MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in c minor “Resurrection” – Vienna Philharmonic/ Zubin Mehta/ Ilena Cotrubas, sop./ Christa Ludwig, contralto – Decca audio-only Blu-ray

by | Apr 24, 2014 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

GUSTAV MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in c minor “Resurrection” – Vienna Philharmonic/ Zubin Mehta/ Ilena Cotrubas, soprano/ Christa Ludwig, contralto – Decca Pure Audio stereo-only Blu-ray 00289 478 5030 (2/11/14) ****:

This is one of the many great recordings from the past which are being reissued in stereo only on Blu-ray by Universal. This one was recorded in the Sofiensaal in Vienna in February of 1975. If you’re a two-channel hi-res aficionado and want to have more than one version of this classic Mahler symphony—felt by many to be his best—by all means pick this one up. (It appears that Universal will sometime next year be re-issuing the stereo-only Blu-rays in new multichannel versions, excepting those that weren’t recorded multichannel to begin with {and this one wasn’t} plus the very recent recordings which have been made since Universal gave up on multichannel and is using only two-channel formats for the original recordings.)

There are plenty of printed notes with this Blu-ray, and a complete English translation of the vocal and choral parts. The often overwhelming drama of the work is well expressed by the Viennese forces and the recording cannot be faulted. I found it sounded just about as good as my true multichannel versions when I fed the stereo signal thru Dolby ProLogic II. The bass end of the spectrum is especially strong in comparison to some of the other versions.

However, there are plenty of competitors out there. Although I preferred the faster tempi and greater urgency of Mehta’s take on the Second to the HDTT hi-res reissue conducted by Hermann Scherchen, my favorites for the work are still the amazing performance on the DGG double SACD by Second Symphony specialist Gilbert Kaplan (with the same Vienna orchestra) as well as the fine San Francisco Symphony performance conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas on a San Francisco Symphony double SACD.  The latter also benefits from more clearly-recorded soloists and chorus.

—John Sunier

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