The New York Philharmonic always give of their best for this conductor. In the finale, when the theme mounts up from the cellos into the violas, the playing is of seraphic beauty.
Bernstein's latest recording of Mahler's Second Symphony is taken, as he nowadays prefers, from a live performance given in Avery Fisher Hall, New York, in April last year. That immediately gives it an advantage over several rivals because, as readers will be tired of hearing from me by now, this is a work where the presence of an audience (remarkably silent and they can't have been asleep) is almost essential. Which having said, there are the marvellous recordings by Rattle (EM]) and Walter (CBS) to disprove my theory. Anyway, BernsteinRead more thrives on performance before an audience and he pulls no punches here.
Ninety-four minutes, let me warn you, against 80-odd by Rattle and most others. Mahler performances come slower by the year. Yet I'm not as offended by Bernstein's tempos in this symphony as I was by his recent DG Amsterdam Ninth, where I thought he destroyed the shape of the music by sheer self-indulgence. In the Resurrection Symphony, the length of the pauses, the extra nt. here and there, soon pile up the minutes; and its first and last movements are on such a vast scale that the music can take the flexibility that Bernstein requires if he is to put over his full dramatic treatment of it.
And dramatic it certainly is, from start to finish. More daemonic than Rattle, more Jewish, as one would expect (the 'Jewish' music of the third movement around fig. 34 is wonderfully full of subtle character and humour in this performance). But I still prefer Rattle on the whole for the extra tautness with which he drives home the great coups de theatre. EMI also give Rattle a better recording. The Avery Fisher Hall has had acoustic problems and I don't blame DG's engineers for the somewhat constricted sound at climaxes. Even so, there are thrills in plenty, though the ultimate in sonic precision is lacking, and the off-stage brass effects come off well.
The New York Philharmonic always give of their best for this conductor. Wind playing throughout is beautifully finished and stylish, and at fig. 23 in the first movement the horns and violins provide a moment of pure Mahlerian ecstasy, while in the finale (at 27), when the theme mounts up from the cellos into the violas, the playing is of seraphic beauty. At such moments one forgives Bernstein almost anything, even his tempo of Andante not very moderato in the second movement. In this movement, at seven bars after fig. 5, the cellos, with the violins' figuration as a decorative touch, show us that this is still one of the world's fine orchestras when a master is in charge.
It will be a long Judgement Day if Bernstein is in charge of the ceremonial music, but an exciting one. Let's hope he leaves himself time for an exchange of views with Mahler on what the composer meant by Nicht schleppen. But he always has his sights firmly fixed on the movement's choral climax, where Christa Ludwig (as secure as ever in "Urlicht") and Barbara Hendricks, a warm and touching soprano soloist, blend well with the superb Westminster Choir. I have never known this great movement fail in performance, and this is another outstanding achievement.
-- Gramophone [7/1988]
Let me encourage you not to be without a Bernstein recording — any Bernstein recording — of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”). He adored the work and trotted it out for special occasions, most memorably for me in his 1,000th concert with the Philharmonic, in 1971. There are other ways than his to approach this score, but if you don’t know everything he found in it, you hardly know it at all.
-- James R. Oestreich, The New York Times Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection"by Gustav Mahler Performer:
Barbara Hendricks (Soprano),
Christa Ludwig (Alto)
New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic Written: 1888/1896; Germany Date of Recording: 04/1987 Venue: Live Avery Fisher Hall, NYC Length: 93 Minutes 28 Secs. Language: German