- Symphony No. 6 in A minor ("Tragic")
Although the release of another CD of Mahler's Sixth Symphony may hardly seem newsworthy, the arrival of the first recording from the National Concert Hall in Budapest's new Palace of Arts certainly is. The hall -- on the Pest side of Hungary's capital city -- opened in 2005, and judging from the rich and detailed sound of the Budapest Festival Orchestra's performance here, its acoustics seem to be an unqualified success. There's an impressive crispness to the contrast between sections of the orchestra, even in the most densely scored passages of Mahler's orchestration. But this recording isn't just a calling card for the concert hall, for the orchestra's passionate performance, led by Iván Fischer, also makes this a Mahler Sixth to relish. This symphony is often considered to be Mahler's "Tragic," but in Fischer's hands it's far from grim. The music's final collapse in the last movement does have a sobering impact, but the effect is enhanced by its contrast to the beauty and excitement that Fischer and the orchestra conjure out of the rest of the score, with the bipolar highs and lows amplified to their extremes. Fischer chooses to follow Mahler's revised thoughts on the symphony -- the inner Andante moved before the Scherzo, and the third hammer blow removed from the finale -- and in every way the conductor seems tuned in to both the unique soundworld and the ambivalent emotional tone of this composer's music. Aficionados will want to hear Fischer's first recorded thoughts on Mahler (his recording of the Second Symphony was issued a year after this release), and potential tourists to Budapest should make sure to schedule their visits during concert season.