Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)

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COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Tudor
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection)
PERFORMER: Anne Schwanewilms (soprano), Lioba Braun (contralto); Bamberg Symphony Chorus & Orchestra; Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra/Jonathan Nott
CATALOGUE NO: 7158

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Like the keening mezzo in the finale with her invocation to ‘believe, my heart’, I’ve always wanted to have faith in the Mahler symphony many love best, but never quite succeeded at every moment. Until the past year, that is, first with Vladimir Jurowski bringing it all to fresh concert-hall life in a way that I’d never believed possible, and now Jonathan Nott reaching new peaks in his Bamberg cycle.

You won’t have to listen for long to know what I mean. What uplift, rather than crushing weight, in those opening lower-string flourishes, what keen realisation of all dynamics, what hairpins in the woodwind playing.

The consoling vision just gets more magical on each reappearance; the central hellfire is much abetted by the presence the recording lends the Bamberg percussion. I hear things I’ve never heard before in this movement, some of which aren’t in my score: is that trumpet up the octave at figure five part of a more recent edition?

While all this is picked up with even more haunting perspectives and thrashes in the final judgment day canvas, not everyone will admire as much as I do the half-remembered dream of the minuet, hardly swooningly nostalgic, or the dogged persistence of the scherzo.

Lioba Braun may not be the warmest mezzo ever to shine primeval light on the scene, but she’s very much part of the flowing perspective; and I doubt if anyone has brought more luminous colours to the soprano’s assurance than Anne Schwanewilms.

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The professional choir is a focused group, indispensable in the ‘Bereite dich!’s, the second softened by female voices; there’s no swimming in the Resurrection soup, but it’s still very exciting, especially in SACD. David Nice