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Works on This Recording
Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Maureen Forrester (Mezzo Soprano),
Kathleen Battle (Soprano)
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra,
St. Louis Symphony Chorus
Written: 1888/1896; Germany
Date of Recording: 10/1982
Venue: Powell Symphony Hall, St Louis
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
May 7, 2014
By Tony Engleton See All My Reviews
"04-05-2015 On this frigid Easter Sunday morning, before dawn, Here we now have the 2nd Symphony of Gustav Mahler, the co-called "Resurrection, " #2, dating from 1888 to 1894. It is performed by the much under heard St. Louis Symphony and their former Music Director Leonard Slatkin. The Maestro is an American born artist of Russian-Jewish ancestry, the son of Felix Slatkin of the Hollywood bowl fame and his early training included assignments with this same St. Louis Sym. This work was recorded in Powell Hall in St. Lou on October 10, and 12 in 1982, by Telarc. However, it's 30 + years of age does not in any way, diminish the high fidelity of it's sonics. This is what I have come to expect from this terrific American record company. The recording runs a satisfactory 81:20. ARTISTIC IMPRESSIONS AND THOUGHTS The Maher Second has benefitted from numerous fine readings over the years since it's inception in 1888 to 1894. The first recording was by Oskar Fried and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1924, probably a 78 RPM set of disks. Conductors the likes of Klemperer, Walter, Karajan, Bernstein, Haitink, Ormandy and numerous others have attempted to bring this magnificent composition to light, each struggling with the 2nd's massive canvas and profound concept's. To their credit, most have done a good to great job, but each has felt drained by this masterpiece's huge demands. It is a work that is chocked full of intense attention to detail, and the ability to perform several functions at the same time. I first heard a live performance of it, somewhere between 1973 and 76, in the West suburban Chicago city of Oak Park, having already committed it to memory, using a Eugene Ormandy LP ( RCA)as my study copy. I presently own about a dozen, or so, copies of this Symphony, the latest being a recent delivery of one by Paavo Jarvi on Virgin, but my two favorites are an SACD by Haitink/Chicago and this one with Mr. Slatkin. I reviewed the Haitink Super Audio as being the most "intelligent" reading of my entire collection, and that remains true, however, for pure emotional and aesthetic appeal, this Slatkin reins supreme. So, which one is right??? Well, both, actually. The subject matter is one of extreme emotion and feeling, certainly, but that is simply not enough. If it were the ONLY requirement, we would be left with a hand-wringing, tear-drenched mess. There IS such a thing as too much angst, even in Mahler. Witness, if you will, Bernstein or Horenstein. The great Dutch maestro marches through the opening movement with excellent poise, tempi, contrast and beauty. Maybe THE best first movement of them all. He retains much of the momentum and suspense, and is careful not to permit the energy to escape prematurely, but rather saving it for the long build up to the symphony's finale, which he tailors like a splendid symphonic poem. The second movement in Slatkin, is graceful, lilting and never rushed, exactly as Mahler wished. It serves as an excellent contrast to the beginning Allegro Maestoso, that is "with complete gravity and solemnity of expression." It has a hint of the Austrian Landler tempo, but not too much so. And, movement #3, is the famous setting of the composer's Wunderhorn song, "The Sermon of St. Anthony to the Fishes." The direction to the conductor reads, "with quietly flowing motion" despite it's rather "herky-jerky" sound. The shrill winds and somewhat dissonant percussion and brass, lend it a disquieting tone. It took me a long time to warm-up to this part, but it is a compositional gem and is one of music's more technically challenging pieces. The trio section offers a collage like mix of strange and corse, grating material. There is evidence of chaos, fear, and trembling in this 10:32 long segment. A marvel of modern orchestration, to be sure. Here we find much of Mahler's Yiddish melodies, smacking of "Kletzmer" music, almost of a comic nature. It is a bizarre section, and with care and tedious leadership, Slatkin brings it off quite well. But, so does Mr. Haitink's. I have grown, at last, to be pretty fond of it. The final 2 parts are the real meat of the Symphony. They are the Wunderhorn song "Urlicht," intended as being "very solemn, but simple." Here, mezzo-soprano Maureen Forrester in Slatkin, and Jard van Es, in the later Haitink/CSO, both render this song overwhelming impact and beauty. A recent, 2014 performance by our local Spokane Symphony, re-awakened my interest with an unknown and relatively obscure MS's reading of it. I re-discovered the simple beauty and poignancy of both the text AND the music, and I was very impressed. The 5th and final part is the great 30 + minute scene in Heaven, concerns the "Last Judgment", the opening of the graves, and the grand march of the souls to stand before God. Here is where the off-stage bands join in the fray, with their brass and percussion heralding the dead to come forth. It is a moment of great anticipation, fear, and suspense. Pacing and timing is critical and the coordination from Slatkin and Haitink is of the finest precision the results being spectacular. We are on the edge of our seats, both in concert halls and at home. As I use headphones on this very early Sunday morning, I don't miss a note, and for both men, these pages are sheer perfection and precision. AMAZING ! ! ! The brass led chorale, from 06:37 to about 09:50, is pure splendor, rivaling Chicago, Berlin, Vienna etc. Slatkin really pulls this part off wonderfully. Few do it as good, if not better. The addition of the percussion (a 3rd timpani, the splash cymbals, the piccolos, and the wonderfully audible harps give this music a spine-tingling effect that is unparalleled in all the literature, topping even Strauss, Wagner, and Bruckner. A huge WOW is mouthed by this listener every time I play this finale, and the sheer thrill is never taken for granted. It is just one of several points where this Slatkin reading is so good, that I feel the entire recording is unfairly under appreciated. Haitink's is superb, of course, but so is Slatkin's. From here on to the final notes, we are swept along by the soloists, the chorus and the orchestra into the presence of God, as the heavens open up into the expanse of eternity. When the pipe organ steps forward, it has the effect of the ceiling of a great cathedral from the High Middle Ages, suddenly opening up to reveal the beauty of a blue sky, as we seem to be able to peer into the eyes of paradise, and God Himself. A really good "Resurrection" should leave up limp, drained , and a bit teary eyed, as this one does me, even after all these years. I bought the Slatkin in September of 2013, but was familiar with it for many years before that. I have known this work, as I stated earlier, since the early 1970's. I had taken it, in tape form on my many surgeries in those years, for comfort, hope and support. It has been an old companion for much of my life and is still one of my "desert island" choices for it's sheer spiritual aid. Some people like dogs, or cats bedside in the hospital, I prefer Mahler, and his 2nd. What ever the case, this Telarc Slatkin "Resurrection" is a must have and a great recording to learn intimately, but don't neglect the Haitink, either. A stunning 5+ Star award with an extremely High Recommendation from yours truly, I send you all my best wishes and may Almighty God bless you and yours, Tony. A. M. D. G."