Gustav Mahler – Symphony No. 2 – Resurrection [cond. Klaus Tennstedt] (1989) LPO

There was a time, youngsters take note, when a performance of this symphony was a Major Event and not just another subscription night at the local symphony. If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss was about, the kind of performance that made Mahler a legend and (ironically) introduced him to a generation of conductors who have no business touching his music with a pair of tongs, then you simply have to hear this stunning live performance dating from 1989. Klaus Tennstedt always was an inspirational Mahler conductor, but his studio cycle with the LPO is often disappointing, largely on account of the poor response of the orchestra combined with so-so sonics. Well, this is one of those miraculous events where just about everything went right.

First, the orchestra. It plays stupendously, and what tiny lapses do occur (very few and far between) are completely unimportant. The brass section is positively heroic in the outer movements, the woodwinds in the scherzo are an unalloyed delight. Jard Van Nes offers one of the best accounts of “Urlicht” on disc–full of feeling and a keen sense of the text. Cellos and basses, so often the weak link in English orchestras, put a firm bottom on the sound and display excellent ensemble throughout the especially tricky first movement. Indeed, the whole orchestra follows Tennstedt every step of the way with amazing precision, and if you saw him conduct live you know that this was not something to be taken for granted.

The interpretation itself is one of those “pull out all the stops, go for broke” feats of expressive daring that have become all too rare these days. Tennstedt’s tempos in the first movement are generally slow (it lasts 25 minutes), but are so flexible and full of tension that concentration never flags. The climax leading into the recapitulation is a smoker. Tennstedt takes the second movement, like Bernstein, slowly and wistfully, but with myriad details in phrasing that (here’s the tricky part) never sound affected. And aside from those wonderful winds, believe me, you’ve NEVER heard the “cry of despair” in the scherzo sound like this. That accelerando! Those horns! That percussion! Wow!

As for the finale, well, it’s amazing that the players have anything left after the preceding four movements, but they surpass themselves. The “dead march” is cataclysmic, the ensuing climax before the entry of the chorus totally insane, the offstage brass cadenza surprisingly together (it’s the bane of most live versions), and the chorus excellent. Tennstedt builds the final peroration with unerring skill–the Royal Festival Hall organ makes an appropriately weighty contribution, and it’s impossible to take issue with the added cymbal crash at the final cry of “Auferstehen!”. The sonics are surprisingly good considering the provenance; offstage effects get a bit lost at the start of the finale, but otherwise this is totally natural, realistic sound that puts you in a good balcony seat. How lucky we are that this performance was preserved, and how lucky you will surely feel to have the opportunity to hear it.
David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

01. Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”: I. Allegro maestoso
02.Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”: II. Andante moderato
03. Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”: III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung
04. Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”: IV. “Urlicht”. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht
05. Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”: V. Finale. Im Tempo des Scherzos –
06. Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”: Langsam – Misterioso –
07. Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”: Etwas bewegter

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



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