Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)

COMPOSERS: Gustav Mahler
LABELS: Arthaus Musik
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection); Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (arr. Gottwald)
PERFORMER: Anja Harteros (soprano), Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano); Bavarian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 101685; Blu-ray: 108081

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Here’s a rare case where I wish Brian Large’s filming had included the option of an alternative ‘conductor camera’, as often provided in DVDs of Claudio Abbado’s Lucerne Festival Mahler. For I hadn’t taken on board quite how expressive a master Jansons can be: the face and above all the eyes change in an instant through absorption in the Resurrection’s drama. It’s definitely not just for the cameras, and it’s allied to a taut technique, second to none, catching the full force of the first movement’s hellfire but relaxing for the glimpses of a heaven to come, when Jansons takes the baton between the fingers of his left hand and creatively shapes with his right.

These are superlative players, too, responsive to Janson’s subtlest rubato in a fastish but gleaming minuet and the most sinuous of scherzos. The piccolo player is a star. The very classy soloists are Bernarda Fink, winning back through sympathetic identification with her text what we miss in sheer Earth-mother warmth, and the peerless Anja Harteros. Marvellous moments belong to the chorus, too, not least the men’s pianissimo. The a cappella opener, though, doesn’t really work in this context: I can understand Clytus Gottwald’s motivation in arranging ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’, the loveliest song in the world, to enrich the choral repertoire, but why have it here, where Fink or Harteros could have sung the original with the orchestra? Never mind; the symphony is the thing, and confirms Jansons as one of the world’s top five living conductors.

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David Nice