Author Topic: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?  (Read 18451 times)

john haueisen

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Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« on: August 24, 2008, 09:09:49 AM »
This is similar to my question of a month or two ago, when I asked which M6 has the best cowbells.  (My personal preference is for hammer blows that sound crushingly devastating rather than sharp.)

I got such good suggestions about M6s with good cowbells, that I just have to ask if you have an M6 where you think the hammerschlag is particularly effective, or at least above average.

John H

Offline Seán

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2008, 11:31:01 AM »
I am a liistener new to Mahler and so I am one who is not familiar with a great deal of M6 recordings.  My first M6 CD was Abbado/BPO.  When I listened to it for the very first time I nearly "jumped out of my seat" when I heard the hammer blows as I wasn't expecting it, you I can say it moved me  ;D.   So from a novice it's Abbado/BPO for me.

Interesting question.

Offline Leo K

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2008, 11:44:16 AM »
The recording that quickly comes to mind is the Haitink/LSO live broadcast from 2004...I really love the hammerblows there.  Since this is a broadcast the sonics are limited, but the blows are still felt...one of my favorite M6 finales overall.  This performance beats the pants off Haitink's M6 from Chicago, recently released on Resound.

The hammerblows on the Abbado/Lucerne M6 DVD are quite good I believe, and it's great to see the actual hammer coming down visually.

--Todd





Offline John Kim

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2008, 01:29:47 PM »
Levine/LSO/RCA
Zander/BPO (Boston Philharmonic Orch.)
Levi/ASO/Telarc

Offline Ben

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2008, 01:55:29 PM »
I'd have to say the Chailly/Royal Concertgebouw recording on Decca has the best hammerstrokes.  They are huge!  And certainly not sharp sounding at all, definitely crushing.

Ben

Offline Seán

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2008, 03:58:23 PM »

The hammerblows on the Abbado/Lucerne M6 DVD are quite good I believe, and it's great to see the actual hammer coming down visually.

--Todd



It's great, but when you see it you are expecting it, so it's more of a visual than a listening experience.

Offline Leo K

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2008, 05:20:05 PM »

The hammerblows on the Abbado/Lucerne M6 DVD are quite good I believe, and it's great to see the actual hammer coming down visually.

--Todd



It's great, but when you see it you are expecting it, so it's more of a visual than a listening experience.

This reminds me of a music instructer of mine...she said music is just as visual as it is aural...especially at a live concert!

--Todd

john haueisen

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2008, 02:13:49 PM »
The DVD recording of Bernstein and the VPO also allow us to see a huge wooden hammer drop with a thud.
I wonder what others think of the hammerblows.  Whether looking or listening for the hammerblow, I feel it inevitably approaching.  Although it's a fearsome, destructive blow, anticipation of it becomes unbearable, and I almost can't wait for its arrival.
Psychologically, I wonder if this is a recognition of the inexorable approach of mortality, and a final surrender to it.
I do hope a few readers will be brave enough to advance some thoughts about the hammerblows in M6.

John H

Offline Damfino

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2008, 07:52:21 PM »
Quote
The hammerblows on the Abbado/Lucerne M6 DVD are quite good I believe, and it's great to see the actual hammer coming down visually.

I quite like the Abbado Lucerne DVD version as well. I agree that seeing the hammerblow helps put it over the top. Though I think it would sound good even without the visuals. On many recordings, I just hear the drum. A downside to the Abbado DVD: you see a harpist playing away but cannot actually hear the harp. A bit of a disappointment considering it is a multichannel DVD.

Polarius T

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2008, 07:51:24 AM »
I haven't heard the Abbado DVD from Lucerne (even if I now badly want to), but my overwhelming favorite is Abbado's Berlin recording on DG. At least on SACD stereo the image specificity, spatial presentation, and tonal accuracy of the recording are in a class of its own among the recordings I've heard (so you hear the 'blows really in the best possible way), and the interpretation on the whole I find the most successful one among those that I've heard -- well-nigh perfect in the sense that I cannot imagine what could be done differently to improve upon it. The hammerblows also seem to be better integrated into the work's natural progression or "flow" than in most cases I've heard, withouth giving up anything of their devastating force (on the contrary). For me however a more critical variable is how the march rhythms in the opening movement are handled; this sets the tone for the whole work for me and it's quite hard to get them right, it seems (not too militaristic, neurotic, obsessive, "sharp" in the edges, but not soft and lumpy either).

What I havent' heard, though, but would like to is Eschenbach in this work; he's a real and honest artist and could be, I think, a very good fit for M6 precisely.

-PT

Offline Dave H

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2008, 05:34:01 AM »
For those who are curious we have reviews of both Abbado (DG):

http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=9062

and Eschenbach (Ondine):

http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=10408

The two are utterly different; in general, the Abbado has not been received with much enthusiasm that I have seen. The Eschenbach also has generated some controversy, owing to his very free handling of tempo and darkness of texture, but in my opinion it's one of the Mahler symphonies he does best, and the performance is not afflicted by that "slow" disease that seems to infect so many conductors these days--heaven only knows why. Indeed, this is also one of the virtues of Abbado's performance. While I don't especially like it, I give him credit at least for speading up rather than slowing down. The problem is simply that, looking at the situation comparatively in terms of the work's discography, others have done it better.

Dave H

Polarius T

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2008, 08:26:52 AM »
This first is off topic and I'm aware of it:

...the Abbado has not been received with much enthusiasm that I have seen.

It seems to me you are spreading misinformation again. Or maybe you really don't look around much. In Europe the recording garnered almost every possible praise from all directions; mention only the Gramophone magazine's 2006 "Record of the Year" and "Best Orchestral Recording" awards ("The BPO play like gods . . . ": http://www.gramophone.co.uk/awardstemplate.asp?id=955&award_year=2006). But let's forget for a moment your distaste for things European and your apparent inability to get past the promotional stickers when it comes to Abbado, and look at a few responses this recording received in the U.S.:

"The conductor virtually owns the work, and an adoring band of Berliners gave him their all . . . it shares all the virtues of his Lucerne Fifth: the supreme command of both detail and line, the unsurpassed rhythmic flexibility and expressivity, and the sensitivity to period-appropriate touches such as telling use of portamento. Its growth over those 25 years emerges in both surprising and unsurprising ways. Despite the identifying and savoring of details, there is no stopping to smell the roses in an interpretation unrelentingly urgent yet never driven. Only an orchestra as fine as the Berliners, and as attuned to his ways, could sustain Abbado's brisk tempos. They express the urgency of death that stalks this music. They're the engine of powerful, explicit, and precise feeling."
Bay Area Reporter, July 28 & December 1, 2005

"The excellence of the sound is even more obvious when the whole orchestra makes its presence felt after the enigmatic opening measures of the finale: this orchestra has power to burn . . . this is a very impressive performance, which has grown in my estimation in the short time I've known it . . . one can easily apprehend the intimate knowledge of Mahler's music at work here, and it joins the other recent Abbado recordings (from Berlin and elsewhere) on my short list of Mahler performances that are worth revisiting often."
Fanfare, November 2005

"The excitement of the concert performance can be felt in every minute of this live recording . . . You will be hard pressed to find a Mahler Sixth with more warmth, breadth and dignity."
The New York Times, December 16, 2005

"[This is] a live recording that Mahlerians will want for its forwarding-moving flow . . . Abbado is especially fine in the Andante, here placed before the Scherzo, unlike his first, 1970s recording with the Chicago Symphony . . . one of the best available recordings of this section of the massive work. The Berlin strings shine here, as they do throughout the Symphony . . . the famous hammer blows in the last movement have tremendous impact . . . In fact, that last movement is one of the set's highlights, well-played and abundantly detailed. In sum, one of the better Sixths in the catalogue."
Dan Davis, staff review for Amazon.com

"[Abbado's Sixth] is inexpressibly touching in the same way his Ninth was, not least for the luminous sound the orchestra musters – at its most beautiful almost translucent – without stinting on power or tragic passion in a reading that darkens into “Tragic” as the work progresses. This is Abbado’s third, surely valedictory, recording of the work (first there was Chicago, then Vienna, now Berlin), and it inhabits a spirit world beyond the expressive poignance of the previous two, fine though moments were in both . . . Abbado plays [the 2nd mvt.] with a tenderness that verges on the unearthly, then follows with a scherzo that finds Mahler vacillating emotionally between gruff agony and memories of gentler times. The contrast is almost painful to hear as Mahler’s sense of loss is overcome by outbursts of anger, only to end in quiet despair . . . [In the finale] Abbado builds from sadness verging at moments on madness . . . to levels of agony that include the two famous “hammerblows” (Mahler wisely removed a third). What instrument was employed we’re not told in Donald Mitchell’s otherwise superbly argued program note, but it has the sound of doom no other performances I know come close to . . . Having been so moved by Gielen’s version, I replayed it between auditions of Abbado’s Berlin insights, and was startled to find him altogether heavier – unleavened emotionally, even in the “Alma” Andante – as if Mahler had sequestered himself in a dark room from which he refused to emerge. Now it may be that Gielen has a grasp of the Mahlerian Angst that Abbado tempers with his own survival of rather worse than a faithless wife. Remember, it was not until 1907 that Mahler learned of his heart condition, which he survived for four more years. But the further bonus of the Berlin Philharmonic’s superlative playing – their sheer range of tonal and dynamic expression – makes Abbado’s newest Sixth transcendental in his own canon, and one of the glories in DGG’s pantheon."
Classical CD Review, classicalcdreview.com, July 2005

"This new Sixth was worth the wait. Abbado's Mahler is objective but not cold. It rests neatly between Boulez's clinical interpretation and the twisted hysteria of Bernstein. . . Abbado builds the symphony's edifice masterfully. The tension ratchets upwards a notch in each successive movement . . . Architecture within movements is handled finely too. Abbado does not bludgeon the listener with one shattering climax after another, but rather leads the listener to each movement's unique crisis. Another glory of this recording is the playing of the Berlin Philharmonic, and the clarity that Abbado achieves within and between its sections. This is gorgeous playing, and exquisitely balanced. At the same time, this is not sound for sound's sake (as one sometimes finds in Karajan), but a successful attempt to realize everything that Mahler imagined an orchestra could do. At the symphony's end, there are a few moments of silence, and then comes the applause – and soon after, cheers. One can appreciate both the audience's initial stillness – in Abbado's hands especially, the end of this symphony is shattering – and their subsequent enthusiasm. DG's engineering team has captured the music and the space that it lives in remarkably."
Classical Net, www.classical.net 2005

"Abbado maintains a stoic approach to this most death-obsessed of Mahler symphonies, yet every detail registers with extraordinary playing by the Berlin Philharmonic . . . "
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, November 18, 2005

"The man has proved himself a modern master of things Mahlerian, and this performance has certainly the touch of mastery about it. Above all is the sense of forward drive supreme. From beginning to end, the piece seems of a whole, everything in it rushing toward that final culmination of fate, tragedy, and death."
Sensible Sound, December 2005

* * *

So it seems that the more grandiose if also quite contradictory role (in view of your first statement) you have adopted for yourself is more in line with reality, proclaiming as you elsewhere do that, besides you yourself, "there doesn't seem to be anyone out there with the guts to tell him that [this performance] isn't worthy of preserving [and that] the Berlin Philharmonic . . . has no business playing Mahler." Interesting, I guess; first no one likes it and then everyone but you is bowled over by it. Though coming from a source perhaps best known for its fierce promotion of "Joyce Hatto" over the originals copied I take such statements, too, with a grain of salt.

And if I may point out, what you are doing in your post is being a businessman advertising his product (commercial venture) on a non-commercial music site.

* * *

Now, back to the OP's request: I'm not sure I understand what you mean by it -- what we personally feel about, our subjective reactions, or what we think are the justifications of including such an extraordinary sound device in the composition's plan? Could you quickly clarify and then hopefully more. First I thought you were asking about different recordings and how the hammerblows are realized in them (talked about quite a lot in the above quotations by the way) but let me re-read what you said.

Thanks,

-PT


« Last Edit: August 27, 2008, 09:35:20 AM by Polarius T »

Offline sperlsco

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2008, 09:43:38 AM »
PT:

If you like the Abbado/BPO SACD (I do too), you may like the Lucerne DVD even more.  Here is a thread on this subject from a while ago. 

http://gustavmahlerboard.com/forum/index.php?topic=276.0

The Lucerne performance is longer in the outer movements by about a minute each and also by about 30 seconds in the Andante.  All of this makes the performance a bit weightier (and better) in my view.  And the very end of the symphony is done perfectly (it is similar to Chailly). 

I can hear many of the things that DH complaints about in Abbado's BPO Mahler, but they bother me much less than they do him.  There can be a smoothness of playing that others may find off-putting.  However, I still like his flexibility and overall tempi choices, and the whole seems to work very well for me (at least for the recent BPO M3, M6, M7, and M9, and also the LFO M5, M6, M7). 
Scott

Offline sperlsco

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2008, 09:55:03 AM »
Though coming from a source perhaps best known for its fierce promotion of "Joyce Hatto" over the originals copied I take such statements, too, with a grain of salt.

And if I may point out, what you are doing in your post is being a businessman advertising his product (commercial venture) on a non-commercial music site.
-PT

PT:

While the rest of your post is an appropriate retort to Dave's commments on Abbado's BPO M6, this part is just a personal attack and is inappropriate.   Please refrain. 
Scott

Polarius T

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Re: Which M6 has the best hammer blows?
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2008, 11:12:44 AM »
Though coming from a source perhaps best known for its fierce promotion of "Joyce Hatto" over the originals copied I take such statements, too, with a grain of salt.

And if I may point out, what you are doing in your post is being a businessman advertising his product (commercial venture) on a non-commercial music site.
-PT
this part is just a personal attack and is inappropriate.

Hi,

I think you are wrong. Did DH's site promote the recordings issued under the actual artists' name? No. Copies of the same re-issued under Joyce Hatto's name? More than anyone else except perhaps one publication over in the U.K. This is a matter of public record: you can go check the reviews they gave to the authentic issues and compare them to the reviews of the "Joyce Hatto" versions of same. (Provided these haven't been altered or deleted since the scandal; in fact, at least one does seem to have disappeared.) Broad outline if someone is interested at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Hatto. Of course, DH seems to have his own story against the rest of the world's, once again.

And I consider bringing this up as nothing more than calling his site's credentials into question the same way he has seen fit to call into question the credentials of other posters on this site.

On the second point: Do they sell advertisements? Then it's a commercial venture, and normally in non-commercial discussion sites a participating business entrepreneur is not allowed to make direct references to the products he sells (in this case the recording reviews and the website housing them) or discuss them unless specifically asked. It's simply to avoid conflict of interests type of situations and to prevent indirect marketing to unsuspecting readers.

But sure, if you say so.

-PT
« Last Edit: August 27, 2008, 12:47:31 PM by Polarius T »