ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphony No. 2


GUSTAV MAHLER - Symphony No. 2 - Mariss Jansons (Conductor) - Ricarda Merbeth (Soprano) - Bernarda Fink (Mezzo-Soprano) - Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - Netherlands Radio Choir - 2-Disc Set + Bonus DVD - Hybrid SACD - 5425008377339 - Released: December 2010 - RCO Live RCO-10102

The various facial expressions that conductor Mariss Jansons manifests throughout this "live" performance are quite telling. They clearly reveal the various emotional states the music travels through to reach its final destination. Even if you muted the audio during the DVD footage of this December 2009 performance, the emotional grimaces of malice, regret, peace, joy, terror, awe, power, contemplation and bliss on the conductor's face, not to mention his sweat drenched hair at the end, would not only tell of Jansons full understanding and commitment to this work, but would also reveal the emotional and spiritual peaks attained within this powerful work by Gustav Mahler, the Symphony No. 2 in C minor 'Resurrection'. After all, this is the work that drastically altered the Symphony, and projected onto it a living force. Thematic and motivic fragments that look forward and glance backwards, giving this long work a unified structure unheard of before.

And it goes without saying that the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which boasts a long running reputation for being a top Mahler orchestra, is in top form in this recording. The strings have a commanding bite and produce a sound with a golden sheen. The brass section projects power and clarity, with the off-stage brass effects very well captured. The brass choir of four trombones and tuba in the final movement is breathtaking. The Netherlands Radio Choir's hushed entry is flawless, and they cap the symphony with power to spare. Mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink is captivating in her slow, heartfelt rendition of the 'Urlicht' movement, and soprano Ricarda Merbeth uplifts the music with her angelic promise of eternal life. From the cataclysmic depths of hell to the vertiginous heights of heaven, this performance transports the listener and truly reveals Mahler's grandiose concept.

The video footage of the concert itself is always in pace with the music, focusing attention where it should at all times, with here and there some great panoramic shots of the whole orchestra, choir and pipe organ. And as mentioned above, close-ups of conductor Mariss Jansons at all the crucial moments. The sound on the DVD is great, and the sound on the CD even better, with plenty of full-bodied impact and power.

So, in this Renate Stark-Voit (Austrian musicologist and Mahler scholar) and Gilbert Kaplan 2006 revised edition recording package, you get the full symphony twice, on 2 CDs and a bonus DVD, all at a very reasonable price. Unbeatable value for such a large dose of Mahler.

Jean-Yves Duperron - December 2010