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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 & Totenfeier Import

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, February 4, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

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Chailly's admirable Mahler 2nd is distinguished by the superb playing of the Concertgebouw, but it's marred by a somewhat opaque recording and by one of the slowest last movements on disc. In itself, the latter is not a fatal flaw, merely an idiosyncratic personal touch, which listeners will accept as insightful or reject as a misjudged letdown. Even there, however, numerous passages are done with sensitivity to Mahler's instructions and the soprano-mezzo duet is gorgeous. The characterful scherzo movement is a highlight, as expected from an orchestra whose wind section is second to none. Another highlight is Petra Lang's singing of Urlicht, the fourth movement's song from Youth's Magic Horn, where she's perfection itself. The filler is a welcome oddity, Mahler's Totenfeier (Funeral Rites), an early version of the Symphony's first movement. Chailly's is a provocative, interesting version of a great work that can take many differing viewpoints. --Dan Davis
  • Sample this album Artist - Artist (Sample)
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Product Details

  • Performer: Gustav Mahler, Riccardo Chailly, Melanie Diener, Petra Lang, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
  • Audio CD (February 4, 2002)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Decca Import
  • ASIN: B00005Y269
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,406 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
If you prefer your apocalypses outsize and devastating, this disc is not for you. Chailly seems to have developed a penchant for highlighting textual subtleties that does not always suit Mahler. His earliest recordings, of the Tenth, the Sixth and the Seventh were far bolder and more rugged than his more recent Mahler-issues - even the Eight came off as a rather too beautiful (and slow) mystic bel canto opera. And now here is this Second, which has that same uncharacteristic reticence, and yet is very impressive in many ways. All those who love this strange, hybrid work enough to invest in more than one recording I would urge to check it out. Urlicht is especially good. Well, that's an understatement - no matter how familiar it was to me, this rendering literally brought tears to my eyes. Petra Lang sings with incredible purity and utmost simplicity, with hardly any vibrato, and at a true pp as well. The heart-rending, hushed intimacy is greatly enhanced because Chailly (or his engineers) follow Mahler's instruction and place the brass players some distance away at the back of the soundstage. The effect is pure magic, especially with such a peerless brass section as that of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Where else in the world will you find such mellow sounding trumpets??!
This is a nice example of the care Chailly lavishes on realising detailed instructions in the score. Not an accent is missed anywhere, so it seems, nor, happily, a glissando: Chailly isn't afraid to let his strings play real slides, instead of those shamefaced wisps most conductors prefer. Another thing that constantly catches the ear is the audibility of all tones in a chord, and of single instrumental lines (bass clarinet and double bassoon come through splendidly).
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Format: Audio CD
After hearing all of Chailly's Mahler recordings over the last decade, I am convinced that this distinguished conductor's cycle will eventually have its place in history as one of the finest ever. Certainly the caliber of the playing in the series is hard to match; the Concertgebouw Orchestra makes these terribly difficult symphonies sound easy.
This new recording displays, again, the sumptuous sound of the orchestra, and Chailly's somewhat analytical, but passionate, way with the composer. A friend described Chailly's recent Mahler Eighth as closer to chamber music, and I suspect the same comment might apply here. Make no mistake: the grandeur of this most heavenly of Mahler symphonies is there, and the choral ending will take your breath away. But in the interim, especially the sarcastic middle movement, there is a transparency and intimacy that may be at odds with the prevailing view of what Mahler "should" sound like. For example, if you like Solti's propulsive Mahler, you probably won't enjoy Chailly's version, which is definitely more relaxed. To some degree, Chailly's slower tempi may reflect his recording venue; the sound decay in the Concertgebouw is longer than in some halls, so a more relaxed tempo pays dividends in avoiding smudging and blurring.
However, I also think Chailly wants us to hear every note in this remarkable score, and this clarity - again, something like being able to pinpoint the individual voices in a good string quartet - seems just right.
An outstanding version of this piece, although to repeat: it won't be for everyone.
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Format: Audio CD
Chailly's latest recording of a Mahler symphony truly is in a class by itself; without question it is the best recent recording of Mahler's 2nd Symphony. Here he does a splendid job with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in yielding a vibrant, brilliant interpretation that should be commended for his skill in gently emphasizing every phrase, as though this work was a piece composed for a chamber orchestra. The soloists, especially Petra Lang, are strongly commended for their exquisite phrasing. Unfortunately, Decca's recording sounds a bit opaque at times, so their voices tend to be muddled with the sounds of the orchestra. Personally, I prefer either Abbado's or Bernstein's interpretations for a modern version of this work, yet Chailly has certainly established himself here as a fine interpreter of Mahler. The recording closes with the Totenfeier, an early version of the 2nd Symphony's first movement.
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Format: Audio CD
Some composers and orchestras just go together quite naturally; it's tradition. This is certainly true when the composer in question is Gustav Mahler, and the orchestra in question is the great Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. The orchestra has had a habit, since the time when Mahler was alive, of making the composer's output, be they song cycles, choral works, or his larger-than-large symphonies, a firm part of their repertoire, through conductors like Willem Mengelberg, Edward van Beinum, and Bernard Haitink. Riccardo Chailly, the man who succeeded Haitink at the helm of the Concertgebouw in the late 1980s and led the orchestra into the 21st century, is himself a Mahler conductor of the first order. Thus it isn't surprising that he should tackle the most challenging symphonic cycle there is with an orchestra that has it in its DNA.

This recording, a 2-CD set, pairs the composer's mammoth and frightening Symphony No. 2, the Resurrection Symphony (recorded in November 2001), with the symphonic tone poem "Totenfeier" (Funeral Rites) (recorded in January 1999) whose music would give rise to the terrifying opening movement of the symphony. Mahler takes a cue from his settings of "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" (or "The Youth's Magic Horn") to inject voices and chorus into the symphony's fourth movement "Urlicht" (or "Primeval Light"); and the Friedrich Klopstock ode "Aufersteh'n" (Resurrection), from which the symphony takes its nickname, and which serves as its triumphant finale in the blazing key of E Flat Major.
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