WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)
PERFORMER: Cheryl Studer (soprano), Waltraud Meier (contralto)Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Vienna PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 439 953-2 DDD
Abbado’s second recorded Resurrection wins a special place in an overcrowded field by virtue of its refined poetry. The anguish of the funeral march stays very much between the lines, there’s an almost supernatural elegance about the second and third movements, and the mesh of birdsong and distant fanfares is by no means the only moment in the final Judgement Day canvas to give cause for wonder.
In terms of blazing theatricality, though, Abbado yields to both his own earlier Chicago performance and Bernstein’s last thoughts (also on DG). Still, the sound is a natural improvement on the conductor’s live Mahler Five (made in Berlin), and DG has thankfully ordered the CDs to give us ‘Urlicht’ immediately following the Scherzo, even if Waltraud Meier glides in on a rather too fulsome note.
Expect no refinements in Barshai’s interpretation of a late Mahler symphony which positively cries out for them. BIS’s documentation of the veteran Russian conductor’s return to Moscow in 1993 has a fascination of its own in reminding us of the Russian orchestral approach to Mahler: heavy strings are suitably clumsy in the deadpan Scherzo and the trombones blare alarmingly in the third of the first movement’s devastating collapses. Unfortunately, Barshai has little control over the tempo fluctuations of the outer movements and the recording is presumably not to blame for muddy textures. The audience, at least, seems to have been spellbound. David Nice