Review by Oakland December 16, 2006 (14 of 14 found this review helpful)
|Wow! What a staggering performance! It starts off being merely monumental but over 80+ minutes relentlessly ups the ante to astonishing. The only ingredient missing at the end was the applause. And yours truly provided that for Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
Without getting into the nuances of the performance, of which Iím not qualified to do anyway, I have to say (admit) that with Mahlerís 2nd Symphony Iím a outer movement kind of guy. Over the years I have learned to enjoy and appreciate the inner movements, but the real draw are the unmitigated slams and unyielding climaxes of the outer movements. But with this performance I was riveted throughout. The Andante maestoso (second movement) is done with endearment, concern, and passion but with a zest. And I did something I have *never* done. I enjoyed a repeat, back to back, of the 4th (soloist) movement. I'm not qualified to say that this movement is definitive but the previous movements really set it up wonderfully.
The orchestral slams were, of course, expected. Any modern Mahler 2nd Symphony recording, irrespective of how authoritative the interpretation that fails to knock you out of your listening chair fails in my opinion. Period. I am familiar enough with this symphony not to be surprised when the colossal fortissimos occur. But I was still taken aback by the sheer power of the orchestral forces. So, be prepared. What you have in store are some of the most awesome, but *cleanly* and transparent slams in recorded history (must be). There are some real rim rockers here.
The recording is absolutely first rate by any measure I am familiar with. The soloists and the chorus are vividly recorded and so well placed on the stage. The chorusí entry in the last movement is nothing short of majestic. The transparency is sunlit.
Regarding the multi-channel, Channel Classics has learned or listened to criticism about underutilization of the rear channels. They are still unobtrusive (well almost always) but serve to place this recording above other multi-channel and two channel SACDs they have offered that I am familiar with. I believe the multi-channel presentation here actually helps to raise an excellent performance to one of pre-eminence.
But that brings something else to mind. If I am not mistaken I recall upon hearing this performance live that in at least one movement the trumpets (or brass) was off to the side, behind the stage or even behind the audience. I donít remember. This effect was not apparent in the multi-channel presentation. So, apparently all performers in this production were on stage.
I easily rate it 5 stars in *both* two-channel and multi-channel. But an event of this colossal size is clearly best served by multi-channel. In addition to the inherent sound related advantages of multi-channel the numbers, too, are a decided advantage; 5 or 6 speakers (this is a 5.0 recording) are better than two when handling the tremendous workload demanded by this disc.
I have two areas of dissatisfaction, neither performance related. I mentioned how drawn I was to the second movement. Well, just as I was *really* getting into the performance the music stops and I have to get up and switch discs. For me that was an unpardonable interruption. Perhaps the CD layer that cannot readily accommodate more than 80 minutes caused this disruptive split. If so, I wished that this disc were a non-hybrid SACD.
Another thing that would have been nice a touch if Channel Classics would have put a ďtrackĒ in the middle of the last movement where the glorious chorus enters.
But make no mistake about it this is a triumphant performance and recording.
Iím now off to listen to my new Vanska Beethoven 9th.
Robert C. Lang
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Review by garthoz March 4, 2009 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
|So this is how good recorded music can sound on a home system! How far we have come following Edison's invention! Considering the huge scale of this work, this must surely be a state-of-the-art production. The thought crossed my mind that listening to this was better than attending a live concert. How often does one get to sit in the centre, in the 10th row, with good acoustic, warm sound and ideal reverberation. This was my perceived position in the Palace of Arts Budapest. Listening to this recording gave me a wonderful illusion of a concert hall with the sound of huge forces coming from my equipment.
The dynamic range on this recording was the largest I have heard; from whisper quiet to undistorted crashes. No! Don't be tempted to turn up the volume in the "whispering" moments or there could be damage to ears or equipment in the louder moments. Low frequencies were very cleanly reproduced without a hint of "boom".
I thought the centre and surround channels were a bit soft so I adjusted them up a little to make the illusion more to my liking.
This is most dramatic music; the perfect subject for multichannel reproduction. My Gilbert Kaplan RBCD of the 80's was a stirring interpretation but tiring to listen to, being far too "big" for thin digital sound on two speakers.
The broad and deep sound stage on this Budapest recording enable the listener to hear the fine detail and hence the colourings that Mahler wanted to create. Will this cause more people to discover Mahler?
Just a couple of minor issues. I prefer female singing with less tremolo than we have in the last two movements, but this is personal preference and I'm sure Mahler would be pleased with the effect these soloists have.
Also, i like to read detail about the piece of music I'm listening to and the brief notes in the booklet left me wanting more.
So, overall a wonderful production. Congratulations to all concerned! Can all sound engineers please aspire to this standard?
And more power to Mahler: this recording certainly provides some of that.
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