Thomas F. Bertonneau | Oswego, NY United States | 11/22/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Okay - you're a Mahlerian and something of a collector. You own three or four recorded performances of the Second Symphony, all modern or even recent, all spectacularly faithful to the vast dynamic range and timbral complexity produced by the composer's massive forces. Why should you be interested in an antiquated recording in early 1950s monophonic sound out of the dusty old Vox catalogue? Here are a couple of reasons: It's Otto Klemperer, recovered from the ailments and manias that drove him from paradisiacal Los Angeles, and he presides over Viennese players quite a few of whom had played Mahler regularly before the 1938 Anschluss with Nazi Germany and the subsequent ban on Mahler's music. Klemperer actually worked under Mahler, leading the offstage brass band in a 1904 performance of the Second Symphony and earning a kudos from the composer. In 1951, in Vienna, Klemperer delivered a no-nonsense, highly dramatic account of this most pictorial of Mahler's symphonies. He imposes swift tempi on the "Totenfeier" and marks its rhythms in a particularly effective way; never does he allow the forward motion to subside, not even in the delicate, extended second subject. Again in the Scherzo, Klemperer propels the music, emphasizing the obsessive character of the moto-perpetuo triple-rhythm. He makes of the long Finale a truly apocalyptic tableau, beginning with the thunderous opening rush, reminiscent of the opening of the "Totenfeier." As a performance, this is superior to the 1962 remake, in stereo, with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. A word on the recording: Although the sound is monaural, the engineers capture a startling array of instrumental detail; the offstage band really sounds as if in the distance; the chorus and orchestra mix without blurring into a welter of congested noise. Listen to the male voices at the choral entry! Vox unites the "Resurrection" with a "Lied von der Erde" of similar vintage and of equal interest. Oskar Fried's acoustic "Resurrection," from 1922, is the oldest recording of this score, but there were none other until the early fifties, making this Klemperer essay "one of the first." The excellent notes, in a handsome booklet, include the texts for both the "Resurrection" and "Das Lied." Before there was Naxos, there was Vox. The two discs cost about ten dollars. It's an excellent buy."
Excellent interpretation, sonic difficulties
Andrew R. Weiss | Raleigh, NC USA | 06/10/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mahler's Second Symphony was one of Otto Klemperer's signature pieces. We have many recordings of him conducting it, in the studio with the Vienna Symphony from 1951 (this release) and with the Philharmonia (1963), and live versions with the Concertgebow Orchestra (1951) and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra (late 1960's). In general Klemperer was a more exciting conductor in front of an audience, but this studio version comes awfully close. There is a real urgency in the first movement, the middle two movements have both a lyrical and a slightly acerbic quality in keeping with Mahler's vision, and the last two movements rise to apocalyptic heights. Klemperer, who told us that he eschewed sentimentality, did not confuse that with deep emotional expressiveness, and this, combined with his usual firm sense of the architecture of the whole piece, makes this reading one of the best. Tempi are relatively quick, especially in the first movement. Unfortunately, the Vienna Symphony in 1951 had some ensemble and intonation problems, which are exascerbated by Vox's close-miked and edgy mono sound. From a sonic point of view, the Philharmonia version is much better (better played, more clearly and spaciously recorded); as an interpretation, I still prefer this one. I've seen this recording through 3 incarnations (the first in a monophonic "Vox Box" of LPs in the early 1960's, the second in a horrible "simulated stereo" LP version on Vox's Turnabout label), and the sound on this one is the best of all and probably the best we can expect. I have not heard the Concertgebow version, recorded in the same year and featuring Kathleen Ferrier as the soloist, but that might be better played, if not better recorded. I give this 4 stars only because of the poor sound and rough orchestral playing; the interpretation is 5 stars plus."
For Klemperer Fans Only
T. Beers | Arlington, Virginia United States | 11/05/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Otto Klemperer's conducting career began with a recommendation from Gustav Mahler himself, based on Klemperer's piano rendition of the "Resurrection Symphony." It's hard to get closer to the source than that! And fortunately, Klemperer recorded both the "Resurrection" and "Das Lied von der Erde" in exemplary stereo recordings that have recently been re-released in EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century" series. Unfortunately, these earlier Vox performances suffer from truly execrable 1951 mono sound. I don't object to historical performances per se, and early Klemperer recordings are often more dynamic and exciting than his later, oft-times ponderous stereo re-makes. But I really don't hear that much difference between these early Vox Viennese performances and those recorded by EMI in London over a decade later. And Mahler definitely benefits from EMI's still-magnificent engineering. Note: An astonishing number of live Klemperer "Resurrection Symphony" performances have been issued over the years, some quite good, all interesting: on the DoReMi label (from a Sydney concert in 1950); EMI (from the Bavarian radio in Munich ca 1964) and on Music & Arts (with the Vienna Philharmonic). (A fabulous 'live' 1951 Klemperer performance from Amsterdam and featuring the great Kathleen Ferrier was once available on a Decca/London CD. It has been deleted.) None of these performance is better than the EMI London studio performance and most (except Munich) suffer from distinctly inferior sound. Stick with EMI/London!"
Curmudgeon | Connecticut | 06/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Please! I beg you, fellow music-lovers--don't be put off by the audiophiles and their predilection for pristine recordings. Get this CD! The performance is electric, from the very first chord to the klezmer band interpretation of the slow movement to the sweeping vistas that Klemperer does so well. It's the perfect antidote for anyone who is longing for some relief from the usual packaged--oops! Sorry. Can't use that word."