Mahler’s sixth symphony, written early in the new century, and performed in 1906. On this recording it is performed by Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Haitink has recorded it many times, with different orchestras. All of them are considered masterpieces.
There is some discussion about the order of the parts in this work. It is caused by Mahler himself. During the rehearsals of the premiere in Essen, Mahler changed the order, and asked his publisher to publish a second edition with that order. It had the slow Andante before the quick Scherzo, like it was done in the premiere.
However, the first edition was still out there, already causing a controversy. When one of Haitink’s predecessors in Amsterdam asked the still living Alma Mahler her opinion on the matter, she clearly stated the Scherzo should go before the Andante. Musicologists agreed it is also a slightly better order.
But there is a long list of conductors that chose the Andante – Scherzo order, one of which is the Amsterdam conductor Van Beinum, another predecessor at the Concertgebouw. This little story shows how strong the Mahler tradition is at the Concertgebouw. Almost every chief conductor there has to perform all nine symphonies, resulting in many memorable recordings.
I once had the opportunity of seeing the great Haitink at the Concertgebouw. Regrettably with a different orchestra, but it gave me a glimpse of what the man was able to do. I can tell you, it was worth every penny.