Verdi had anvils, Tchaikovsky had cannons, and just recently I found out that there’s a part for GIANT HAMMER in Mahler’s 6th Symphony. So naturally I watched every recording of the “hammer blow” moment I could find, and then threw together this video of 6 of them.
I only realized recently that Mahler’s symphonies are more than just great mountain ranges of sound; they’re theatrical showpieces with horn flashes, ostentatious percussion, virtuoso solos, offstage performers, and all sorts of other eye-catching touches. I get the impression that they weren’t meant to work on a purely sonic level. I didn’t really enjoy the drama of a Mahler symphony until I watched Abbado conduct the 2nd (“Resurrection”) on YouTube. Sure, the hammer blows in the 6th are meant to be heard, but they’re also meant to be seen and, in live performance, FELT as the shock wave shoots through the hall.
Featuring Michael Tilson Thomas & WDR Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado & Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Bernard Haitink & Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Paavo Järvi & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Hee-Chuhn Choi & Korean Symphony Orchestra.