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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 November 2008
Usually, I'm not easily impressed by Abbado's superb yet tame live recordings made recently, but I was really struck by this incredibly sumptuous and animated live performance by the hand-picked elite musicians of Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Every phrase and every bar is played with utmost commitment and musicality as if each instrument is playing solo in a concerto!

Take for example, the lovely flute part just before the chorus joins, the subtlety and expressiveness of the instrument is simply revelatory, and every other instrument and singer does the same all the way! Even bass and percussion part has extra bite and more character. Anna Larsson and Eteri Gvazava too contribute their deeply moving and heart-felt singing to this monumental performance.

Abbado has firm grip on overall architecture of the symphony, while allowing all musicians freedom to express their part to the full. That creates musical equivalent of High Definition presentation of the work. You will re-discover amazing richness and lavishing colours of this symphony and will marvel at Mahler's genious and vision. The final apotheosis is not the grandest of all recordings (notably Slatkin's larger than life account and Stokowski's gigantic Prom live on BBC Legend), but nobly controlled in such a way that the maximum impact is achieved.

It must have been awe-inspiring occasion for everyone present judging from the eruption of the applause. My only complaint is that it sounds rather all too perfect for real! Coupled with equally awesome account of La Mer.
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on 20 December 2009
If Abbado's recording of Symphony No. 8 [ Mahler: Symphony No.8 ] first captured my interest in his Mahler, then this incandescent account of No. 2 made me a total convert. I thought I knew this symphony (my absolute favourite work) so well, and yet hearing this stunning live performance is like having a painting cleaned and restored. The other reviewer's HD reference is spot on!

The level of instrumental detail is simply phenomenal and yet none of it seems artificial or vulgar. Where some conductors can almost grab your head and rub your nose in their favourite little detail, Abbado merely pulls back the curtain for you then stands aside to allow you to discover it for yourself and, with such extraordinary playing from this orchestra of orchestras, it is all there to be found, studied and enjoyed.

The performance itself is electrifying and even more dramatic than the award-winning Rattle on EMI [ Mahler - Symphony No 2 ]. By the time we reach the choral finale, the tension within the hall is almost palpable. Cue the Orfeon Donostiarra, a Basque chorus, to deliver some of the best choral singing you will ever hear in this piece. The basses, especially, come through incredibly well with an almost organ-like resonance; quite unnerving! Of the soloists, Eteri Gvazava has a little wobble in her first entry but quickly recovers, while Anna Larsson is sheer class throughout. Abbado then inspires them all to the heights of ecstacy with the most exultant account of the final hymn that I've ever heard. This is the polar opposite of Bernstein's overwhelmingly transcendent and incredibly slow reading with the NYPO on DG [ Mahler: Symphony No.2 ] and I'm amazed at how much I can love them both. The orchestral coda blazes like the sun before the audience explodes into rapturous applause and cheers. This must have been one hell of an experience in the hall (as a great Mahler 2 always should be) and DG have done a very good job of capturing it all on CD. The recording is rich and clear with a natural balance, generous dynamic range and a good sense of the live atmosphere. Apart from the odd distant cough and on-stage creak and rustle, extraneous noise is negligible.

As if that wasn't enough, the Mahler is preceded by an account of Debussy's La Mer which is nothing less than a masterclass in orchestral ensemble and dynamics. I'd never really 'got' this work until I heard this performance; as sparkling, capricious and elementally powerful as the sea itself.

All in all, a breathtaking achievement and unreservedly recommended.
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on 23 April 2011
This is a wonderful rendering of Mahler's 2nd. This live recording has a freshness and lightness of touch that is beautiful, yet those attributes are combined with a magnificent intensity and committment. This performance is enriching, exuding warmth and charity. I grew up with Klemperer's Philharmonia recording and Abbado's Chicago attempt and whilst I have always regarded those two as my benchmark, I now consider this definitive - a recording for the ages.
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on 13 May 2013
I own several Mahler 2 performances on CD (Rattle - CBSO, Inbal - RSOF, Chailly-RCO) and this performance is great and a joy to listen to.
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