A mild-mannered Mahler Second that erupts in a breathtaking
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 11/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Haitink's ongoing Mahler cycle from Chicago has now described some familiar contours. On the whole it features relaxed tempos, superb execution, vivid sonics, and a surplus of nuance over energy. At eighty, Haitink isn't to be counted out; he's capable of considerable concentration. But his native temperament is often too middle-of-the-road for Mahler, whose music calls for the opposite of caution and refinement as one's main objective.
Mahler performance is still overshadowed by Bernstein's temperament, which perfectly suited Mahler's, and those of us who want Mahler's tortured schizoid side, his childlike innocence and grim apocalyptic premonitions, his soaring idealism and sentimental nostalgia, feel cheated with less. Yet there's a marked divide here, and some notable Mahler interpreters, especially Boulez and Chailly, have carved out another path, where control, balance, and finesse predominate. That's the way of this new Mahler Second under Haitink, which bears little resemblance to Solti's famous Decca accounts, which were burning with vulgar excitement and drive. Boulez is cooler than Haitink, Tilson Thomas more mercurial, yet Haitink makes you listen to the wealth of subtlety he finds in the score. To be this civilized, he must ignore Mahler's directions at times, as when Mahler asks for the cellos and double basses to rip savagely into the opening theme -- here they are almost polite. However, the second movement minuet doesn't dawdle for all its lightness. The Scherzo moves with brisk momentum, if not the mischievous parody that Bernstein did so perfectly.
For many listeners the Mahler Second is about the gargantuan payoff of the finale, ushered in by the hushed "Urlicht" solo. The young Dutch mezzo Christianne Stotijn has become a favorite of her countryman Haitink, and I like her very much, too, despite a growing tendency for her gorgeous tone to wobble. Her solo is quite moving and musical, with a real connection to the verse, and she's just as good in the duets to come in the finale.
We're all on the edge of our seats anticipating the superlative Chicago brass and chorus. Both are reined in here, much as they are when Boulez conducts this work in Chicago. But the Chicago brass, even reined in, are more than up to Judgment Day. Valery Gergiev has a more interesting and riveting account on LSO Live, yet his brass section can't crack heaven open as this one can. The Chicago chorus always aims to be the best in the world, and their pianisssimo entrance is spine-tingling in its accuracy. For those who want the soprano soloist to enter with angelic seamlessness, Miah Persson is close to ideal, despite a touch of unsteadiness. In the final triumph of resurrection, Haitink goes for hushed majesty rather than visceral impact. Still, when the men of the Chicago chorus burst out in fortissimo a cappella, the effect is beyond compare. Sticklers for the score will also be happy to hear a prominent organ part.
The finale tells the whole story of this performance, which swings between Haitink's mild manners and the Chicagoans eruptive excitement. There's no settling the difference, so what you hear is what you get."
Gary Odom | 06/14/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Simply the best.
My previous favorite was Claudio Abbado's 1977 Chicago Symphony performance. Of course Bruno Walter set the benchmark (Sony). Simon Rattle put in an impressive performance while at Birmingham (1991). David Zinman's recent version (Zurich, 2007), as well as Pierre Boulez (Wiener) in 2006, are commendable.
And then there is the truest Mahlerian at heart, Leonard Bernstein, in youthful vigor (Sony incarnation), and later DG extravaganza. If heart thumping on the sleeve is Mahler to you, it's Bernie, Bernie, Bernie. There is no denying the man as a monument of the musical life, a mountain of talent and skill.
Mr. Haitink has captured a clarity and delicacy of precision like no other. Definitely not Mahler 2 as over-the-top drama. Listen to Mr. Haitink and hear Mahler 2 as a musical redemption. Beautiful drama like I've never heard."
One of the Best Mahler 2 Peformances I've Listened
Kevin Kim | Edmonton, Alberta Canada | 01/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My favourite prior to this one used to be the Rattle-CBSO one (EMI). But from now on, this may be the more preferable one when it comes to Mahler's towering Resurrection symphony. Haitink is truly brilliant in expressing every minute details of this music in a consistent, stable, solid, and beautiful way. His tempo, rhythm, and timing seems meticulous. From the beginning to an end, Haitink commands a full control on this music - from pianissimo to fortissimo. Whenever the music exploded like a volcanic eruption, I couldn't help feeling goosebumped, particularly throughout the glorious finale. CSO's muscular rendering of Mahler in this recording was admirable. All in all, it definitely is another fine addition to already crowded Mahler's Second Symphony recordings."