Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is almost as good as it gets. Michael Tilson Thomas and his San Francisco forces make a far stronger impression then they did in their comparatively dull Third, offering a powerful, cogent, and superbly played performance of the Resurrection Symphony chock-full of interesting and persuasive interpretive ideas. There are only three areas where listeners might have some reservations. First, Thomas has a tendency to let the tension sag just a bit in the slower sections of the first movement (which lasts slightly more than 23 minutes). This obviously will be a matter of perception, as the playing is invariably very beautiful and the musical line well sustained. Second, in the second movement Thomas indulges a penchant for rubato that comes
across (as in some of his other Mahler performances) as predictable, and therefore slightly mannered. Third, soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian has a quick vibrato that doesn't suit the music particularly well, and her relationship to the chorus does not allow her solos to soar out of the massed voices as other versions often achieve.
On the other hand, mezzo Loraine Hunt Lieberson, who has much more to sing than her colleague, delivers one of the finest performances of the fourth movement ever, on par with those of Christa Ludwig and Janet Baker, to name two of her illustrious predecessors. And Thomas has so much of value to tell us about how this music can be played. Listen, for example, to his thrilling way with the arrival of the first-movement recapitulation, where the return of the opening theme follows immediately, maintaining the accumulated tension. Or check out the superbly characterized scherzo, with wonderfully tipsy clarinets, divinely poetic trumpets in the trio section, a huge "cry of despair" climax, and a very imaginative subsequent deceleration and ultimate return to Tempo I.
Best of all, the finale is uniformly splendid. The big percussion crescendos and the ensuing march episode seldom have been done better. All of the offstage effects register with excellent clarity and atmosphere, and the entry of the choir sends a shiver down the spine, just as Mahler intended. As for the closing pages, they simply have never been better played and sung. Thomas once again makes his tempo adjustments (in the final reprise of the resurrection chorus) sound perfectly natural and very persuasive, while the bells, organ, and tam-tam on the final page rarely have been more effectively captured. Indeed in stereo, despite the low-level recording, the sonics allow all of the important orchestral detail (quiet percussion especially) to register with the necessary clarity. SACD Multi-Channel format offers little inherent advantage, but it sounds particularly impressive in the offstage cadenza before the entry of the choir. Just make sure to turn the volume way up.
This orchestra, some already may have forgotten, recorded a very fine Mahler 2 for Decca under Herbert Blomstedt, a performance that lasted in the catalog for about 10 minutes, but that remains a real sleeper in the work's discography. Though very different, this newcomer reaffirms the positive impression that these players can make in this music. By any standard, there's more than enough here that's new and valid to warrant adding this release to your collection. [11/29/2004]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Isabel Bayrakdarian (Soprano),
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano)
Michael Tilson Thomas
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra,
San Francisco Symphony Chorus
Written: 1888/1896; Germany
Date of Recording: 06/2004
Venue: Live Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA
Length: 88 Minutes 2 Secs.
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