Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'


Gustav Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 2 ‘Resurrection’ with Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Rundfunkchor Berlin and star soloists Kate Royal and Magdalena Kožená was recorded in concert at Berlin’s Philharmonie in late October 2010 and will be released on CD by EMI Classics in February 2011.

The Symphony, scored for orchestra, soloists and chorus, tackles the great mysteries of life and death and was already among the most successful and popular of Mahler’s symphonies during his lifetime. Not only was the work premiered by the Berliner Philharmoniker (in 1895) but it is an important work in Simon Rattle’s musical trajectory. The partnership of Sir Simon and the BPO in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 portends a ground-breaking new recording.

The concerts on October 28-30 form part of a Mahlerthon of sorts, in which the Berliner Philharmoniker will perform all the symphonies between August 2010 and the end of 2011 in commemoration of two Mahler anniversaries: the 150th anniversary of his birth (7 July 2010) and the centenary of his death (18 May 2011).

The symphonies of Gustav Mahler have been a central theme in Simon Rattle’s career. “[Mahler’s Symphony No 2] was the piece that made me take up conducting in the first place when I heard it in a live performance when I was 12. Mahler aimed to put the entire world into a symphony and this world goes from the death rights of some unnamed hero through a memory of what life was in both its beauty and its horror and final resurrection and redemption. It’s on a vast canvas with many, many performers and, for me, it is one of the most moving of all orchestral works.”

Whilst still a student at the Royal Academy of Music in the 1970s, Rattle organised and conducted a performance of the Second Symphony. Since then, he has performed all of the Mahler symphonies on many occasions, principally with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Wiener Philharmoniker. At his Berlin debut in 1987, Rattle led the Berliner Philharmoniker in the Symphony No. 6, and his inaugural concert as the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor in September 2002 featured the Symphony No. 5.

Simon Rattle’s Mahler symphony performances on disc have won enthusiastic critical praise over the years: “Where Simon Rattle's interpretation is concerned, we must go into the realm of such giant Mahlerians as Walter and Klemperer, dissimilar as they were. For we are dealing here with conducting akin to genius, with insights and instincts that cannot be measured with any old yardstick.” (Gramophone on the 1987 recording of the Symphony No. 2 with the CBSO, Arleen Auger and Dame Janet Baker); “A triumph…It can safely be ranked among the finest performances on record.” (Gramophone on the 2002 recording of Symphony No. 5 with the BPO); “The final ascent to the big blue yonder is surely unsurpassable - on both the sonic and interpretative fronts… There's no doubt, then, that Rattle has inspired all concerned to an achievement which joins his groundbreaking readings of the Third, Seventh and Tenth Symphonies in the Mahlerian heaven.” (BBC Music Magazine on the 2005 recording of the Symphony No. 8 ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ with the CBSO); “One of the finest interpretations on record of Mahler’s great unfinished symphony… Rattle supremely allies mesmerising detail to awesome scale in an intense, award-winning live account” (Classic FM Magazine on the 2000 recording of the Symphony No. 10 with the BPO).

“the post-holocaust enchantments are magically coloured. For anyone who cares about this symphony Rattle's new recording is essential listening, if not necessarily a first port of call...[he] sets new standards with the light, shade and shock of his Berlin funeral rites which open the symphony.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2011 ****

“Throughout [the opening], Rattle marshals his players enough to let the schizophrenic terror of the movement have its effect...Exultantly we are drawn onward, though, toward the inevitable choral closing section, which is positively heaven-sent when it finally arrives... in Rattle's hands it is supremely thrilling.” Daniel Ross, bbc.co.uk, 22/02/2011

“Countless surface details and fleeting shades emerge as Rattle's vision unfolds, delivered not as wilful impostors but according to the score's letter. Beyond breathtaking playing, peerless choral singing and the supernatural beauty of Magdalena Kožená's Urlicht solo, this performance spans Mahler's infinitely complex universe with compelling intellectual insight and expressive force” Classic FM Magazine, March 2011 ****

“Rattle represents its quasi-Expressionist leanings, its wilfulness and Weltschmerz: Mahler as modernist...Rattle’s micromanagement underlines Mahler’s glaring colours and edginess...Magdalena Kozena (Rattle’s wife) handles the Urlicht movement with chaste refinement, and the Berlin Philharmonic plays with phenomenal commitment and finesse.” Financial Times, 5th February 2011 ****

“Kožená brings her customary depth of feeling to the still maternal voice of "Urlicht"...Rattle's famous piano-pianissimos are deployed to breathtaking effect, the choral passages (radiantly illuminated at the top by Kate Royal) sound pure, mysterious and very Bachian, and the returning resurrection hymn is tremendous” Gramophone Magazine, March 2011

“Rattle places considerable weight on this audacious conflation of tone-poem...and sonata-form...his is undoubtedly a reading of as well as for the present.” International Record Review, March 2011

“Rattle’s tempos have broadened slightly, but crucially they never feel self-indulgent, and indeed these broad tempos add to the majesty and grandeur of the performance...while there is still the incredible attention to detail which Rattle’s Mahler is renowned for – with intricate balance, careful phrasing and stunning dynamic contrasts...I think Rattle lets his Berlin players ‘play’ a little more than he did the CBSO.” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 7th February 2011

“the sound is almost miraculously analytical, and the combination of Rattle's attention to detail and the superlative playing of his great orchestra ensures that every morsel of Mahler's scoring makes its point.” The Guardian, 24th February 2011 ****

“Of course there’s much to admire. The BPO are on fantastic form, the recorded sound is sumptuous but clear and Rattle brings some new thoughts to the piece. The first movement is striking for its deliberate, almost stealthy beginning, and there’s a slow, almost dreamlike delicacy about the music.” The Telegraph, 25th February 2011 ***

“The opening bars certainly make you sit bolt upright. Upper strings tremble; lower strings thrust: Rattle starts the symphony’s journey in a flourish of power and mystery...In the nostalgic second movement Rattle remains winningly light-footed. We also enjoy the benefits of deeper feelings. Listen to the sweetly lyrical strings once the opening hurly-burly is done” The Times, 4th February 2011

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7th February 2011

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Editor's Choice - March 2011

Warner Classics - 6473632

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'


Juliane Banse (soprano), Anna Larsson (contralto)

Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Schweizer Kammerchor, David Zinman

RCA Zinman Mahler Symphonies - 88697513072

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'


Natalie Dessay (soprano) & Alice Coote (mezzo soprano)

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra & Orféon Donostarria, Paavo Järvi

Clarity of vision and tonal splendour characterise this live performance of Mahler’s epic ‘Resurrection’ Symphony under Paavo Järvi. The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra is joined by the Orféon Donostarria and soloists Alice Coote and Natalie Dessay.

Following their Virgin Classics disc of ‘Mahler Movements’, released in 2009, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Paavo Järvi are now heard in a live recording of Mahler’s epic Symphony No 2, ‘Resurrection’.

This epic work comprises five movements and calls upon two soloists, a mezzo soprano, who sings the fourth-movement ‘Urlicht’ (here Alice Coote) and a soprano (Natalie Dessay), who soars over the massed forces in the final movement. The orchestra is joined by the celebrated choir from the Basque country, the Orféon Donostarria, which has been described by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung as “a miracle of sonic glory”.

The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (also known as the hr-Sinfonieorchester) became internationally celebrated as a Mahler orchestra in the 1970s and 80s, when Eliahu Inbal was its principal conductor. Now, the Estonian-born Järvi has established a distinctive approach to the Austrian composer’s music. As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung judged after the concert performances of the ‘Resurrection’ in May 2009:

“It was to be expected that Järvi’s Mahler interpretation would not expend its energies on sentimentality or bombast. He is intent on exploring the wealth of contrasts in this symphony, to clarify structures and to crystallise the often innovative overlaying of compositional processes … His artistic understanding guaranteed a thoughtful, subtle interpretation, which was crowned by the contribution of the Orféon Donostarria choir from San Sebastian, splendidly accurate in its intonation and nuanced in its dynamics. Natalie Dessay and Alice Coote, meanwhile, impressed with the inspiration and intensity of their expression.”

The Frankfurter Rundschau felt that “it was as if an angelic lucidity had taken hold of the orchestra,” while the Frankfurter Neue Presse stated that: “The HR Symphony Orchestra again provided an impressive demonstration of its command of monumental material of this kind … Paavo Järvi exercised immaculate control over the huge forces … and cultivated a sound that was both transparent and imbued with intimations of death and resurrection.”

Those observations on Järvi’s vision of Mahler echo the critical response to the CD of ‘Mahler Movements’: “Even dyed-in-the-wool Mahlerians will hear things anew”, proclaimed Journal Frankfurt, while Fono Forum, Germany’s leading magazine in the field of classical recorded music, commented thus on the Adagio fragment from the 10th Symphony: “[Järvi’] shapes Mahler’s … final word atmospherically and sculpturally, convincing us of its unique greatness as a freestanding movement, while also developing its bold formal concept in a way which precludes even a moment’s doubt as to the validity of the fragment.”

Järvi, born in 1962, will become Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris from the 2010-11 season. In addition to his post in Frankfurt, he holds the position of Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and is Artistic Adviser to the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

“Alice Coote glides in with magisterial warmth, the perfect mediator between the human and the divine...the extremes of the finale are this performance's other great asset. Super audio it may not be, but in plain stereo this is certainly state of the art.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2010 ****

“A vitality and freedom to the playing impresses at every turn...With no fakery or over-nurturing to compromise the blazing integrity and vital belief that Mahler invested in this score, Järvi's performance is a triumph that delivers on every count.” International Record Review, July/August 2010

Erato - 6945860

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Live 21st August 2003, KKL Luzern


Eteri Gvazava (soprano), Anna Larsson (contralto)

Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Orféon Donosiarra, Claudio Abbado

Claudio Abbado conducting ‘his’ Lucerne Festival Orchestra, an exclusive ensemble of handpicked musical stars, with the bonus of exceptional soloists. The line-up of the band includes such luminaries as Ilya Gringolts and Sabine and Wolfgang Meyer, alongside members of the world's great orchestras. The cello section alone boasts Natalia Gutman, Clemens Hagen and Valentin Erben. Every recording of Abbado is an event and his best-selling recordings with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra have set new standards in the interpretation of Gustav Mahler as we approach the centenaries of his birth and death. His Mahler 3 is a best-seller and this Symphony, No. 2, is his personal favourite. "It's different having best friends together. Everyone is there to enjoy making music, to take pleasure, to play with enthusiasm, with passion. They are prepared to do any crazy thing I ask them for the sake of the music. To fly, to walk through fire." Claudio Abbado

“It's good to have this incandescent performance back. If you have the CDs, it’s still worth getting the DVD to see Abbado in action, and to hear the Resurrection in surround sound.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2009 *****

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Medici Arts Claudio Abbado Mahler Symphonies - 2053269

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2

Mahler: Symphony No. 2


Mahler:

Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Symphony No. 10 in F sharp major - Adagio


"Valery Gergiev's Mahler cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra seems now to have found its identity and this thrilling account of the 'Resurrection' Symphony, heard on the second of two consecutive evening performances, bore many of the hallmarks that have distinguished the series so far: dramatic, driven and occasionally impatient. With the LSO on splendid form, producing a brilliant, bright sound that pushed the Barbican's close acoustic to its limits, Gergiev presided over a drama of despair and redemption of the greatest intensity…The LSO chorus was in glorious voice and egged on more and more by Gergiev they joined with the orchestra to produce an enormous, brilliant and overwhelming sound. The pure, visceral thrill of the final bars, greeted with an enthusiastic ovation from the packed audience, crowned a very fine performance of this great work." MusicalCriticsm.com

"Faced with the London Symphony Orchestra's concentrated glare and attack, I considered cowering under my seat" The Times

“Singing without scores, the London Symphony Chorus are on unambiguous great form. Once Gergiev has the bit between his teeth, the tension hardly lets up…” Gramophone Magazine, March 2009

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'


Recorded - Kingsway Hall, London, May 1966

“... the new Decca stereo recording has special points of excellence all its own. The most striking thing in the whole performance, for me, is the first movement, in which Solti penetrates to the inner significance of the unusual structure with an insight I have never encountered before. The short movement for contralto is treated sensitiviely. Helen Watts sings beautifully. The vast finale ... usually comes off almost automatically ... Solti builds it up impressively ... chorus, orchestra and soloists leave nothing to be desired ... the stereo recording is one of Decca's best... bringing off perfectly all the different perspectives of the off-stage brass. The early unison calls are certainly "in the far distance"; the marching band music is indeed "scarcely perceptible" and then "getting nearer"; the later fanfares for the four trumpets are electrifyingly "much nearer"; ... we have surely the sound Mahler must have imagined, according to his meticulous indications” Gramophone Magazine

Decca - Originals - 4758501

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'


Lisa Milne (soprano) & Birgit Remmert (alto)

Budapest Festival Orchestra & The Hungarian Radio Choir, Iván Fischer

"Total engagement, meaningful articulation and a blend of freedom and intensity" BBC Music Magazine

“…Fischer… rarely pushes too hard. The orchestral sound is lean but not undernourished, allowing for even balance between contesting lines - outstanding in the funereal coda of the first movement - and a clearer than usual interplay between gleaming upper brass and woodwind.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2006 ****

“Stylistically, Fischer is right on the money. He has a keen nose for Mahler's particular brand of the ebb and flow of the music, the way it speaks, or rather sings; the bucolic and melodramatic elements of the score are vividly conflicted; and best of all Fischer really breathes in the atmosphere of Mahler's precipitous flight to eternity.
The second theme of the first movement, which Mahler requests enter tentatively, shyly, does exactly that – Fischer's violins are barely audible, a rosy horizon briefly glimpsed through this bleak and forbidding landscape.
Few take this first movement to the edge of possibility that Mahler so clearly envisaged. Fischer does not shirk the often reckless extremes of tempo and dynamics but nor does he throw caution to the four winds in the terrifying stampede to its cliff-hanging climax. Leonard Bernstein is probably still alone in doing just that. But there are many other compensations here: a great sense of logic and line, a second movement whose homespun accenting belongs to a bygone era, likewise the close-harmony trumpets in the trio of the third movement so touchingly redolent of another time, another place.
But the crowning glory is, as it should be, the finale – and it is here that Fischer, his performers and his engineers, really excel. The 'special effects' of Mahler's elaborate Judgement Day fresco have rarely been so magically realised.
The offstage horns are so breathtakingly remote as to suggest the world of the living left far behind. Moments of quite extraordinary stasis precede the sounding of the Dies irae and the hushed entry of the chorus. And come the peroration (resplendent with fabulous horns), Fischer knows that it is with that final crescendo of the chorus and only then that the heavens really open. Impressive.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“The sound is distinctive, the music-making personal. … the crowning glory is, as it should be, the finale… The "special effects" of Mahler's elaborate Judgement Day fresco have rarely been so magically realised. The offstage horns are so breathtakingly remote as to suggest the world of the living left far behind. Moments of quite extraordinary stasis precede the sounding of the Dies irae and the hushed entry of the chorus. And come the peroration (resplendent with fabulous horns), Fischer knows that it is with that final crescendo of the chorus and only then that the heavens really open. Impressive.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards 2006

GGramophone Awards 2007

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Channel Iván Fischer Mahler Symphonies - CCSSA23506

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'


Rainer Keuschnig (organ), Christine Schäfer (soprano) & Michelle Deyoung (mezzo-soprano)

Wiener Philharmoniker & Wiener Singverein, Pierre Boulez

Larry L. Dash wrote in the Financial Times: 'Boulez's Mahler is revelatory in its leanness: no frills, just the music . . . I was trembling by the end of the performance . . . This was not merely an evening's entertainment, but a life-changing experience for anyone who thought they knew their Mahler.'

DG Pierre Boulez Mahler cycle - E4776004

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'


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DG Galleria - 4579052

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Mahler: Symphony No. 2

Mahler: Symphony No. 2


Mahler:

Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'

Ilona Steingruber (soprano), Hilde Rossl-Majdan (mezzo)

Das Lied von der Erde

Elsa Cavelti (mezzo), Anton Dermota (tenor)


Vox - CDX25521

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