07 Mahler Symphony No. 6Mahler – Symphony No.6
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Sir Simon Rattle
BR Klassik BRK900217 (brso.de/en/media-center/cds-and-dvds)

Throughout his life, the music of Gustav Mahler has been a guiding star in Simon Rattle’s career. While a percussion student at the Royal Academy of Music he single-handedly organized and conducted a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony by his fellow pupils. His love of Mahler continued throughout his years directing the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1980 to 1998); their well-received recordings of contemporary and late romantic works included several Mahler symphonies. Rattle made his conducting debut with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1987 in a performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony; he was their chief conductor from 1999 to 2018 and chose the very same symphony for the final concert of his tenure. His subsequent leadership of the London Symphony Orchestra (2017 to 2023) also drew to a close with a Mahler symphony, the Ninth.

Alban Berg once proclaimed, “There is only one Sixth, notwithstanding the Pastoral.” Rattle once again has chosen this tragic masterpiece that encapsulates, in his words, “the whole package of a colossal life – and that includes love and optimism” for his inaugural season with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra responds magnificently to Rattle’s direction with a sensitivity that surpasses the sometimes indifferent results he encountered in Berlin. I’d go as far as to say that Sir Simon may be the finest Mahler interpreter since the late Claudio Abbado, his predecessor in Berlin. Rattle has remarked in the past that a conductor doesn’t become really good until he hits his sixties. Give this compelling disc a listen and I’m sure you’ll find that truer words were never spoken.

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