Mahler: Symphony No. 2 / Mehta, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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Mahler: Symphony No.2
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Media Type: CD
Title: SYM 2
Street Release Date: 06/13/2000
Genre: CLASSICAL COMPOSERS
"Beg to report safe delivery of a strong, healthy last movement to my Second. Father and child doing as well as can be expected." So ran Mahler's jubilant message on completion of his "Resurrection" Symphony, which after several years' painful gestation had come together in his mind with a sudden flash of inspiration. It had begun as a single-movement funeral rite, and gradually taken shape under the influence of Schubert's music, but the choral conclusion of Beethoven's Ninth was its Grail. Zubin Mehta's 25-year-old recording is a superb addition to the ranks of contending interpretations. It is lighter on its feet than Bernstein's classic version, with all the elements in Mahler's tonal landscape brought out in high relief: by turns lush, austere, grandiose, and intimate. Here is the Vienna Phil at its best, with two incomparable voices on the bridge--Christa Ludwig's steely mezzo and Ileana Cotrubas's soaring soprano. The "Legendary" on the cover is not hype: This is still as good as it gets. --Michael Church
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language: : English
- Product Dimensions : 5.59 x 4.92 x 0.47 inches; 3.6 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Decca
- Item model number : 1991957
- Original Release Date : 2000
- SPARS Code : ADD
- Date First Available : July 27, 2006
- Label : Decca
- ASIN : B00004TEUZ
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #32,182 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Here I'd make an exception, though. This recording from 1975 of Mahler 2 is a block-buster, good to the last drop, full of energy that keeps this very long symphony thrilling throughout. Having wonderful soloists such as Crista Ludwig and the top-notch Vienna Philharmonic in tow, doesn't seem to hurt matters.
First, I am going to completely pass on discussing Mehta's interpretation or the Vienna Philharmonic's performance, as well as the individual merits of Miss Ludwig and Miss Cotrubus. I think all that has been thoroughly discussed here already. In other words, everything that can be said, has been said, although perhaps not everyone has had a chance to say it. This is, simply, one of the great performances.
Therefore, in brief, I would like to give a mention to those amazing men and women who twirl the dials: the engineers. This is an analog recording made near the end of the analog era. The art of analog recording had progressed steadily and significantly for over a half century so that, by the time these sessions were held, it had reached its' considerable pinnacle. This is state-of-the-art analog recording. There was simply no where else to go until a whole new way of recording sound, which was, in truth, just around the corner, came along. I may be over romanticizing this, but I can't help but feel Decca's engineers, never ones to turn in a 2nd rate job, went the extra mile for this project. It's as if they knew all the hard work they, their colleagues and predecessors had done over the years was now coming to its' exalted culmination. I sincerely feel the Decca Vienna team must have meant this magnificent recording to be their valedictory to the analog era. This digital re-master reveals layers of sound that could only have been hinted at on vinyl, as if in 1975 they were already looking forward to the day this analog recording would be properly presented in the digital medium.
In short, all involved in this project reached beyond themselves, touched eternity, and bestowed that eternity upon us.
I am not a music critic or musician so I can not give you details on how this performance stands up to others but I thought it was really good.
Top reviews from other countries
Apart from the quality of the actual recording, there are other key factors that individually add immensely to the enjoyment of this disc and accumulatively they make for an exciting and rewarding emotional and musical experience.
One key factor is the excellence of the orchestral response of the VPO which individually and collectively simply offer a magnificent body of sound absolutely perfectly suited to Mahler's personal vision. They, in turn, are supported by the very professional singing of the Vienna State Opera choir which rises to every demand that Mahler and Mehta make during the extended last movement. Finally there are the outstanding contributions of the two soloists, Christa Ludwig and Ileana Cotrubas. Christa Ludwig in particular gives a glowing and unforced performance of the fourth movement.
Mehta himself delivers a reading that is arresting from the start and builds steadily and unfalteringly to one of the most compelling finales yet recorded on CD. This is a young man's reading and is full of forward momentum and drive. That is why the conclusion works so well. Others, such as the respected and much admired Klemperer reading offer different experiences resulting from a longer maturation period. However, it is worth reminding oneself that this was an early Mahler symphony and its blazing commitment is that of a young man. It is therefore completely acceptable and appropriate that Mehta's passionately youthful reading should receive so much praise.
Other more recent readings and recordings of considerable note should be mentioned and include the Blu-ray/DVD discs of Abbado's and Chailly's readings. These are both superb in their different ways and offer even better sound in surround format plus the obvious advantage of visual impact which is a real bonus in such a spectacular work of spectacle. Those two discs can also be played without the visuals but with the full sonic experience. They cost much more than this excellent remastered CD though.
I would therefore suggest that Mehta's disc offers a reading and recording of such stature that it deserves to be seriously considered as an essential part of any collector's library.
So why "only" four stars? Well if you scan previous reviews, you will note that quite a few mention two things with which I am in agreement: first, the sound, while more than adequately remastered, is not as immediate and full as later, digital versions; secondly, although many rightly praise the magnificence of Mehta's finale, the correct inference from the omission of much comment on the first two movements is that while they are impressive, others surpass them. Both Klemperer and Tennstedt achieve more grandeur in the Allegro maestoso and I find more charm, variety, whimsy and underlying tension in several other versions of the famously "incongruous" Andante moderato. Bernstein, too, achieves both more "Innigkeit" and drama than Mehta, but as another commentator observes, Mehta's interpretation "builds and builds", and I can imagine wanting this disc for that stupendous last movement alone. He has very fine soloists in Cotrubas and Ludwig, although this music seems to bring out the best in so many singers and nobody surpasses Janet Baker, who owns the part, singing beautifully in recordings for Klemperer, Bernstein and Rattle.
We are spoiled for choice in recorded versions of the "Resurrection", hence while I understand its fame I would prefer several others over this Decca legends issue, starting with Klemperer, but it is still a thoroughly satisfying interpretation -especially that thrilling last movement.