Valery Gergiev's eagerly anticipated debut recording for LSO Live is also his first recording of Mahler's music and the first in a complete cycle of the composer's symphonies. Recorded in November 2007 as part of his sensational concert series of the symphonies, Gergiev delivers an intensely emotional account of this pivotal work.
Does Mahler’s Sixth Symphony foretell the tragedy of his later life, or does it have a more cerebral purpose? Whatever the composer’s motives for writing it, tragic it certainly is: driven, bitter and sweet by turns, and ending in devastation – utterly compelling.
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Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice - June 2008
"Valery Gergiev is one of the most charismatic maestros on the circuit and his Mahler series in London has aroused passionately divergent responses. If you prize the textural elucidation that Claudio Abbado brings to these scores you probably won't care for Gergiev's broader, coarser brush. The raw excitement he engenders may seem beside the point. This Sixth is dark, sometimes impenetrable, an impression offset only by a raft of sublime pianissimi. The silken shimmer of the first movement's central pastoral reverie with cowbells carefully distanced offers surprising relief. Elsewhere Gergiev drives the argument forward with the kind of sullen, monolithic power he applies to Shostakovich at his most barren. While his main tempo is only fractionally faster than Bernstein's, it seems rushed even for this most neurotic of symphonic openers. The exposition repeat is taken. The serene Andantemoderato, placed second as is now the fashion, is soon being harried towards a climax that blares unmercifully. There's more variety of tone in the Scherzo, though it's the finale which really hits home, the orchestra whipped into a frenzy that may or may not be idiomatic but certainly strikes sparks. If you're looking for a quick-fire, single-disc Sixth with a difference, Gergiev has more gravitas than previous Soviet-trained conductors, even when he's racing. LSO Live backs him up with an impactful, immediate, rather airless sound encoded as a hybrid SACD. The bright-edged, multi-linear treatment favoured by exponents as ostensibly dissimilar as Bernstein and Boulez simply isn't on Gergiev's agenda. Instead, a trail is blazed for a visceral, even thuggish brand of music-making. Yes, these sounds thrilled many in the hall but would you want to revisit them at home? At bargain price you can afford to find out. The enthusiastic applause has been removed."
"Gergiev's approach to Mahler's Sixth is bold and dramatic and his performance has a total conviction not always apparent in his controversial cycle...He goes for an almost brutish energy in this dark symphony of Mahler, and the results are compelling."