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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"
Gustav Mahler, Christoph Eschenbach, Yvonne Naef
Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"
Genre: Classical
One of the great conductors of our time, Christoph Eschenbach has a particularly close connection to the spiritually charged healing qualities of Gustav Mahler's music. His recording of the Sixth Symphony, with The Philade...  more »


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All Artists: Gustav Mahler, Christoph Eschenbach, Yvonne Naef, Philadelphia Orchestra, Simona Saturova
Title: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Ondine
Original Release Date: 1/1/2008
Re-Release Date: 1/27/2009
Genre: Classical
Style: Symphonies
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 761195113424


Album Description
One of the great conductors of our time, Christoph Eschenbach has a particularly close connection to the spiritually charged healing qualities of Gustav Mahler's music. His recording of the Sixth Symphony, with The Philadelphia Orchestra, was hailed by Gramophone as "maybe the Sixth of first choice, sonically and interpretatively." This new release features the Second Symphony (`Resurrection'), which was one of Mahler's most popular and successful works during his lifetime. The famous use of a chorus as the centerpiece of the Finale has often invited comparison with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. The celestial Urlicht song of the fourth movement is performed by the celebrated mezzo-soprano Yvonne Naef. This is the eighth CD to be released under the "formidable Ondine-Eschenbach-Philadelphia partnership" (Gramophone) which began in 2005, and has produced discs that have been honored with accolades including BBC Music Magazine's Disc of the Month, Gramophone's "Editor's Choice," and The New York Times' "Top Ten Recordings of the Year."

CD Reviews

Big bone, red blooded American performance
B. Guerrero | 01/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm not sure what there is to fuss about here, as "Philly's" playing is utterly fantastic. I also don't think of Eschenbach as being a conductor who lacks imagination. If anything, this performance is a bit on the expansive side (the finale is over 37 minutes!). Yet, to my ears, the tension never seems to sag. The first movement climax (with its grindingly dissonant build-up) is oppressively imposing - as it should be - while the balances between the chorus and pipe organ at "aufverstehen" are perfectly gauged. More to the point, Mahler's choral writing sounds better - and makes more sense - when riding on a cushion of big, fat organ chords (with hefty bass pedals to boot). Combined with a reasonably good clarification of Mahler's elaborate polyphony for his percussion in the final bars - alternating salvos between the high and low gongs, and a set of deep bells - and you end up with one of the better endings in the M2 discography. I only have two complaints, and they're both quite minor: Yvonne Naef is not quite in the same class as Anna Larsson or Birgirt Remmert (my favorite among current Mahler mezzos), while the final chord of the symphony could use more of a crescendo from the second timpanist (unwisely, Mahler wrote the crescendo only in the second timpani part - it's often underplayed). I'm also not wild about applause being left in, but who cares? (Then again, when does Mahler's "Resurrction" symphony NOT receive a wildly enthusiastic response?)

While my fist overall recommendation for the Mahler 2nd remains the recent Ivan Fischer/Budapest Festival Orch. one on Channel Classics (sound quality being a major factor as well), this new Eschenbach/Philly one will please anybody wanting a big sounding, red blooded American performance of the work. Philadelphia's new Verizon Hall is tailor made for the part, regardless of what tensions there may or may not have been between Eschenbach and the orchestra members. It's best to forget all that political nonsense and enjoy Mahler at his most outrageous, "what the heck was that!?!" best. I know I did - this is a keeper for me."
Not an SACD!
Matthew Silverstein | Chicago, IL | 02/28/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Despite Amazon's listing, this entry in the Eschenbach/Philadelphia Orchestra series is just a standard CD, *not* an SACD."
Mahler should't be this correct -- more passion, please
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 01/28/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The Philadelphia Orch. has been having a rocky rebirth over the past few years. It got a new hall, a new conductor, and a new record deal with Finnish label Ondine. Things frayed around the edges with the Verizon Center, due to faulty acoustics, and with Christoph Eschenbach, who clashed with the orchestra and was sent packing before his contract was up (Chalres Dutoit will fill in for now).

Knowing all this, I was curious about the third leg, the new recordings, which have received consistently good reviews. Let me state my bias up front. From concerts attended in the past few years, I am on the orchestra's side in their disputes with Eschenbach: his conducting seemed coarse and generalized, with little inspiration in the standard repertoire, and notably out-of-sorts playing from the musicians. The falling off after Sawallisch's tenure was immediate to the ear. For me, deeply unhappy musicians have a primary right to ask for a conductor's dismissal, even though local and New York critics banded to decry Eschenbach's fate.

Now on to the Mahler Second: The first movement sets the tone of a brisk, literal, under-expressed performance. The recorded sound is perfeclty fine, but unnfortunately it permits us to hear solo woodwinds and brass who sound routine and uninspired. Ensemble is precise, but Eschenbach favors clipped, terse phrasing, which to my ears is the very opposite of what Mahler wants--expansive, emotionally expressive phrasing. The line is allowed to go slack in softer passages. The overall feeling is neither jubilant, tragic, nor even very involved.

Mahler's music doesn't have to be as cosmic as Bernstein makes it, but there's a limit to how light you can be. The second movement minuet is refined, but it's also foursquare in Eschenbach's hands, and rather too correct. In the Scherzo one has a range of possible approaches from the genial and bucolic to the biting and satiric. But Eschenbach bleaches the music into a smooth blandness that is merely pleasant.

For a performance to survive, intensity must enter into "Urlicht," here sung by mezzo Yvonne Neef, who is experienced and expressive. Eschenbach takes a measured tempo, trying to create a hushed, mysterious atmosphere. Thanks to Neef's sincerity, I did find myself being moved. I was also grateful that the conductor had stopped breezily skipping over Mahler's emotional complexity. By remaining deliberate in the next movement, however, Eschenbach provides no dramatic contrast, and the brass choirs that foreshadow the apocalypse are bland and cautious. Ondine's crystal-clear sonics add an element of much-needed excitement here when brass and percussion finally erupt. If only Eschenbach could rise to the occasion with more than time-beating.

The pacing of the choral entry feels draggy and a bit slack, although the choral singing per se is lovely so far as intonation and purity of tone goes. Soprano Simona Saturova floats ethereally out of the hushed choir, as she should. It's a shame that Eschenbach insists on being devitalized almost to the end. The great "resurrection" climax is clarion but plodding. The live audience seems satisified but not wildly enthusiastic, to judge by their subdued cheers.

At his point the Philadelphia Orch. is an underdog that I am fervently rooting for -- to see them omitted from The Gramophone's Dec. 2008 listing of the world's 20 greatest orchestras was heartbreaking -- and unfair. They were relegated to a sidebar of past glories (meaning the era of 'the Philadelphia Sound' under Stokowski and Ormandy). Whatever troubles Philadelphia may be going through right now, this is still a great orchestra by any measure. I hope they get a chance to shine again as soon as possible.

P.S. - A recent visit to Carnegie Hall found the Philadelphians in magnificent form under simon Rattle. Their execution of Berlioz's Damnation of Faust was thrillingly viruosic and totally committed. Which goes to prove that the underlying quality of the orchestra wasn't permanently damaged by Eschenbach. His leaving was musically justified.