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Mahler's Sixth Symphony is widely regarded as his bleakest. Yet until the end, when the human spirit is shattered by hammer blows of fate, it's a work of conflict and ambiguity. Mahler's restless writing shifts between hope and despair--even the reassuring andante questions itself. The uncertainty at its core extends to the composer's revisions: there are historical and musical arguments for performing the middle movements in either order. (Here conductor James Conlon has chosen the original sequence of scherzo followed by andante.) The Sixth is one of Mahler's most elusive symphonies--understandably overanalyzed and underperformed--and while the wrenching music may not be best suited to Ravinia's outdoor setting or the CSO in its summer mode, credit Conlon for forging ahead on the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies, to be completed in 2011 for the 100th anniversary of the composer's death. a 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$25. A --Steve Langendorf


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