Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)
PERFORMER: Nancy Gustafson (soprano), Florence Quivar (contralto)Prague Philharmonic Choir, Israel PO/Zubin Mehta
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94545-2 DDD
Benjamin Zander marketed earlier IMP recordings with a manifesto of the ‘right’ (fast) speeds for Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the ‘Sacrificial Dance’ in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Now he offers us a Mahler Six with no new arguments and a sequence of basic tempos that veer to the stately extremes of a Karajan or a Sinopoli. The trouble is that Zander’s semi-professional (or should I ungenerously say semi-amateur?) band is no Berlin Philharmonic or Philharmonia; and so there are no extra supplies of weightiness or rich string tone to call upon when the first-movement march threatens to sag, as it does here. The finale has a firmer sense of direction either side of the first two blows of fate’ – terrifyingly vivid, and Zander also features the third, contrary to Mahler’s superstitious wishes – but loses it between them, where the composer’s descent into hell needs all the focus it can get. The Andante’s inwardness is nearly inaudible for much too long – perhaps it worked better live – and a first-rate trumpeter too often rides above the rest of the players at climaxes.

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Mehta’s Second Symphony is colourfully brisk (adding nothing new to his earlier Decca recording) and boasts a noisy theatricality in the Judge-ment Day chaos, but an underlying gravitas and a sense of wonder are missing; the clipped, jabbing opening phrases say it all. After Blomstedt’s refreshing new Resurrection, it’s been an unenlightening month for new Mahler issues. David Nice