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Mahler: Symphony No. 2- Resurrection Live

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Live, March 30, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Yvonne Kenny, soprano - Jard Van Nes, mezzo-soprano - London Philharmonic Orchestra - Klaus Tennstedt, direction


There's really nothing that needs to be said about this performance, except that everyone should hear it, but then there would be nothing to read. Anybody who lived in Minnesota in the 1970s, or who heard Fidelio at the Met in 1983, or who lived in London in the 1980s knew that a visit from Klaus Tennstedt was likely to raise the game of the local orchestra, and that a memorable musical and emotional experience would ensue. This live Mahler Second was recorded with the London Philharmonic in 1989, two years after ill health had forced Tennstedt to step down as the orchestra's principal conductor. He died in 1998.

Tennstedt was a master of the art of gradual modification of tempo, but in this performance, in the third movement, he shows what a shocking interpretive choice it can be when music is locked into an unyielding strict tempo, especially in relation to other sections where the tempo is drawn out elastically. The string players are as expressive in pizzicato playing (some of it truly creepy) as in bowed. The violins have mastered a devilishly tricky passage of double-dotted notes in E-flat minor. The depth of talent in the orchestra is striking, with the third horn as fine as any of the principal players. But all of these considerations pale next to extra-musical ones. At some time during the unbroken sequence of third to fourth movements to the lengthy fifth movement, this performance becomes a matter of life and death. And indeed, Tennstedt is saying, why play the "Resurrection" any other way. There's a true attacca from the end of the third movement to the vocal entrance of the fourth. The change of mood is hair-raising. Mezzo Jard van Nes's performance and Tennstedt's pacing of the "Urlicht" make it an inextricable part of the work that wouldn't stand on its own, because it is so keenly gauged as a transition. The brass playing here has a valedictory quality that sets up the fifth movement in a supremely fulfilling manner. When the voices have finally entered, we realize that this performance has been speaking and singing all along. Near the end of this ninety-minute symphony, the strings are hanging on with a superhuman tremolando.

The recorded sound is freakishly good, a rare example of a digital effort with some naturalness to it. The acoustic and Tennstedt's timing make the last two chords of the second movement one of the exquisite moments in sonic history. It's pointless to try to name a "best" recording of any work, but those who don't know this symphony could do no better than to explore this version, and those who do will still find something beyond any previous experience of the piece. -- Opera News, William R. Braun

This performance was the second of two that Tennstedt gave in February 1989. The booklet contains a fascinating essay by Richard Morrison, who had attended the first of these performances - in other words, not the one here preserved. Morrison's essay was written in 1990 after hearing this recording and what makes his views particularly interesting is that when he wrote his article there was no thought that this recording would ever be released commercially. In other words, he didn't write it to promote the recording. In his article, with which I find myself largely in agreement, he says of this recording: "the sheer emotional charge that Tennstedt brought to each phrase was astonishing." A Mahler performance by Tennstedt was always an intense experience, even those recorded under studio conditions, and this very intensity inspired understandable reservations among some Mahlerians. If, based on his studio cycle for EMI, you're allergic to Tennstedt's approach then this Resurrection Symphony performance is definitely not for you. I've always admired Tennstedt's studio-based cycle but over the last few years concert performances of several of the symphonies - numbers 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8 - have been released, chiefly by BBC Legends and the LPO label and these have convinced me that Tennstedt's finest work was done on the concert podium rather than in the studio... The other thing that's worthy of note is that there is a noticeable extra bite in the playing in the concert performance. Tony Duggan commented that the opening of I is "challenging, dramatic and biting". That's even more true in the new release. On the EMI disc the cellos and basses are sturdy and assertive but on the concert platform the playing is even weightier and more sharply defined while the tremolandi on the upper strings are even more exciting. It helps, I'm sure, that the recorded sound on this new release is excellent. The engineers working in the Royal Festival Hall have achieved splendid results. Not only does the recording report thrillingly Mahler's many earth-shattering climaxes but also the quiet passages are captured beautifully. Just as one example of the engineer's skill, sample the tremendous presence accorded to the soft gong strokes in I from 21:32 onwards. Indeed, the gongs are superbly caught throughout the performance at every dynamic level. It's worth saying, before discussing the performance itself, that the recording comes to us courtesy of Music Preserved - formerly the Music Performance Research Centre. Jon Tolansky, the organisation's co-founder, contributes a short booklet note explaining how the recording came to be made. We owe him and his colleagues a huge debt of gratitude, not just for making such a fine recording in the first place but also for negotiating what must have been significant contractual complexities to enable the commercial release of this recording. I hope many more of Music Preserved's recordings will find their way onto commercial CDs... If you want a "safe" library choice for Mahler's Second Symphony you should look elsewhere, for this is highly personal - and it's significant that in the aforementioned article Richard Morrison expresses the view that this performance was quite different to the one by the same forces that he'd heard just a couple of nights earlier. This, then, was Tennstedt working in a white-hot interpretative crucible. The recording will be self-recommending to all admirers of this great conductor. It certainly puts his EMI recording in the shade and I suggest that, even though it's a one-off, it's probably a fairer representation of Tennstedt in this symphony than was his studio traversal, which sounds more inhibited by comparison. Even Mahlerians who are not Tennstedt admirers should try to hear this remarkably odyssey. They may not agree with everything they hear - indeed, I'm sure they won't - but I hope they'll still be stimulated afresh in their overall appreciation of Mahler's most theatrical symphony, as I was, by experiencing Tennstedt's remarkable vision. -John Quinn -- http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2010/May10/Mahler2_LPO0044.htm

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Product Details

  • Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir
  • Conductor: Klaus Tennstedt
  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Audio CD (March 30, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Live
  • Label: LPO
  • ASIN: B00361DRBY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,045 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Usually, I'm not one for 'legendary recordings'. I've heard one too many of those where the reputation was rather more spectacular than the actual music-making. Myth-making is rife among classical music aficionado's... I am also somewhat puzzled by the posthumous veneration for Klaus Tennstedt, whose 'official' Mahler cycle on EMI had a generally tepid reception, rightly so in my opinion, excepting, of course, his justly famous Eighth. Years after his untimely death the BBC unearthed a recording of Mahler's Seventh that was released in their dangerously named 'legendary recordings' series and became something of an 'insiders tip', though on listening I found very little of note in it.

But this recording of the mighty Resurrection is a different story altogether. It is conceived on the most grandiose scale imaginable, but weds sheer majesty to depth of feeling in an unprecedented way. Rubato is at times extreme, but while I found it definitely eccentric on one or two occasions, in general it is thoroughly musical and well-considered. Indeed, the great strength of this reading is that it gives you the feeling that every note and every passage was deeply and thoroughly considered. There is no padding, there are no dull spots, and while every detail is spot-on, the slow build-up to the soaring climax is never lost from view either. All this is captured in sound of the highest quality, rich, transparent, detailed and powerful, and while recorded live there is hardly an audible trace of the audience on either disc. They must have been awe-struck. It is hard to imagine that this is a one-off concert recording.

The first movement is taken in a deliberate tempo that fits its maestoso character very well.
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Once Mahler ceased to be a rarity, it was time for the next phase, in which conductors could begin to more deeply interpret his music. Sadly, few have risen to the challenge. Even provincial orchestras can negotiate the once formidable Mahler Second, yet it's hard to think of a recording as inspired as the one from Bernstein and the NY Phil. recorded almost fifty years ago. Here is a magnificent exception, however, a live reading from 1989 at London's Royal Festival Hall. Tennstedt was a great original -- one of the last -- and his every gesture is full of spontaneous feeling. Nothing here is standard. Tennstedt is so comfortable in Mahler's world that he phrases with absolute freedom, telling us a story we haven't heard before, even though the 'Resurrection' Sym. is now as familiar as the Beethoven Fifth.

Literalists won't be happy -- tempos fluctuate by the moment, as do dynamics. It takes a masterful hand not to turn this into a free-for-all. Instead, Tennstedt keeps you waiting in fascination for his next mood. In general, many moments are tender and reflective, so this isn't a reading for thrills, but how fresh the first movement sounds, liberated from its usual role as a lugubrious funeral march. Tennstedt finds something new around every corner. The devoted London Phil. plays with much more freedom than on their EMI studio recording of this work under Tennstedt, and despite Royal Festival Hall's weak bass response, the recording is close up, clear and detailed, with no obvious flaws.

I'm tempted to say nothing more and leave the whole recording as a surprise. A few impressions will suffice.
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By pekinman on September 18, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
There are no words to do justice to the impact this performance of Mahler's 2nd Symphony had on me. This is a symphony I have listened to on recording hundreds of times and I have never been so emotionally wiped out by it before. This was not all that surprising coming from Klaus Tennstedt who is unjustifiably considered a luke-warm conductor of Mahler's great symphonies. I collected his EMI recordings back in the late 70s and early 80s, a uniformly beautifully recorded series, some of the best EMI ever did, and beautifully executed with fine soloists and the London Philharmonic at its peak. Some of those recordings were not as enthralling as others, the 2nd Symphony being one of the them that slightly disappointed.

All is forgiven with this stupendous, deeply moving and utterly beautiful performance captured live by the BBC. Tennstedt makes the first movement totally beautiful, the phrasing is out of this world and seems totally 'right'. He uses a great deal of rallentando, very flexibly and never mawkish, as Bernstein could sometimes be. For once I was completely engaged in the first 3 movements of this sprawling and phantasmagoric symphony. With the third movement we enter the outer edges of something twisted, yet still beautiful. It reminded me of those times when living in the tropics when a hurricane lurked a few hundred miles in the Gulf. The atmosphere was beautiful and disturbing and energizing and enervating all at once. Tennstedt has created a similar atmosphere in this third movement which turns it into the most logical transition from the sunny beauty of the first two movements towards the turbulence of the approaching apocalypse and resurrection.
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