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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "resurrection"; R. Strauss: Six Selected Songs

Mahler / Strauss / Lott / Osr / Jordan
Release Date: 02/08/2011 
Label:  Cascavelle   Catalog #: 3148   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard StraussGustav Mahler
Performer:  Felicity Lott
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 44 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MAHLER Symphony No. 2 1. STRAUSS 2 Das Rosenband; Waldseligkeit; Wiegenlied; Freundliche Vision; Die heiligen drei Königen aus Morgenland; Morgen Armin Jordan, cond; 1 Silke Kaiser (sop); 1 Cornelia Kallisch (mez); 2 Felicity Lott (sop); Suisse Romande O; Geneva Motet Ch; Geneva Grand Theater Ch Read more CASCAVELLE 3148 (2 CDs: 104:30) 1 Live: Victoria Hall, Geneva 1996


Why is the undersigned reviewing a recording of a Mahler symphony, repertoire usually covered by Fanfare’ s resident Mahlerite, Christopher Abbot? I am a Mahler fan but not a Mahler fanatic, by which I mean that his music does not hold that special appeal for me it does for those who collect every recording of his symphonies and analyze them, score in hand, with eye and ear focused on the minutest discrepancies in tempo, dynamics, and expressive markings. In other words, my appreciation of Mahler does not rise to the level of a passion. The direct answer then is that this disc came to me for review, frankly, because the Strauss songs sung by Felicity Lott were of more interest to me than this not terribly competitive live Mahler Second which, apparently, has just been released for the first time from the Suisse Romande’s archives 15 years after it was taped at a concert performance. Jordan’s Mahler Four, once available on Erato, can now be found, with some difficulty, on the budget Apex label, but I’ve not found any previous incarnation for the Second, which is not to say one doesn’t exist.


Let me begin with the symphony, which I suspect will be of more general interest. Despite my claim that my appreciation of Mahler does not rise to the level of a passion, I’ve managed to acquire enough recordings of his symphonies to satisfy my appetite for the foreseeable future. Those of the Symphony No. 2 include Solti/Chicago, Boulez/Vienna, Chailly/Concertgebouw, Bernstein/NY (1963 on LP), Bernstein/NY (1987), Mehta/Israel (1994), Haitink/Chicago, Neumann/Czech PO, Sinopoli/Philharmonia, and of course Tilson Thomas/SFO.


Wow! Maybe I am a Mahler fanatic after all. I had no idea I had so many Mahler Seconds until this assignment prompted me to check. Frankly, out of all of them, the one that still sends a shiver up my spine whenever I hear it is Bernstein (1987). The cellos and basses tear into the opening maelstrom with a wildness the others may aspire to but can’t match. Of course, there’s more to the piece than the “big bang” that sets this universe on its course, and other interpreters of the score—I’m thinking of Boulez and Chailly in particular—have perhaps found more subtleties in their variously nuanced readings.


The Suisse Romande Orchestra achieved its high point during the Ansermet years (1918–67). Under his direction, the orchestra earned a reputation for excellence and made many still-cherished recordings. Following Ansermet’s tenure, a number of conductors—from Kletzki and Sawallisch to the current director, Marek Janowski—have stood at the helm, but the orchestra never really regained the special flair it seemed to have under Ansermet.


The Mahler Second captured here came toward the tail end of Jordan’s term, which ran from 1985 to 1997, and it sounds like he was as tired of the orchestra as it was of him. His conducting feels slack and uninspired, and the orchestra repays him with playing that sounds dispirited and disengaged. Comparing Jordan to Bernstein (1987), Tilson Thomas (2004), and Haitink (2008), timings tell us a great deal.


Mvmt I Mvmt II Mvmt III Mvmt IV Mvmt V


Jordan 20:05 9:54 11:45 4:58 32:48


Bernstein 24:53 12:04 11:24 6:18 38:38


Tilson Thomas 23:19 11:33 10:45 5:44 36:41


Haitink 21:12 10:09 11:09 4:59 34:33


In every movement but the third, across the board, Jordan is faster than the others, sometimes considerably so, while in the third movement, the Scherzo, he’s a good deal slower. In other words, where weight and gravitas are called for, Jordan skims the surface, while in the Scherzo, where fleetness, albeit tinged with Mahlerian alarm, is required, he drags. Moreover, though he’s only one second quicker than Haitink in the fourth movement (“Urlicht”), Jordan and Haitink both, in my opinion, are the poorer for their choice of mezzo-sopranos—Cornelia Kallisch and Christianne Stotijn, respectively—in a part that wants a contralto, or at least a darker-hued mezzo voice. Christa Ludwig for Bernstein and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson for Tilson Thomas are more effective and intensely riveting.


A further detraction is that the orchestra and/or the recording do not have the body weight for the heavy lifting Mahler requires. This is a relatively lightweight Mahler Second that will probably not appeal to listeners accustomed to the beefier sound of the New York, Chicago, Vienna, and Amsterdam orchestras. This does not strike me as a Mahler Second prepared to go head-to-head with the big boys.


The Strauss segment of the program with Felicity Lott is not cited as having been recorded live in concert, but neither is it assigned its own recording date separate from that given for the Mahler, and as with the Mahler I find no prior incarnations.


Assuming the songs were recorded at approximately the same time, 1996, Lott would have been 49 and in her prime. She had already committed these same songs to disc a decade earlier, also in their orchestral settings, for Chandos with Neeme Järvi and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. And in 2002, she joined Graham Johnson in a Strauss recital at Champs Hill for ASV that included out of 26 songs all but Freundliche Vision and Die heiligen drei Königen aus Morgenland on this disc in their voice and piano settings. Though still in top form in the later recital, on this presumed 1996 release, Lott’s voice is simply radiant. In addition to that, she’s more confident in her breath control, allowing her to deliver a daringly slow Wiegenlied. The difference in timings is striking. With Johnson, her timing is 4:29. She sings the song beautifully but doesn’t risk too slow a tempo that might stretch the capacity of her sustaining power. With Jordan on the current CD, her timing is 5:01. She holds you in thrall as she builds gradually to a thrilling climax.


The rest of Lott’s numbers are breathtakingly gorgeous, but her singing of Wiegenlied over the shimmering orchestral accompaniment is pure magic and, all by itself, practically worth the price of the package.


If Cascavelle’s intent was to sell this two-disc set as some sort of historical document, the company has treated its contents and artists rather shabbily. The notes, which amount to a page each in French, English, and German, are not very informative, and no texts are provided for either the Strauss or the vocal sections of the Mahler.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1. Lieder (4), Op. 36: no 1, Das Rosenband by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Felicity Lott ()
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Genève 
Length: 3 Minutes 9 Secs. 
2. Lieder (8), Op. 49: no 1, Waldseligkeit by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Felicity Lott ()
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Genève 
Length: 3 Minutes 10 Secs. 
3. Lieder (5), Op. 41: no 1, Wiegenlied by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Felicity Lott ()
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Genève 
Length: 5 Minutes 1 Secs. 
4. Lieder (5), Op. 48: no 1, Freundliche Vision by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Felicity Lott ()
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Genève 
Length: 2 Minutes 59 Secs. 
5. Lieder (6), Op. 56: no 6, Die heiligen drei Könige by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Felicity Lott ()
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1906; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Genève 
Length: 6 Minutes 32 Secs. 
6. Lieder (4), Op. 27: no 4, Morgen by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Felicity Lott ()
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Victoria Hall, Genève 
Length: 3 Minutes 54 Secs. 
7. Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Armin Jordan
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1996 
Venue:  Live  Victoria Hall, Genève 
Length: 78 Minutes 52 Secs. 

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