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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 6, Henze: Sebastian im Traum - Jansons

Reviews: 4

Site review by mwagner1962 July 2, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
I decided to give this several listens before posting anything, so here goes.

This is my 4th SACD of Mahler's 6th Symphony, and it joins the Telarc/Zander, MTT/SFO, Abaddo/Berlin and Fischer/Budapest.

While Jansons interpretation is not quite on par interpretation-wise with the other four recordings, there is still a lot to recommend. As usual, the Concertgebouw's playing is utterly fantastic, with some excellent playing from the brass and woodwinds. String playing is very fine (as usual) though I would have liked a little more umpf from the opening strings....Jansons opening movement is nearly lacking in passion as compared to the other recordings. Other movements are fine, yet seem to sometimes loose some emotion and passion along the way.

What really shines here is the superb sound captured by the recording team. Space, air, is there in plenty!!! I really prefer the sound of Concertgebouw recording done live, as for many years I found recordings made there to be borderline boomy...what I and friends jokingly called the "Grotte Zaal" effect....and this was not always a compliment. Live recordings removes all of the "effects" in my opinion.

Regarding the placement of the 2nd and 3rd movements. I do not subscribe to the sometimes passionate debate of the arrangement. I can honestly say that if I heard two different orchestras play Mahler's 6th with the two middle movements placed differently each night, I would not be bothered in the least, nor would it affect my enjoyment of the performances.

The Hans Werner Henze piece I will leave to Henze aficionado's/experts, as I bought this SACD for the Mahler. However, I will say that I at least find the piece interesting, but it will take repeated listenings to develop a serious liking/understanding!!!

Overall, while not being the best Mahler 6th I have on both rbcd or SACD, it will still keep its place in my library.


Review by Edvin May 22, 2006 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The most obvious comparison here would be Jansons´ earlier LSO Live-version, but I haven´t heard that one, and the main reason for me to get this was the Henze anyway.

There is no shortage of sixths on sacd and the biggest reason for buying this, apart from the coupling, is the playing of the Concertgebouw. The sounds produced here are absolutely marvellous. They sound like they have been playing together for centuries, and that first horn is something to write home about.

Jansons chooses a rather quick tempo for the first movement, his timing is 23.45 (MTT is 24.33). It isn´t as menacing or heavy as some others and he doesn´t slow down so much for the Alma theme, which is lovingly played just the same.

Unfortunately Jansons sees the andante as the second movement, but it is easy to change the order according to ones own wishes. The slow movement is also fast, he takes 15.35 as opposed to MTT 17.27. I prefer the slower tempo. This music is so lovely and I get the feeling that Jansons takes a step away from the inner tensions by playing it quite straight. You cannot destroy this music and Jansons is nowhere near in doing that, but I would have welcomed a more passionate and carressing performance.

The scherzo is again on the quick side, 13.15 (MTT 14.02), but that is only part of the truth since MTT is more flexible with variations of tempos. The great finale is splendidly played, but there is nothing of the hyper drama or total human collapse that you get from Bernstein or MTT in the introduction. The movement takes 31.12 including applause, MTT takes 31.22 without. RCO Live calls the finale "allegretto moderato", but surely it should read allegro moderato.

I rate this Mahler 6 highly and would label it a perfect middle of the road version. A bit like Abbado. It hasn´t got MTT´s blistering drama or his sense of light and shade. The way MTT can pull out different colourings from his orchestra is a wonder. The Jansons is somewhat lacking in personality. But the Concertgebouw, wow.

The sound is absolutely top notch, one of the best orchestral recordings ever. The hammer in the finale can blow your speakers. In comparison to the Stravinsky/Rachmaninov there is more air around the instruments here. There is applause after both pieces and they could easily have been removed since there is some silence after the music has ended.

Henze: Sebastian im Traum. A 13 minute long orchestral piece in three movements. It is subtitled Ein Salzburger Nachtmusik nach einer Dichtung von Georg Trakl. The piece was written in 2003-04 and if you are familiar with Henze you may have a good view on what to expect. It´s an impressive stück and in the first movement I am a bit reminded of his first symphony, a masterpiece, in the handling of contrasts within the orchestra. I love those clear bass lines, how Henze sneaks in a melody in the middle of changes of klangfarben (sound colours?). It is a meditation, a presentation of scenery. The second movement is faster, a scherzo with some dramatic outbursts. Powerful music brilliantly orchestrated. Movement three is a short dying.

I am a bit reminded of Alban Berg and his Lulu-Symphony, and no praise could be higher. More Henze on sacd please.

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Review by barry guerrero June 16, 2006 (7 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Here is a very informal mini-review that I posted at I was listening to this in just plain, old two-channel stereo, so I can't help with the multi-channel aspect.

I'm afraid that this isn't going to get much attention since Jansons already recorded the Mahler 6th with the LSO. This new Cocertgebouw one sounds much better. Once again, the Concertgebouw proves that on a day-to-day basis, they're probably the greatest Mahler orchestra on the planet. The sound, as well as their playing, is so transparent that I was hearing minor details that even I never caught before. All four sections of the orchestra are truly well balanced (strings; woodwinds; brass; percussion). Interpretively speaking, this is very similar to how Jansons waved the stick in front of the LSO. But I found the scherzo much more sharply etched here; the slow movement more "moving". To that end, I like the big accellerando Jansons does while heading into the climactic passage of the andante movement, accompanied by strong horns (unison) and plenty of cowbells (onstage). As I'm not a fan of James Mallinson produced recordings, I find this Concertgebouw one to be a big improvement. I also like the coupling, which is some atonal horror-show composed by Hans Werner Henze. Well, to be honest, "like" probably isn't precise enough. Let's just say that I find the Henze piece to be quite appropriate to follow up the Mahler with. Jansons vs. Chailly? . . .

The Jansons M6 is more transparant sounding - a bit more like the old Philips recordings, but with much more heft in the low end of the orchestra. In Contrast, the Chailly sounds a tad like a very good orchestra accompanying a percussion concerto composed by Mahler - not a bad thing in and of itself, and probably not far off the mark from what Mahler had in mind either (read De La Grange).

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Review by willemvoorneveld July 11, 2012 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Mahler 6 and Henze: Sebastian im Traum (2003-04)-Jansons, KCO live.

According to writers of his time, Mahler himself was shocked after hearing the premiere of his own recently (1906) completed 6th symphony. Only the Scherzo gives a bit of relieve but all other movements end into tragedy. The tragedy element is very well exposed by Mariss Jansons interpretation and the Scherzo gives a bit of relieve as intended.
In order to achieve this result, Jansons keeps a very consistent tempo in all movements. He is fast but never rushed. He lets his KCO play with remarkable precision never losing his main goal to deliver an authentic, coherent performance out of sight. On me it had a devastating effect indeed.

Mahler left his conductors in the dark with regard to the specific order of the Andante and the Scherzo. Most conductors prefer to play the Scherzo as second movement but Jansons plays the Andante (movement 2) first followed by the Scherzo (movement 3). I think this works very well in the approach Jansons has taken. The finale (31 minutes) is almost a symphony of its own and needs a bit rest before.

A very interesting addition to this Mahler 6 live performance is “Sebastian im Traum”, composed in 2003/04. Where Mahler needs 85 minutes to deliver his message, Hans Werner Henze (1926) only needs 14 minutes to review all things in life.
Henze uses the same orchestral apparatus as Mahler in this piece but his style is contemporary, light and fluid. Henze’s music is a welcome relieve after the tragedies in the 6th of Mahler and Mariss Jansons gives a convincing interpretation of it in this world premiere recording.

The sound quality is stunning and very realistic. According to the booklet the disc has been compiled from 3 different live performances so in a sense the engineers have some material to play with.

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