Jaap van Zweden / Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Mahler 6

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Jaap van Zweden’s recordings with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on the DSO Live label have sometimes suffered from dry and slightly muted sound, due either to acoustics or engineering. To a certain extent, this 2013 recording of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 in A minor, “Tragic,” has a similar airless quality, perhaps due to extremely close microphone placement, and the orchestra’s natural resonance seems unnecessarily reduced. However, because the performance of this demanding work is close to first-rate, thanks to van Zweden’s inspiring leadership and the orchestra’s commitment to the music, there is considerable artistic value here. The premonitions of impending doom that haunted Mahler are at the core of this work, and van Zweden communicates its feverish anxieties and dark foreboding with a high degree of tension and edginess. He also keeps firm control of the pacing, so there isn’t a moment wasted through unnecessary slowdowns, and the work’s trajectory is relentlessly maintained. The symphony is played as published, with the inner movements ordered as Scherzo and Andante moderato, and van Zweden takes pains to bring out the finest details in the orchestration that heighten the symphony’s growing nervousness and sense of catastrophe. Best of all, the hammer blows in the Finale are truly shocking in their force, and they are among the most startling on CD. While this may not be among the finest recordings on all points, van Zweden gets enough right in this version to make it compelling listening. Despite the limited resonance, this interpretation is highly recommended.

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