Top positive review
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One of the great classic Mahler recordings
on 26 May 2007
If Amazon would let me give this 7 stars then I would! Even though the recording is over 40 years old it still sounds well. Klemperer brings an amazing sense of occasion to this performance - it's like all you would expect a "live" performance to be and then a bit more on top.
First movement: Stern, weighty and FAST, building to a mighty central climax. Every bit of the musical form fits beautifully into a superbly thought-out whole. This is the "funeral march of a corpse that is angry about dying" par excellence. The particular genius of Klemperer is to get the more reflective and gentle sections of the movement to mesh with the drama in a wonderfully seamless way.
Second Movement: A lovely "old-fashioned" minuet with finely placed fugato trio sections. The Philharmonia strings are burnished and glowing and the correct layout of the orchestra, with first and second violins placed left and right, ensures the greatest clarity in the part writing. Truly lovely and a much-needed relaxation after the storms of the First Part. [Note, Mahler suggested that there should be a good pause between Movement 1 and the rest of the symphony - part 2. Even though this is on one disc only I really recommend listening to the work like this, so that the First Part sinks in, particularly in this performance. The great advantage of the single disc format is that all of Part Two plays continuously - though this is also achieved in other two discs sets that place the First Movement on disc 1 and the rest on Disc 2.]
Third Movement: This is perhaps the most ironical sounding "Anthony of Padua Preaches to the Fish" Scherzo on record, perfectly paced and inflected with black humour in abundance. Superb!
...As is the "Urlicht" Fourth Movement. HIlda Rossl-Majdan is a rich-toned soloist who gets inside the meaning of the poetry ver well indeed. This movement is a magical pause for hope and rest, particulaly after the rather sardonic music that had immediately preceded it. Sensitive conducting from Klemperer again.
The Fifth Movement bursts in with the greatest of force. Klemperer's way with this movement is the real crown of an already magnificent performance. The music unfolds inexorably with a stirring "Grosser Appel" followed by a march rather slower than usual but very noble and very forward-moving. The offstage effects are managed well and the flute playing is particularly good - and then the Philharmonia Chorus enter with magical (but audible - unlike Fisher's recent Channel Classics SACD) intensity. Schwarzkopf sails upwards to the heights and the matching between her and Rossl-Majdan is near perfect. The whole thing ends in a blaze of glory - just about contained by the recording.
This is not the best recorded version now available, of course, but it is more than adequate to convey a remarkable interpretation of this visionary symphony. Klemperer's view is very individual and utterly convincing when you hear it. This is not to say that this is the only way of playing this symphony. Bruno Walter's roughly contemporaneous recording - well, it was a few years earlier, actually - is almost the complete interpretive opposite of this and is just as satisfying. As this is also obtainable from Amazon at a budget price try to get this as well, just to have equally valid and complementary great performances of one of the most moving pieces of music ever written.
There is a story told that Lorin Maazel conducted Mahler's Resurrection Symphony on one occasion many years ago and when much less experienced than now. He noticed that Klemperer was in the audience. After the concert he rushed up to the maestro and asked him what he thought. Klemperer's reply? "I do it other." Well, he certainly does (and avoid Maazel's VPO recording on Sony as it is flaccid). Nobody does it like him and hardly anyone makes the work so moving and wonderful an experience.