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BERNARD HAITINK, CONDUCTOR, CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA; Mahler, Symphony No. 6 (CSO Resound) ****

LUBA ORGONASOVA, SOPRANO, DAVID ZINMAN, CONDUCTOR, TONHALLE ORCHESTRA ZURICH; Mahler, Symphony No. 4 (RCA Red Seal) ****

EVGENY KISSIN, PIANO, COLIN DAVIS, CONDUCTOR, LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA; Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491; Schumann, Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54 (EMI Classics) ****

One of today's foremost conductors, Bernard Haitink is also one of the last of a kind — a thoughtful, intelligent conductor who knows the repertoire intimately. He doesn't go for the obvious, like so many conductors today. Instead, he explores the score to find all its subtleties and nuances and, in the process, captures the composer's intentions brilliantly. A performance with Haitink at the helm is like an expedition of discovery. At its most successful, it's a revelatory experience, as if one is hearing the music for the first time.

On his most recent recording with the Chicago Symphony of Mahler's Sixth Symphony, the experience isn't quite like that, but it is still a wondrous journey, and one of the most perceptive readings of the Sixth around. Haitink's perusal of the work isn't the most dramatic — there are many recordings available in which the conductors emphasize the work's drama. Rather, Haitink's interpretation revels in the nuances and subtleties to be found in the music that are so often overlooked.

Haitink's tempos tend to be leisurely and sometimes surprisingly slow (as in the middle section of the scherzo). But his choice of tempos allows him to bring out the glorious instrumental colors that Mahler creates in this symphony.

The Chicago Symphony plays wonderfully under Haitink's direction. The playing is dynamic, articulate and compellingly expressive. Haitink, who has been Chicago's principal conductor since 2006 but has been associated with the orchestra for more than 30 years, knows how to get what he wants from his musical forces. And the result is a recording that is a must have for anyone who loves Mahler's music.

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Over his long career, David Zinman has proved to be a musical conductor who delves into a score and extracts the substance and essence of the musical fabric.

Zinman demonstrates this in his Mahler cycle with Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra, where he has been the chief conductor since 1995. The first three symphonies (Zinman has been recording them chronologically) have been exemplary recordings. And the Fourth, which RCA Red Seal has recently released, continues the high artistic goals Zinman has set for himself and his orchestra.

A nuanced interpretation is crucial to a successful performance of anything by Mahler, and Zinman's is a thoughtful and perceptive reading that wonderfully captures the work. His is an expansive account of the Fourth, with sweeping lines and broad gestures.

The Tonhalle Orchestra, one of Europe's finest ensembles, plays lyrically, and soprano Luba Orgonasova's captivating singing in the final movement brings a refreshing innocence to the words.

No matter how many recordings of Mahler's Fourth one may have in one's collection, there is always room for one more. Make room for this one.

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For EMI Classics recording of Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto, K. 491, and Schumann's sole piano concerto, the label paired up one of the major talents among the younger generation of pianists with one of the most revered and profound veteran conductors. With Evgeny Kissin and Colin Davis sharing the spotlight on this recording, the result is music making of the highest caliber.

Kissin is an immense talent — an artist who possesses incredible technique, coupled with a refreshing sense of musicality, and one of the undisputed masters of his instrument.

Davis is one of the few remaining true conducting talents still around. He has an innate sense of the music he conducts, and his interpretations are always thoughtful and penetrating. He is without question a musician's musician.

Mozart's K. 491 concerto is a work that's romantic in spirit and emotional depth and one of the composer's crowning accomplishments. And that's exactly how Kissin and Davis approach it.

The Schumann is no less compelling. Kissin and Davis capture the fine romantic sensibilities of the music as well as the richly colored textures. The performance is charged with emotion and feeling and gorgeously expressive.

The London Symphony's playing is wonderfully seamless, fluid and textured in both works. These are captivating performances by everyone concerned, and this album is certainly well worth acquiring.


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