Osmo Vänskä / Minnesota Orchestra

Mahler 6

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With this 2018 hybrid SACD on BIS, Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra continue their exciting survey of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler with the Symphony No. 6 in A minor. As demonstrated in their previous release of the Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor, Vänskä and the orchestra are among the finest exponents of Mahler's music and their performances are competitive with the best recordings, past and present. The interpretation here is intensely focused and utterly compelling, and the playing is impassioned and unnervingly vivid in the multichannel format, so listeners who loved the exceptional analog versions by Solti and Tennstedt or modern digital recordings by Abbado, Tilson Thomas, and Pappano can be sure that Vänskä's audiophile version ranks just as high in quality. About the only quibble to make about this performance is the decision to play the inner movements as Andante moderato/Scherzo, reflecting Mahler's change in performances after the symphony had been published. While many conductors now place the movements in this order in the interests of historical accuracy, an argument can be made that the original tonal scheme of the symphony (A minor/major, A minor, E flat major, and C minor/A minor) had been disrupted by switching the inner movements around, and that the never-satisfied composer possibly erred. Of course, listeners can program their devices to play the tracks in a preferred sequence, so this issue isn't a deal breaker, nor is the decision to leave out the third and final Hammerschlag, which is common and again follows Mahlerian precedent. No matter how the symphony is heard on playback, the integrity of the performance and the expressive heights that are achieved carry the day and make Vänskä's recording essential for Mahler buffs.

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