Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Warner Apex
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)
PERFORMER: Susan Chilcott (soprano), Violeta Urmana (mezzo-soprano); La Monnaie SO & Chorus/Kazushi Ono
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-49829-2
Perhaps the most interesting unknown name among Mahler interpreters to have emerged over the past few years, Kazushi Ono impressed with his BBC Symphony Orchestra performance of the Seventh Symphony at the Barbican earlier in the year. This live recording from the forces of Brussels’s Monnaie Opera obviously springs from harder, ultimately less rewarding work. The opening phrases of the Second’s funeral march, with every dynamic and hairpin in place, betoken an attention to detail that lasts throughout the work’s mighty span, and although Ono’s frequent slowing-down for the sake of expressive enlightenment can be mannered, he knows how to pace himself towards Mahler’s cosmic exclamations for maximum excitement.

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The problem is the orchestra. The Monnaie players do everything Ono asks of them, but in no department are they ever a match for the likes of Bernstein’s hard-hitting New York Philharmonic and the strain occasionally tells in an otherwise marvellously detailed and alive scherzo. Violeta Urmana, Susan Chilcott and the Monnaie Chorus are made of stronger metal, but none of their crucial quiet entrances is quite as luminous or as centred as it might be. The acoustic of the live Palais des Beaux-Arts recording is ungiving, and works well only for the eerie deadness around the cellos’ and basses’ soft march-revival in the first movement; but thankfully there has been little tampering with internal balancing and Ono’s evident fine ear for texture survives intact. We shall be hearing more from him. David Nice