Royal Albert Hall. Needless to say, I was there the following night for the second concert and bought quite a few CDs with them and MTT. Then they started Mahler’s cycle in the best possible way – this performance is among the best you can get, and for sheer emotional power and dramatic impact probably the best. We can only envy all you guys living in SF for having the possibility to hear them live. But, this recording (like all the others from this series) is still the best in terms of capturing the hall’s acoustics, and in surround feels just like you’re sitting there. It is by all means flawless!

As one of the earliest surround SACDs this recording set up standards that all the others should follow. In the ideal audiophile’s world, of course.

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Review by lenw June 4, 2004 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Wow! This is a great SACD both in terms of orchestral performance and playback. I'm also a big fan of the DG Berstein Mahler cycle, particularly Symphony No. 2 which IMO is the benchmark. This SACD is awesome in terms of performance and soundstage, and almost sounds like a live performance to me. The Andante Moderato is particularly beautiful. I can't wait to hear SFS performance of 2nd symphony.

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Review by Dr. O August 14, 2005 (5 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Winner of the Grammy for "Best Orchestral Performance" in 2003! Add to this the incredible audio we have all come to expect in this remarkabe series, and you have an offering which is a "must have!"

Recorded shortly after the tragedy of September 11, this recording captures the dark pathos of those days. For Mahler, this symphony was also quite somber and, some think, autobiographical. MTT and the SFS capture this angst in a most powerful manner, unflinchlingly bringing the composer's intent into the world of sound and imagination.

Highly recommended, as are ALL of the recordings so far in this wondrous symphonic cycle!

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Review by Norm November 23, 2007 (4 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have both the discs this jerk above talks about having problems with, and there is no problem. It's obviously with his own equipment. Even though he says other disc play fine, no one else reports the problem. It's obviously HIS problem. The recording as others have said, is truly wonderful.

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Review by carledwards September 5, 2008 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Great sense of drama in this performance, beautifully conveyed in the mulit-channel recording. Razor sharp detail, excellent dynamics and a conductor "line" that is maintained in a masterful way. MTT is really at the top of his game here. Love the way he lets the music surge and subside, clearly with a deep understanding of the score. My new favorite 6!

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Review by jeffreybehr January 18, 2011 (1 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Have heard the multichannel (just 4 channels, BTW, but the center third of the orchestra and soundstage are very solid) version twice. This one is VERY good and every bit as good as MTT's other Mahler recordings. This concert recording sounds just a bit soft...lacking in me, due perhaps to a slightly higher noise floor because it's recorded in concert?

After hearing several versions of the 6th in the last couple months, I miss the third 'hammer' stroke that's not included in this recording and is included in Zander's, and I much prefer to hear the Andante movement (and not the Scherzo) following the first movement. In fact, I prefer to hear this symphony without the Scherzo.

This is another very attractive addition to my SACD collection. Isn't life grand, where we can buy recordings like this that sound SO natural and real?!?!?!

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Review by willemvoorneveld July 11, 2012 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Mahler’s 6th starts off with a grim march and ends with a sudden blast of A minor accord accentuated by big drum. The two middle movements, the Scherzo and a moderate Andante, are thematically interwoven with the 1st and 4th movement, almost like how Bach puzzled with themes in his “kunst der Fuge”.

By most conductors the “grim” element of this score gets the upper hand but not so in this reading. Especially the Scherzo and Andante do get an almost midsummer night like treatment and in doing so he breaks the underlying architecture of this symphony. Anyway, if you like Mahler’s music softened up a bit, this release is still a good one to pick.

Great work was done by the (Sony?) sound engineers. Davies symphony hall has been my home base for quite a few years and this recording reveals the acoustics of this facility very realistically. Brass easily dominates in live performances, but not so in this recording. On my listening system all was in balance and very transparent. Well done.

The packaging of the disc’s is very luxurious and the booklets contain interesting information. I took the 6th for this review because I found this interpretation representative for the cycle as a whole and also one of the best together with the “Das Lied von der Erde”.


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Review by Luukas September 16, 2014 (2 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This SACD got Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Recording, and indeed, this is brilliant. I heard many recordings of Mahler's dramatic Sixth Symphony:
• Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen (Signum)
• London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev (LSO Live)
• London Philharmonic Orchestra, Klaus Tennstedt (LPO)
• Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste (Classica)
• Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Yoel Levi (Telarc)
• Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Jonathan Nott (Tudor)
• Polish Symphony Orchestra (Katowice), Antoni Wit (Naxos)
• Berliner Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon)
They all are great in their own way, but Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony makes the greatest recording of this work.

Firstly, Thomas reaches every markings from the full orchestral score. First movement's effectively dead march sounds powerfully, and gently moments are very beautiful. Celesta's magical voice comes very close in clearly 5.1 multi-channel recording, and bass drums strikes and tremolos are stunning.
Second movement [what is now fast Scherzo] is also excellent, and movement's neurotic dance sounds simply - at last!
Third movement is very beautiful and it sounds also erotically. Violins beautiful melody in E-flat major is loudly, the other instruments doesn't cover them. Oboe's lonely solo is touching, and whole movement sounds like tired happy pairs on the beach, when the sun falls under the horizon. I love this movement, it is maybe the most beautifully music that Mahler ever wrote (this is my opinion).
And now, the last long finale. Hammer's strikes are very astonishing - watch out your subwoofer! The dramatic end in A minor is also very good.

Secondly the recording quality is outstanding; it is clear, discretely and beautiful. Highly recommend! Don't hesitate, BUY THIS TITLE NOW!

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