The last recording of Kirill Kondrashin. It was made in the very day of his death. He was invited to replace Klauss Tennstedt, who had refused to conduct in Amsterdam. After only a half-hour rehersal Kondrashin managed to pass his own specific view of the score to the orchestra and the concert had a great success.
I'm a bit taken aback that Haenssler should label excellent stereo from 1981 as a historical recording. Kondrashin died that year at the age of 67 - the day after his birthday, as it happens. His Mahler recordings took place with his own Moscow Phil., but the present orchestra of Southwest Radio in Baden-Baden and Freiburg was under Michael Gielen, an experienced and exciting Mahler conductor in his own right, so the chemistry must have been good - better, I suspect, than with any Soviet orchestra at the time. Mahler wasn't a regular part of the orchestral tradition there.
Fischer’s performance of the Sixth is quite similar to Abbado’s recent live recording for DG. Textures are generally light and transparent, with a swift opening march that, by the same token, never sounds unduly rushed or trivialized. The andante comes second, not the best option in my view, but Fischer has the intelligence to treat it as a true andante, and not as an adagio (which is a more legitimate possibility when it’s placed third). However, in contrast to Abbado’s boring Berliners, Fischer’s orchestra plays better, and he’s much better recorded. Just listen to the characterful brass in the coda of the first movement, with a particularly fine first trumpet, or the splendid woodwinds in the trios of the scherzo. The emphasis on fleetness never compromises expressivity, as happens in Berlin.
This is Ivan Fischer’s second Mahler symphony for Channel Classics with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, his first being the Sixth recorded in February 2005. His opening to this Resurrection symphony, its hero’s Funeral Rites, is disciplined with touches of brusqueness in the brass. But as this is supposed to ask ‘Why did you live?’ I’m very aware of Fischer’s empathy for the visionary aspects of the movement, as if to answer ‘To experience all that’s lovely’.