ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Juliane Banse (soprano), Anna Larsson (mezzo-soprano); Schweizer Kammerchor; Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 87157 2 (hybrid CD/SACD)
It has been the fashion more recently to serve up Mahler’s Resurrection with smaller doses of brimstone and treacle: unless you happen to be Leonard Bernstein, clean lines and hard-working solos tend to serve its sometimes callow theatricality best. Perhaps that approach was foisted on David Zinman by the Zurich orchestra. Collectively rather brittle, it boasts good work from flute and oboe – breathing air into the dying embers of the opening funeral march – as well as stalwart trumpets and horns in the judgment-day canvas.
In terms of pace, Zinman rarely puts a foot wrong – building the first-movement development patiently but always with the right degree of vividness, capturing exactly the right old-fashioned quality in the relaxed minuet and compelling the scherzo with plenty of detail inexorably to its doom. Rigorously observed dynamics, virtually inaudible at the soft end, are compassionately mirrored in Anna Larsson’s very humane song and Juliane Banse’s unusually dark-hued soprano, rising out of a suitably intimate resurrection-day chorus; their role in the finale is foreshadowed by some unusually operatic orchestral work. The sound, like the performance, is natural, very good in both distancing and focusing the offstage band, and just a little short of punch. This is excellent work, lacking only the last degree of terror and exultation to be found among the formidable army of recorded competitors. David Nice