November 5, 2011 12:06 am

Mahler: Symphony No 6

Two new versions of the piece often dubbed as the composer’s most classical

More Mahler, more invidious choices. Unless you are a believer in only one way of doing things, which negates the very life-force of music as wide open to interpretation as Mahler’s, then two new versions of a symphony often dubbed his most classical can only be a good thing.

Pappano’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia has an exuberance that comes across most strongly in the opening Allegro energetico – an exuberance that cannot, however, be compared to the self-confident swagger transmitted by the Berlin Philharmonic in top-of-the-market versions conducted by Claudio Abbado (DG) and Simon Rattle (EMI).

Pappano, like his Roman musicians, is still building up experience in Mahler. Where he scores is in the quieter, song-like stretches of music, such as the first movement’s dream sequence and an Andante of con amore warmth. The performance is spread across two CDs, whereas Signum fits Salonen’s version, also recorded live, onto one. The Philharmonia plays with well-mannered grace, but it’s all too even-tempered.

Salonen and his players tend to glide over the music: you’re never really hit by Mahler’s larger-than-life quality, an impression underlined by a slightly recessed acoustic. All told, this is a thoroughly professional off-the-cuff performance, rather than the product of special commitment and rehearsal, as evidenced by Pappano and the Santa Cecilia.

Mahler

Symphony No 6

Antonio Pappano

(EMI, 2CDs)

4 stars

Mahler

Symphony No 6

Esa-Pekka Salonen

(Signum Classics)

2 stars

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