Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Mahler, Studer, Abbado|
Gustav Mahler: Symphonie No. 2
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I Wish I Would Have Been There!
Bruce Varner | Chicago area, USA | 12/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was so surprised to see the other review, calling this a "so-so" performance. The reviewer tells me that the Solti CSO recording is much better. Since I always want to keep an open mind, I'm going to get the Solti recording immediately.
I say this because this CD is currently my "desert island" CD. I absolutely love this perfomance by the Vienna Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado. This was recorded live, and I can't imagine what is must have been like to be at the Musikverein hearing this performance.
This is also one of my favorite orchestral compositions. When you listen to a Mahler symphony, it is an experience of the mind and soul. Mahler was the consummate musical painter. When he chooses death and resurrection for his theme, you know you're in for a treat. In a Mahler symphony, you are never bored. Tranquility gives way to violence, beauty cedes to the grotesque, darkness surrenders to the light. The change of mood is often imperceptible; it just kind of happens and you're not sure how. A Mahler symphony is a true roller coaster, always thrilling and satisfying.
Of course, Mahler's dramatic intentions can only come through in the hands of an excellent ensemble. I've had the privilege of performing this piece, and it is truly a Mount Everest type of composition. The VPO, under the sensitive baton of Abbado, really delivers. First of all, the orchestra is true to the numerous dynamic markings in this piece, as well as the tempo changes. The balance is excellent throughout the piece. The VPO strings are absolutely fantastic, as usual. The brass, especially considering they were likely playing with extra musicians, did a wonderful job.
The mood is set from the start, with the sfp tremolo in the strings, followed by the ominous motif in the low strings. This movement is essentially a funeral march, albeit a complex one. The movement ends on a crashing, fortissimo, descending chromatic scale, followed by piano and pianissimo pizzicato in the strings. It is a true violent descent into nothingness. Mahler's original program notes call for a five minute pause between the first and second movements. The second movement is a stark contrast to the funeral march first movement. It is a beautiful landler, and no orchestra in the world could be more capable of playing this gentle Viennese dance than the VPO. The scherzo movement is a favorite of musicians, and is played here with energy and vitality. The opening of the "Urlicht", with the magnificent contralto Waltraud Meir, still brings tears to my eyes after countless hearings. The entire final movement brings us more conflict before ultimate resolution. Soprano Cheryl Studer was in very good voice, and the soloists were capably backed by the Arnold Schoenberg Choir. This complex movement, which is kind of like a mosaic, always has forward momentum, even through the changes in tempo and mood. Then, this monumental piece, which started so forebodingly, ends in a triumphant picture of redemption and light. A lesson for us all, compliments of Gustav Mahler.
What a wonderful piece, played by a spectacular orchestra. I highly recommend this recording."