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4.7 out of 5 stars18
4.7 out of 5 stars
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A swift survey of the many reviews of this version of Mahler's mighty "Resurrection" symphony reveals a bewildering range of responses, utterly unhelpful to anyone looking for guidance in how to pick a recording. The truth is that there are many successful recordings of this work out there, and many will give satisfaction, be it Mehta, Solti, Bernstein or - my favourites - either of the two Klemperer versons, one live, one studio, but this is a worthy addition.

To dispense with the more obvious absurdities I have read: first, the sound. Some complain of too great a dynamic range; I do not have the best equipment but neither do I play these discs on cheap tat, and to my ears the recording quality is incomparably spacious, full, rich and detailed. It strikes me that it's sometimes the same reviewers who recommend harsh, faded historical recordings who then take a self-aggrandising delight in finding imaginary flaws in a wonderful modern version such as this. Secondly, the quality of orchestral playing: you will read cutting criticism of the CBSO - that they are "ragged" and "amateur". Complete rubbish. I heard them many times when I lived in the Midlands, and they were very fine indeed - as they are here. Thirdly, we hear that Rattle is self-consciously "arty" and deliberately, perversely "different". Well, I note that it's the same reviewers who moan elsewhere about the bland, homogenous state of modern conducting who have taken umbrage that Rattle has imposed a clear interpretation upon the music. You can't have it both ways and Rattle is to be commended for having an identifiable, individual overview of the work, even if you don't like it. It is true that he takes an inordinate amount of time making some points and fails to generate the kind of febrile momentum and grim, ironic intensity achieved by Klemperer, but he also avoids the stasis courted by Bernstein in over-indulgent mood. This is a performance which has clearly been very carefully planned and thought through, relying on tightly controlled, painstakingly wrought contrasts. This description implies some slight lack of grandeur and a certain deliberateness in Rattle's manner; there is perhaps some slight disappointment in the final climax, but also compensation in the monumental quality of Rattle's vision. The first movement in particular is awesome - in the true sense. The contributions by a mature-voiced but unfailingly wise and sensitive Dame Janet Baker, the silvery Arleen Augér, and a subtle CBSO Chorus, add enormously to the overall quality. I have also read elsewhere that the praise accorded this recording is the result of the pathetic desire of partisan British critics to crown a new conductor-king. Well, I have no particular bias that way and have not by any means invariably admired Rattle's work, but to my ears this is a performance worthy to stand alongside half a dozen other great ones as another enriching interpretation of a tremendous work.
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VINE VOICEon 1 June 2008
'Resurrection' represents the creative peak of Mahler's first symphonic trilogy - the so-called Wunderhorn symphonies. It has been described, by Henry Louis de la Grange, as 'one of the most impressive, most original creations ever to spring from the mind of man.' Huge claims, but Symphony No2 in c is an epic work, with the ability to captivate the listener through, amongst other things, hypnotic repetition of subtly varied phrases (in a way that anticipates minimalism), through immense dynamic contasts, colour, melody and pattern.

What makes Rattle so accomplished a Mahlerian is his great sense of colour and contrast. Despite the monumental forces assembled for occasionally awesome exhibitions of power (six horns and six trumpets for most of the work, becoming ten of each for the finale!), it is the contrasting moments of reduced, even solo, sound (solo violin, harp etc.) that provide the necessary counterbalance and tonal interest. Even when everything is at full stretch, clarity rather than power is the hallmark of a successful recording, as here. In terms of tempo, Rattle is not as rushed as Solti, for example. The descending scale at the end of the first movement is weightier and more deliberate than in any other interpretation I've heard. It works. The sound he creates, meanwhile, isn't as mannered as in the excellent Wyn Morris recording of 1977 - spoilt, for me, by excessively sliding strings.

Rattle is thoroughly acquainted with this music after practically a lifetime's experience. Alongside its solemnity, eccentricity and brute force, 'Resurrection' is also lyrical, subtle, folk-inspired and whimsical, and such multi-dimensionality isn't lost on the performers in this recording. The Second Symphony may not quite be Mahler's supreme achievement, but it is always a deeply engaging, life-enhancing one. His attempt to convey such things as Armageddon and resurrection through music might ultimately be considered a failure or an irrelevant programmatic distraction. In the right hands, however, and in a musically 'absolute' sense, it is an exhilarating artistic achievement.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2003
This performance is, as many critics long have noted, a great Mahlerite testimony from Simon Rattle. It is so good and convincing that he probably never will be able to repeat it. The orchestra plays as good as any other, and Rattle's interpretation is personal, interesting, and deeply moving. It has both drama and impetus. It is nice having such a good studio performance caught on record, which is very much like the live experience of this work.
Together with Otto Klemperer's best recordings - the one with Philharmonia and the live take from Bavaria - and Bruno Walter's with NYPO, I think this is one of the very best recordings of Mahler's 2nd symphony. Perhaps one could include Zubin Metha's Vienna account in that list, and even Rafael Kubelik's underrated studio version. But Klemperer-Walter-Rattle will satisfy most needs, including the HiFi one.
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This is an outstanding disc, even by the consistently high standards set by the rest of Simon Rattle's (now complete) Mahler series. He has lived with this symphony since his teenage years when he organised his own performance of the work. Clearly time has not staled it for him.
He sets out his distinctive stall from the very first notes - an electrically intense tremolo and then a dramatic accelerando on the rising figure in the lower strings. This is the real voice of musical argument, not a mere statement of musical fact. And so it carries on right through the high dramas of the first movement. How often one catches an individual inflection to a phrase or an inner voice one had never quite seen fit into the argument. But turn to the score and you will always find an authorial justification in the text for what may surprise you.
It continues like this through the whole work. The andante has a lightness of touch that makes of it the real interlude it is supposed to be - rather than the elephantine galumphing of a Klemperer or the hyped urgency of a Solti. The scherzo acknowledges its Wunderhorn origins, but retains it symphonic cogency - and the first Trio is a wonderfully supported piece of levitation. Janet Baker brings a lifetime's experience to a profound Urlicht. And the vast final movement, which can so easily reveal its episodic nature and fall apart at the seams, is sustained and controlled with a fierce intellectual coherence. Which takes nothing away from the splendours of the choral finale.
The playing is always committed and thrilling. I always have the feeling in this series that Rattle's Birmingham band love Mahler's music in a way that the Berliners, for all their superior technique, don't. The recording is ideal, detailed but rich and deep enough to reveal all the splendour of this marvellous score.
All of which makes this, I would suggest, a first recommendation for this piece (though the Barbirolli versions are worth exploring, too, for an even more impassioned, if less sonically spectacular, view.
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on 19 March 2013
"Conducting akin to genius" raves the Gramophone review of this recording. It is hard to disagree. Here, Rattle elevates the CBSO to such a level as to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the finest orchestras in the World. This is a magnificent achievement to rank alongside the giants of Mahlerian interpretation such as Szell, Solti, Bernstein amd Klemperer.

With flawless tempo Rattle displays a seemingly innate understanding of the cataclysmic dynamics that permeate the vice-like grip of Mahler's musical philosophy. This record simply must be played loud to appreciate the full range of the conductor's interpretation of Mahler's emotional and sonic narrative. Quiet passages radiate the utmost poignancy, delicacy and beauty only to lend further power to the drama when placed in context alongside the explosions of rage and joy which are the hallmark of this great symphonist.

In the intensely competitive field of Mahler recordings, with all the inherent difficulties of engendering original illumination when performing such well known and frequently presented works; this reading still stands out. Superb playing and a conductor who thoroughly understands how to convey the incredible drama of this gigantic masterpiece, this performance is rightly considered a classic rendition.
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on 16 October 2001
The CBSO under Sir Simon Rattle here sounds electrifying. Perhaps out of all Mahler's symphonies this may be classed as the greatest and the performance on this disc is magical. It's an emotional rollercoaster, the playing matches any of the world's finest orchestra's. The entire journey through both discs is crystal clear, incisive and totally natural. You get the impression every musicial thoroughly enjoyed it and Sir Simon Rattle draws out the most beautiful sounds from the CBSO. For the price it is worth buying for the final movement alone - which must surely leave you breathless. Simply magnificent.
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on 18 April 2002
This recording of this spectacular work is breathtaking. For a start the sound on the EMI label has fantastic depth and allows the expansiveness of the work to be brought out to the full. Rattles interpretation is unsurpassed right from the very first string tremolo to the exuberant close. He brings out the grotesque elements of the score very well and his attention to detail is wonderful. Janet Baker is on fine form in the rendition of Urlicht and coupled with superb singing and playing this makes this a clear must for any Mahler enthusiast.
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on 28 November 2014
This was one of the recordings that made Simon Rattle's name as a conductor. A simply tremendous performance well recorded, with a really good playing from the orchestra. There is a life and enthusiasm in this early recording that Rattle's later recording with the Berlin Philharmonic certainly does not add to, despite the superiority of the orchestral playing in the latter performance. The soloists in this earlier recording are in any case far superior to the soloists in the later recording. This is the one to have!
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on 24 April 2011
Mahler's 2nd is in my view one of the most dramatic of his 9 symphonies, and the most optimistic (possibly with the exception of his delightful 4th). The impact of the contrasting moods (and volume) is impressive, and the final movement in particular allows one's spirit to soar (as may be implied by the title 'Resurrection'). Listening to this music in the right mood really does come close to a religious experience. I have not heard a more awe-inspiring performance since I bought this disc in 1990.

The CD was a Penguin Classical CD guide Rosette winner and Gramophone Record of the Year in 1988. This performance was probably one of the main reasons for the rise of the CBSO under Simon Rattle to international fame during the 1980's.

Note that this CD has been re-issued as Symphony No. 2 (Rattle, City of Birmingham So/Chorus)
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on 5 April 2016
Good, but not as good as Bernstein or Tennstedt....
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