ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 2


GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphony No. 2 - Anne Schwanewilms (Soprano) - Lioban Braun (Contralto) - Chorus and Orchestra of the Bamberger Symphoniker - Jonathan Nott (Conductor) - Hybrid SACD 2 disc set - Tudor 7158

Cycle in progress: New and re-issued Mahler recordings are arriving in the shops in torrents to coincide with the composer's successive anniversary years. Jonathan Nott's cycle for Tudor commenced with an excellent performance of the Fifth which was released in 2006. The First and Fourth appeared two years later to wide critical acclaim. With last year's stupendous account of No 9, the recording project achieved full, indeed overpowering, stature. It was honoured as the best new Mahler recording of 2009 in the international Toblach-Dobbiaco Mahler fest and was also the choice in the orchestral category at the MIDEM Classical Awards. This set of the Second Symphony is cut from the same cloth and generously confirms that the Nott cycle stands out from the competition and is the one to go for in the increasingly crowded super audio category. The superlative playing of the Bambergers truly stands as a beacon in the storm tossed tide of prevailing Mahlerian inundation.

Elements of destiny: The marvelous thing about Nott's interpretation is that in a note-perfect execution of the score, the extraordinary technical precision of the orchestra never sours the purity of the composer's spiritual intent. It is truly a resurrection of inner and outer dimensions. Nott has quietly discovered the secret of eliciting the deep and wide emotional impact of Bernstein (DG) without the latter's egocentric tendency to exaggeration. Anne Schwanewilms and Lioba Braun are superb vocal soloists and the Bamberg chorus is in outstanding form. The booklet includes the full vocal text with translations into English and French. Collectors destined to add Mahler recordings to their shelves in the next eighteen months should not miss it.

Stephen Habington