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WGUC Reviews

Mahler: Symphony No. 2

Mahler: Symphony No. 2
Vienna Philharmonic
Pierre Boulez conducting
Review by: Robert Zierolf


Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony ("Resurrection") was first recorded in 1924, and one wouldn't need to look hard to find a dozen discs since. It might be that this symphony, with its huge forces and potent psychological difficulties, has never been (can never be?) recorded definitively despite the valid attempts by the likes of Abbado, Mehta, Gielen, Klemperer, Bernstein, Rattle, Tennstedt, and others to understand Mahler's complex psyche, then present it via music.

Boulez's with the Vienna Philharmonic is by itself disappointing, though I sense that the orchestra was not responding fully to the aging maestro. Mahler's symphonies do not "play themselves," perhaps with the exception of his first. If local culture and location mean anything, it is puzzling that the Vienna Philharmonic presents such a tepid performance.

Mahler challenged orchestras like no other composer; he deserves better from his home city. So why bother with this disc? The reason is to listen with retrospect on recordings by Mehta, Gielen, and Tennstedt, in particular Abbado's with Chicago, as well as to try once again to believe in this monstrous, marvelous symphony. Uncommonly good liner notes by Henry-Louis de la Grange add value.


Performance:

Sound Quality:

Robert Zierolf is Professor of Music Theory and History and Division head of Composition, Musicology, and Theory at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. He is also a freelance writer on classical music.


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