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Mahler: Symphonie No 2 / Kubelik, Mathis, Procter, Et Al

Release Date: 09/04/1998 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 457905   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Norma ProcterEdith Mathis
Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony OrchestraBavarian Radio Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Kubelik's sense of architecture is admirable, and his piercing Bavarian brass are thrilling. There is also a great sense of release here, in which you sense the liberation of souls.

In an interview Klemperer maintained that the difference between himself and [Bruno] Walter was that Walter was a "moralist" whereas he was an "immoralist"... I believe comparison of their respective Mahler Seconds gives clues as to what he might have meant. Walter's simpler, more lyrical approach, stresses spirituality and faith, certainties that always run beneath and which, in the end, win out. Klemperer's more austere sound palette, his leaning towards the more ironic, workaday elements, his regard to the slightly
Read more "off-beat" and his willingness to press on when others relax (the march in the fifth movement the exception that proves the rule) suggests he wishes to stress more the uncertainties that run beneath the work and, in spite of which, we win through in the end...

One conductor who has a noble shot at uniting both approaches is Rafael Kubelik on Deutsche Grammophon with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. (457905-2, on a single CD and also contained in his boxed set of the complete symphonies). In the first movement the exposition has the right amount of weight within a very challenging tempo, similar to Klemperer's. Spirituality is there but kept at arms length - he really is "tough and tender" at the same time. The same applies to first development's ascending theme which is strong on pastoral character because Kubelik brings out more of the folksy side of the "Wunderhorn" character in this work than anyone else, reminding us this is an early work of Mahler's, a young man who has barely left First Symphony behind. As the second development approaches Kubelik is almost as fine as Klemperer in bringing out the strange colours of the music. Also note the urgency and weight as the great climax of the movement approaches: a headlong rush that really counts and is probably closer than most to the tempo Mahler wanted. In the recapitulation Kubelik opens out just a little more than Klemperer (more Walter-like) reinforcing the impression that this is a kind of middle way between their approaches.

In the second movement Kubelik is well aware of the need for contrast and delivers one of the most distinctively characterful versions available. A real interlude as well as a contrast. He takes care of this movement, especially in the central section when the music is more animated. Following this, precise timpani shatter the mood and the pulse quickens for the third movement. This is a totally different view to Klemperer or Walter. By speeding up and not making much of the off-beat qualities Kubelik seems to play down the earthy ironies in favour of something more fleet of foot. In the animated sections, when the brass propels the music on, there is a feeling of perpetual motion about it, the endless roundabout of life, that is refreshing. The solo trumpeter is rather anonymous but fits with the general conception, though I found this a minor disappointment. But not the outburst at the cry of disgust which arrives like a helter skelter into chaos, helped by the quick tempo and again marks out Kubelik's reading as one that is out on its own. Norma Proctor is suitably prayer-like in "Urlicht" and Kubelik suitably held back so this is a fine preparation for what is to come with the spiritual side stressed.

The start of the fifth movement has all the drama and majesty you could want with some wonderful shudders on the lower strings. The "voice in wilderness" in suitably imposing and the delicacy of horns over harps and woodwinds, and the flutterings of violins and deep growls from basses and contrabassoons with bass drum, shows Kubelik is anxious to bring out every unique sound. There is a pull on the music that makes its own drama, a genuine striving upwards which the conductor is not forcing on the music but bringing out what is there. When we do arrive at the great climax of fanfares before the percussion crescendi there has been as much inevitability in it as with Klemperer but with that touch more spiritual rapture we found with Walter. Though the "O Glaube" material has real desperation. The grave-busting percussion crescendi are rather short-changed and the subsequent march is quick, but in the overall context of Kubelik's tempo it still tells. I miss Klemperer's trenchancy but I admire Kubelik's sense of architecture and his piercing Bavarian brass are thrilling. There is also a great sense of release here. You sense the liberation of the souls rather than their sense of being the previously dead. The off-stage bands may lack Klemperer's unhinged quality but note the weird vibrato on the trombone as it intones the "O Glaube" motive and the Grosse Appell" is a real call to attention. There is a sense of rapture following the choral entry and you can hear all departments of the orchestra well too. Kubelik relaxes his tempo here and there is a definite feeling of contrast between not just this part of the movement and the preceding, but this part of the whole symphony and the rest. It's as if a Rubicon has been passed and is another example of the conductor generating the symphony's own drama from within so that the sharpness of focus in "Aufersteh'n" maintains the momentum. It doesn't linger for effect but delivers a real visceral charge, liberating again. The recorded sound is rich though it favours top frequencies within a generous, but not over generous, acoustic.

-- Tony Duggan, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Norma Procter (Contralto (Female alto)), Edith Mathis (Soprano)
Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1969 

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