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REVELATORY VIEW OF A GREAT PIECE,
This review is from: Symphony No 2 Resurrection (Audio CD)
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.