MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” – Soloists/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Pierre Boulez – DGG

by | Nov 27, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MAHLER: Symphony  No. 2 “Resurrection” – Soloists/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/ Pierre Boulez – DGG B0006684-02, 80:38  ****: 
“If God were to select a symphony orchestra for his own, it would be the Vienna Philharmonic.”  The unique Mahler sound is endemic for the VPO. Curious that this Orchestra required an association with Leonard Bernstein to become intimately acquainted with the symphonies of Gustav Mahler.
Pierre Boulez has recorded a magnificent glowing performance of No. 2, “Resurrection”, to continue his ongoing Mahler cycle.  Tenderness and lyricism are in abundance as well as the special sturm und drang und kitch which Mahler concocted for this symphony. There is excitement in abundance in the first movement, “Totenfier”, and in the final apotheosis- that mighty cry of jubilation as resurrection  is at hand. The finale of the Symphony No. 2 is pure musical drama.  It is as free in form and as riveting for the listener as is the final choral movement of the Beethoven Ninth.
Pierre Boulez’ stateside Mahler orchestra is The Cleveland .  He has recorded Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 with them.  It is fascinating how similar the sounds of the Vienna Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestras become under Boulez. Contrary to the usual readings, Boulez creates a lighter Mahler voicing.  All details are deftly laid out and balanced amidst enormous dynamic range. The  drama, the humor, and the thunder – all are here! Glorious!
This CD is an aural  facsimile of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at home in the Grosse Saal of the Musikverein.  The soloists, Michelle DeYoung and Christine Schafer are “Resurrection” specialists.  They sing beautifully with the youthful ardor and  tenderness unique to Mahler.
Within the final movement the soloists are heard to unearthly arise from within the orchestra, singing  Mahler’s adaptation of the Klopstock “Resurrection” chorale, the inspiration for this  work.  The DGG  CD presents to the listener the potential for an overwhelming emotional/religious experience.  Pierre Boulez, The Vienna Philharmonic, De Young, Schafer, the Wiener Singverein and the DGG engineers provide this for me unlike any other recording.
This is a grand achievement. The multichannel SACD should be overwhelming. [If there is one; Universal is backing off from the format…Ed.]

 — Ronald Legum

[Feel I should furnish the alternative view on this one, though please understand I am coming from being a Bernstein fan and not one of Boulez. I don’t hear much sturm und drang from Boulez, though at least he’s not picking it apart stressing tiny details as in most of his performances. It’s just very mild Mahler – an anti-Bernstein approach. Compare with either of Bernstein’s discings or Gilbert Kaplan’s amazing version. And the two vocalists may be specialists, but I couldn’t hear what they were singing…Ed.]

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