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  Sony Classical (Japan) -
  SICC-10054 (2 discs)
  Mahler: Symphony No. 2 - Bernstein
  Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection"

Jennie Tourel
Lee Venora
New York Philharmonic
Leonard Bernstein (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 1

Review by Livy January 2, 2008 (11 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
The disc arrived in mail only a week ago and I have listened through twice now. I originally came to know Bernstein's Mahler on the old Royal Edition discs, which contained his Ely Cathedral 2nd as opposed to this performance from 1963, almost ten years earlier. The Ely Cathedral recording sounded nothing like a cathedral accoustic - it was close miked and rather dry. The last movement was recorded at a college in Edinburgh, Scotland as I recall (why they would move away from a venue with such a great organ I am not sure) and it also sounded nothing like the spacious accoustic this music really needs. Nevertheless, I grew to love the "Resurrection" symphony from those two discs and so much of my preferences and feeling for how Mahler should sound was informed by this "first impression" experience.

When this 1963 performance came out on RBCD as a part of the Bernstein Century, I bought it and was astonished at the difference in sound quality from the Ely performance. I also noted the slightly quicker tempi and generally faster pace overall. I listened to this for many years quietly wondering whether (and hoping that) Sony would eventually schedule one of these two for an SACD release.

Now that it's here, I can say that this remains one of the definitive performances of Mahler's 2nd (accolades others have given to Bernstein's 3rd in this series). Is it full of sometimes dramatic changes in tempi, articulation, phrasing, and dynamics? Yes, without question. But there is not a single unmarked accelerando or crescendo that doesn't sound spot-on in this performance. It all simply "fits" for lack of a better term. Many, many others have recorded this symphony since Bernstein, so much so that to mention him with the (nowadays) boilerplate commentary of "he was one of the first to champion the Mahler symphonies and was one of the great Mahler conductors blah-blah-blah" severely underrates just how good Bernstein really was when he was in his element, as he most certainly was during the recording of this performance. Bernstein is not my favorite for many composers, but for Mahler there is no one else I would rather hear. He simply understood this music intuitively, instinctively. My opinion remains that this is the second finest version of the Mahler 2, with the aforementioned Ely cathedral recording taking first.

In terms of the sound - the disc has liner notes only in Japanese and minimal documentation in English - I believe it indicates this is in 5.0 channel sound, no subwoofer (I don't use a subwoofer, so could not verify). The reverberant, but dry Manhattan Center accoustic has been DSD transferred intact onto these discs. Most of the sound is spread between the front channels - even the offstage brass in the last movement are not directed to the rears, which surprised me slightly. The rears are used very discretely and I had to turn the volume up pretty loud to hear them well. They are purely ambient reverb, well-caught and placed by the remastering engineer. In terms of dynamic range, it is not as wide as one might expect, but better than I remember on the RBCD. Finally, there is no premature cut-off at the end of the last movement and one can now hear the organ fairly well.

If the Mahler 2nd is one of your favorite classical works, this disc is a winner and I would recommend it without qualification. If you don't know the Mahler 2nd but would like to, I would urge you strongly to give it a try, provided your wallet can stand it.

Now, can Sony clean up the LSO/Ely recording for us? TBD...

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Works: 1  

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection"