Mahler Six Rides Again

Despite an abundance of Mahler's Sixes, Salonen's rendition hold its own.

Composer: Mahler
Repertoire: Symphony No. 6
Artist: Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Orchestral

Label: Signum Classics SiGCD275

The Music: Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is lots of things – a commentary on Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony No.3, the compositional gear change that led the way towards his final sequence of rulebook-slashing symphonies; but also it’s one of Mahler’s most obviously ‘symphonic’ utterances, dealing with ideas of heroic endeavours that may, or may not, hit the rocks.

The Performance: Another month, another Mahler Six. In last month’s magazine I reviewed Antonio Pappano’s new recording on EMI Classics, and on the surface, both versions have much in common. Salonen and Pappano opt to place the Scherzo before the Andante; both recordings benefit from top-notch orchestras fully versed in the idiom. But Salonen’s account is more straight-laced and direct. Pappano nudges the second movement forward slightly to jolt the continuity; Salonen noticeably plays both movements at the same tempo. Pappano is loose and throws the shapes; Salonen calculates every detail prudently.

The Verdict: For repeated listening, Pappano clearly has an edge. But when I say Salonen calculates every detail that’s not the same as being ‘calculating’, and his performance is purposeful and revealing.

Want More? Riccardo Chailly’s Mahler Six with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
(Decca Classics, 475 6686) is intensely thoughtful, the interpretation of an individual thinker.