Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (Czech Phil/Bychkov)
Christiane Karg (soprano), Elisabeth Kulman (mezzo-soprano); Prague Philharmonic Choir; Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov (Pentatone)
Symphony No. 2, ‘Resurrection’
Christiane Karg (soprano), Elisabeth Kulman (mezzo-soprano); Prague Philharmonic Choir; Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov
Pentatone PTC 5186 992 86:52 mins
The time when the Czech Philharmonic played with such strikingly individual sound and style in those classic Supraphon recordings of the 1960s has long gone. The reality of a global musical marketplace means that today major orchestras are bound to sound more like each other – a situation whose upside is impressively on display in this recording. There is superlative individual and collective quality in every orchestral department, with fine solo and choral singing to match. And the recording, made in the Dvořák Hall in Prague’s Rudolfinum, wonderfully conveys both the forensic detail of Mahler’s scoring and the surrounding acoustic space.
The players of the quiet brass chorale that begins the ‘Urlicht’ fourth movement have been placed apart and at the back of the hall, as Mahler’s instructions require, and as many conductors ignore – a beautiful effect that is to Bychkov’s credit. Moments like this do much to compensate for necessary reservations elsewhere. In the second movement, the music’s lilting poise doesn’t materialise as it needs to. And Bychkov’s approach to the Scherzo that follows is too equable for Mahler’s vision of a whirling dance of death.