Customer Review

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is it, 6 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No 2, 'Resurrection' (Audio CD)
There must have been some anxious moments at the British Geological Survey on the night of February 20th 1989 as this cataclysmic account of Mahler's Symphony No.2 unfolded at the Festival Hall in London. Never mind five stars; this performance should be measured on the Richter Scale.

Unlike the other reviewer, I wasn't lucky enough to be there on the night but I have been hoping and praying that a live Tennstedt Resurrection would appear soon on either the LPO's own label or BBC Legends. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be as good as this.

I can't remember ever being so startled or moved by a performance of a work I know so well. Through his instrumental phrasing and tempos Tennstedt seems to bring out more of the tragedy, tension and nobility in this music than anyone else I've heard. The second movement Andante Moderato in particular is a real ear-opener with an extraordinary array of string tone but a slight emphasis towards the lower strings. This completely changes the mood of the music from the slightly sentimental interlude we are used to hearing to something altogether more bitter. In fact, it is not until the fourth movement Urlicht that we achieve the first sense of relief and it becomes the true turning point of the symphony that Mahler intended. It's utterly hypnotic and beautifully sung by Jard Van Nes, even if her rich, smoky voice does just run out of puff on the last word due to Tennstedt's broad and taxing tempo.

And so to the mighty finale. At 39 minutes it's even longer than Bernstein's NYPO recording on DG. In fact, timings are pretty similar throughout and this new release is one of the longest on record. The LPO (who play like gods throughout the entire work, by the way) really unleash all hell in the first part of this movement and the power and depth of their sound is both incredibly satisfying and more than a little unnerving. The brass and percussion are superbly caught in rich, weighty sound and in even more detail than EMI managed for Rattle or DG did for Abbado in Lucerne. For all the splendour of sound, however, the hushed pauses are just as rewarding as they really let you feel the tension and expectation of the capacity audience which is stunned to virtual silence throughout the concert. The choral singing on Tennstedt's EMI recording was always a bit woolly and disappointing; here it's sharp and very cleanly focussed, with Yvonne Kenny's regal soprano floating out to find a natural-sounding position just in front of the chorus with Van Nes. Their final duet is amongst the best on record and has both beauty and stature. As Tennstedt sweeps us towards the end on an enormous tidal wave of choral and orchestral sound (and with an unscored cymbal crash, to which I'll turn a deaf ear!), the RFH's organ kicks in to launch us towards heaven. The final bars are truly spectacular and the hall erupts with the kind of cheer that greets an England try at Twickenham.

This really is the best of all possible worlds. The thrill and emotional clout of Tennstedt's live LPO Mahler on a mid-priced, own-label release but with instrumental precision, A-List soloists and quality of sound that would grace a major-label studio recording. Unlike some recent Tennstedt issues on LPO or BBC Legends, this concert was deliberately recorded in digital sound by professional engineers working at the hall on the night; it's not a remastering of somebody's taped radio broadcast. The fascinating booklet insert explains all.

Having had one prayer answered, I now have another one: to see a live performance as good as this one, just once in my lifetime. I suspect I never will.
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