- Symphony No. 6 in A minor ("Tragic")
Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra deliver a fantastic live performance of Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 6 in A minor, Tragic," on this 2011 release from Signum Classics, and critics and fans will be hard pressed to find much, if anything, wrong with it. Bearing in mind that the sound is the recording's obvious vulnerability, there are occasional small noises from the stage or the audience, but they are quite easy to ignore. The careful miking of the orchestra makes the music dominate, so nothing interferes with details in the orchestration or distracts from the excitement of the performance. Salonen has a remarkable rapport with the musicians, and they respond to his direction with nuanced playing and a fluid expression that seems to be felt spontaneously by the whole ensemble. Salonen understands this symphony inside and out, both in its inexorable musical logic and in its formal structure, and he follows the published ordering of the inner movements, avoiding the contemporary trend to follow Mahler's dubious late practice of switching the order of the Scherzo and Andante. This interpretation has tremendous force and intense lyricism, and the savage rhythms and shocking climaxes are counter-balanced with gorgeous textures and lush sonorities; Mahler's full soundworld is rendered with fidelity, and the tragic impact of his most autobiographical symphony comes across. This performance has all the features one could want in the "Sixth," so it will satisfy many listeners, especially hard-to-please Mahlerians.