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Mahler: Symphony No 2 / Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Haitink

Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Cso Resound   Catalog #: 901916   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christianne StotijnMiah Persson
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony OrchestraChicago Symphony Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


MAHLER Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection” Bernard Haitink, cond; Miah Persson (sop); Christianne Stotijn (mez); Chicago SO & Ch (Duain Wolfe, dir) CSO RESOUND 901 916 (2 Hybrid multichannel SACDs: 82:02 Text and Translation) Live: Chicago 11/20–22, 25/2008 Read more />

With this triumphant new “Resurrection,” Bernard Haitink and the Chicago Symphony add the central pillar to the trilogy of early Mahler symphonies. Mahlerites everywhere can be very thankful to the Chicago Symphony organization and CSO Resound for thus documenting this important and illuminating series; I’m sure I’m not alone in the hope that it continues.

In the first movement, Haitink projects clarity over power with an opening that doesn’t take you by the throat: this music is wary, almost tentative, as though dreading what is to come; in short, this isn’t the Chicago Symphony of Solti’s Decca recordings, a powerhouse bowling you over with the sheer impact of its sound. Haitink is after a more complex tonal structure, probing the contest between Mahler’s two thematic strands with precision. Shimmering violin tremolos and plaintive oboes characterize the pastoral, major-mode music, and stern basses and portentous brass energize the minor mode theme. While the excitement quotient is lower than that of Fischer on Channel, the coherence of Haitink’s vision is preferable to Gergiev on LSO Live. Michael Tilson Thomas is more overtly dramatic, and his SFS recording projects a more dynamic sound picture than this new one does. Like MTT, Haitink’s set isolates the first movement on disc 1, allowing the listener to more easily honor Mahler’s request for a pause of at least five minutes’ duration before the next movement.

The second movement begins in a stately, elegant, and flowing fashion. The Chicago strings are full-bodied, the sections clearly differentiated in the production (Haitink seats the violins together, basses and cellos to the right). Altogether, this movement represents an affectionately nostalgic portrait of the hero of Mahler’s original program. The Scherzo is all sinuous grace, and one marvels again at the variety and character of Mahler’s orchestration, reproduced with such care here. The grand two-part chorale that ushers in the trio is just pompous enough, while the trio is gentle and saccharin-free. The premonition of the finale is a sudden and effective injection of Chicago muscle.

The success of “Urlicht” is all about the individual soloist, and MTT has set a difficult new standard to match by choosing the incomparable Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Christianne Stotijn’s is a youthful-sounding mezzo, however, and her purity of tone is perfectly suited to the declaration of faith embodied in the text.

The finale is ushered in with a deep-throated roar, faithfully reproduced by the engineers, another taste of the power mostly held in reserve in this performance. The “voice crying in the wilderness” is nicely distanced (as is the later offstage band), a harbinger of things to come. Somber tones give way to the first suggestion of the Resurrection, as the brass blaze forth. The spacious sound effortlessly accommodates Mahler’s expanding sonic palette, as the “opening of the graves” ushers in the Resurrection march. The “Great Call” is heard, the offstage trumpet fanfares answer the entreaties of the flute, and then the chorus enters. The CSO Chorus is one to envy, powerful, articulate, and always musical. Miah Persson, heard in Fischer’s Mahler Fourth, is a splendid soprano soloist, and Stotijn’s reappearance here is most welcome. The final “Aufersteh’n” is rousing, climactic, and totally convincing, with the organ a potent presence.

In SACD, MTT still tops my recommendation list, but this new CSO Resound recording can comfortably share the same shelf as the Fischer, and rates above those by Gergiev, Norrington, and Zinman. In stereo, Eschenbach’s Philadelphia set (Ondine) is a worthy complement to Haitink’s new one from Chicago.

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christianne Stotijn (Mezzo Soprano), Miah Persson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Bernard Haitink
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896; Germany 

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