Author Topic: The Abbado Berlin M6  (Read 4674 times)

Offline Leo K

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1352
  • You're the best Angie
The Abbado Berlin M6
« on: December 28, 2006, 09:21:41 PM »
I got this for Christmas (among other recordings) and just heard it for the first time last night.  Wow, I was really blown away.  My favorite M6's are the Karajan, Barbirolli, Haitink (live in Japan) and Bernstein on DG.  As you can see, I generally have liked the more exaggerated "dark" interpetations (Karajan and Haitink may be an exceptions here, and I also dig the Sanderling sometimes), but this Abbado sounds like a "happy" account...a kind of triumphant march.  I really dig this view.

Also, Abbado makes a good case for placing the Andante second (although I prefer Scherzo first).

Anyways, I'm slowly starting to feel that a more "distanced" approach works best for the 6th.

I going to try the Eschenbach soon.

Offline barry guerrero

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3928
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2006, 01:06:53 AM »
Leo,

Just curious if you got this on the SACD/CD hybrid disc. It's only a dollar more, and it means that even the regular CD layer would be in DSD. I've noticed a slight improvement in hybrids over non-hybrids, even on regular CD players, unless the regular CD version was also issued in DSD. It's a pretty good performance. It's very similar to the recent Ivan Fischer M6, which I think has a slightly better finale - just slightly.

Barry

Offline Leo K

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1352
  • You're the best Angie
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2006, 03:16:50 PM »
Leo,

Just curious if you got this on the SACD/CD hybrid disc. It's only a dollar more, and it means that even the regular CD layer would be in DSD. I've noticed a slight improvement in hybrids over non-hybrids, even on regular CD players, unless the regular CD version was also issued in DSD. It's a pretty good performance. It's very similar to the recent Ivan Fischer M6, which I think has a slightly better finale - just slightly.

Barry

I have the regular CD version...but I wonder if the CD is actually issued in DSD because the sound is so good, one of the best I've heard in my limited collection. 

I'll have to try those hybrid disks, I didn't know that they worked on a regular CD player. 




Offline John Kim

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2194
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2006, 11:23:26 PM »
Leo,

You said you liked Haitink (live in Japan). But to my knowledge, there is NO such commercial recording. Are you referring to Haitink's new live recording with French National Orch.?

John,

Offline Leo K

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1352
  • You're the best Angie
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2006, 03:52:40 PM »
Leo,

You said you liked Haitink (live in Japan). But to my knowledge, there is NO such commercial recording. Are you referring to Haitink's new live recording with French National Orch.?

John,

Well, I'm not exactly sure.  It's a performance I found on Soulseek, and unfortunately...the poster didn't specify the date and location of Haitink's performance.  John, on the old board I read your review of a live Haitink M6 in Japan, and thought that could be it (there is applause immediately at the end)...but perhaps I'm mistaken here.  It sounds like a live broadcast.  Whatever it is from, it is a really great performance. 

 
« Last Edit: December 30, 2006, 03:57:34 PM by Leo K »

Offline barry guerrero

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3928
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2006, 09:31:19 AM »
Leo,

I picked up the Abbado/BPO M6 on the SACD/CD hybrid two-disc set. There's a difference on a regular CD player too, but it's really very slight. With the regular CD issue, at least it's all on one disc. FYI.

Barry

Offline barry guerrero

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3928
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2007, 12:04:43 AM »
I'd had some time to kill today, so here's what I wrote about the Abbado/BPO at Amazon (they're getting lots of free reviews from me!).


Abbado's Berlin remake of the Mahler 6th is Grammophone magazine's 2006 "record of the year". I wish I could be THAT enthusiastic. It is quite good, with a nice, natural "flow" from start to finish. In fact, there's little that can be faulted. Abbado performs the inner movements in andante/scherzo order, which is now the only way sanctioned by the Mahler P.C. possee (funny how nobody had a problem with it being performed scherzo/andante for four decades or so). Yet, a couple of minor oddities do exist. I like how he trims the slow movement (andante moderato) down to 14 minutes here. However, he also kind of short changes a wonderful passage that's located about six minutes into the andante, where the unison horns lead us up into the Austrian highlands, immediately followed by the cowbells first onstage entrance; which, in turn, is accompanied by a naive sounding solo trumpet. Compare the identical passage to Boulez/Vienna Phil., and you'll instantly know which orchestra is located closer to those Alps. Later on, as the loud unison horns lead us on to the slow movement's climactic passage, Mahler again sounds the cowbells - onstage. They're hard to detect here, but practically bury the horns on the recent Eschenbach/Philadelphia M6 from Ondine. I prefer Abbado's pacing, but Eshenbach nails these key signposts better. Also at that climactic passage, instead of putting all of Philly's energies into the top melodic line, Eschenbach makes certain that Mahler's rich, turn-of-the-century harmonies are very clearly defined.

The 30 minute finale goes off without a hitch either. Yet, Abbado fails to scare us much during that weird passage that's located between the two hammer strokes - the one that I affectionately dub, "the wild ride of the headless horsemen across the scared battle plains of Flounders". I'm adding much hyperbole here, but compare the very same passage to Eschenbach/Philly - yet again. Eschenbach makes the start of this section as weird and scarry as humanly possible. He takes it slow - "boom; smash; bop; wham!" - and he really brings out the percussion. Much has been made of Abbado's two hammerstrokes. Yet, a couple of odd things happen with these as well. On the first one, Abbado doubles it with the tam-tam (large gong); something that's not in any of the printed versions. On the second stroke, the bass drum is actually louder than the hammer mechanism itself (usually a large wooden mallet struck on a large wooden box or chopping block). Frankly, these minor points don't mean so much, in and of themselves. Mahler basically just wanted a non-metallic "thud" sound.

No, I think what bothers me most is something that's difficult to define. The timbre of the orchestra itself - at least on this recording - is really rather monochromatic. Everything is sort of a dark, chocolate-y sonority. The woodwinds are there, but there's no pungency or brilliance to their sound. As a result, they hardly cut through Mahler's dense textures. It's as though every instrument may as well be a bassoon. The low brass is often times too light in weight, especially the tuba. At the loudest passages, Mahler is transformed into having that sort of Brahmsian sound; where everything sounds dark and muddy, yet bright and screechy - all at the same time. It's difficult to describe, but far easier to demonstate: just turn to Eschenbach/Philadelphia. With Philly, it's as though one or two other dimensions have suddenly been added. The low strings and high strings are just as strong as those in Berlin. Yet, there's more pungency and timbral distinction from the winds. The Philly low brass is much stronger, and the trumpets have a more piercing quality. It's as though Philly were the Czech Phil. or St. Petersburg Phil. on steroids. Berlin comes across as a very good, enlarged German chamber orchestra - I don't know how else to describe the difference. Granted, some of this has to do with the difference in recording companies, and the difference in acoustics. But some of this definitely has something to do with the differences in tone production. The kind of sound that the Berlin Phil. makes is near ideal for Brahms and Richard Strauss. I'm not so sure that it's anywhere near ideal for Mahler 6. Why do I say that?

Well, let's examine the piece itself. In a sense, the sixth is Mahler's most German and, at the same time, ANTI-German work. It's really kind of a protest piece - a protest against the ever increasing militaristic direction that the German speaking world was taking at that time. As such, the symphony is predominately in minor, and the textures tend to be very dense in many, many spots (Richard Strauss, of all people, allegedly remarked that the sixth had been over-orchestrated). Low strings tend to march and growl a lot, as do the tuba and bassoons. When the high strings aren't playing a beautiful melody, they're usually doing something to just add to the general "screech" level. Horns tend to be sort of dark and muddy sounding instruments when dwelling in their middle register, which they do a lot of here. It's really only the woowinds and trumpets that provide much needed relief from everthing that is either marching, growling, or schreeching on top. I submit that you're not getting enough of that "relief" when hearing the Berlin Phil. in this music. It's not a huge issue, as they're obviously playing the piece, but you do immediately notice the difference when you switch to any number of other recordings. I've simply been using Eschenbach/Philadelphia as a reference point.

In the final analysis, there really isn't any shortage of great Mahler 6 recordings. You could really almost choose one by what your favorite orchestra is. Truth be told, if it weren't for the horrible, metallic "ping" hammerstrokes, my favorite Mahler 6 of any would be Dohnanyi/Cleveland (Decca). But for a single disc version, I recommend Boulez/Vienna Phil. (you can always switch the inner movements, if that's a big issue). For a two-disc version, I like Eschenbach/Philly or Jansons/Concertgebouw (low level recording - needs to be turned way up!).


« Last Edit: January 01, 2007, 12:09:44 AM by barry guerrero »

Offline Leo K

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1352
  • You're the best Angie
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2007, 12:55:29 AM »
That is a great review Barry. 

Quote
No, I think what bothers me most is something that's difficult to define. The timbre of the orchestra itself - at least on this recording - is really rather monochromatic. Everything is sort of a dark, chocolate-y sonority. The woodwinds are there, but there's no pungency or brilliance to their sound. As a result, they hardly cut through Mahler's dense textures. It's as though every instrument may as well be a bassoon. The low brass is often times too light in weight, especially the tuba. At the loudest passages, Mahler is transformed into having that sort of Brahmsian sound; where everything sounds dark and muddy, yet bright and screechy - all at the same time. It's difficult to describe, but far easier to demonstate: just turn to Eschenbach/Philadelphia. With Philly, it's as though one or two other dimensions have suddenly been added. The low strings and high strings are just as strong as those in Berlin. Yet, there's more pungency and timbral distinction from the winds. The Philly low brass is much stronger, and the trumpets have a more piercing quality. It's as though Philly were the Czech Phil. or St. Petersburg Phil. on steroids. Berlin comes across as a very good, enlarged German chamber orchestra - I don't know how else to describe the difference. Granted, some of this has to do with the difference in recording companies, and the difference in acoustics. But some of this definitely has something to do with the differences in tone production. The kind of sound that the Berlin Phil. makes is near ideal for Brahms and Richard Strauss. I'm not so sure that it's anywhere near ideal for Mahler 6. Why do I say that?

Interesting description regarding the sound here...from what I remember after hearing this for the first time a couple days ago, I'd say I mostly agree with your description.  I really loved the "dead" woodwind sound on this recording and the craggy brass, and there definitely was a chamber-like feel to the orchestra.  I also rather liked the Brahmsian feel to the overall timbre, although I think of Brahm's chamber music textures.  In my mind, the color was not "muddy" but a continous (almost transparent) "yellow-orchre" all through the work, so yes, it does feel kind monotone throughout.  The color of the CD cover actually describes the sound well for me.

I'm going to have to buy the Eschenbach/Philadelphia soon to compare.




Offline barry guerrero

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3928
Re: The Abbado Berlin M6
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2007, 01:36:24 AM »
The Abbado/BPO M6 really is very good by any standard, and I don't want to exaggerate the extent to which this issue of timbre is really a problem. You know, we're just completely spoiled for choices. One reason why I like Cleveland so much, at least in the sixth, is because they do get that "darker" kind of sound that's usually associated with Austro/German orchestras, but the individual strands stand out clearly as well. Since Philly is kind of like a "Slavic" orchestra on steroids, Cleveland is somewhere in the middle between Vienna, Berlin, and Philly. Unfortunately, Dohnanyi's M6 has just awful hammer strokes that go "ping!" in the most metallic way - totally wrong. It sounds like they just struck a small metallic hammer on to an anvil. There's also plenty of difference in the conducting.

Dohnanyi, Boulez, and Abbado are all concerned about the overall flow and "structure" of the work, I imagine. Eschenbach is closer to the more overtly "expressionistic" camp of Bernstein/VPO; Gielen (the grimmest of them all); Tennstedt; Segerstam, Rattle, etc.

Your comment about the color of the cover matching the timbre of the orchestra is amusing and interesting. I envision a slightly darker, more chocolate-y color. But hey, this is all subjective nonsense, I suppose.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2007, 10:21:34 AM by barry guerrero »

 

SMF spam blocked by CleanTalk