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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 2 Resurrection (1894)
Allegro maestoso [21.35], Andante moderato [9.53], In sehr ruhig fliessender Bewegung [10.32], "Urlicht": Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht [5.12], Im Tempo des Scherzos – Wild herausfahrend – Allegro energico – Langsam – Misterioso [34.08]
Kathleen Battle (soprano), Maureen Forrester (contralto)
Saint Louis Symphony Chorus
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin,
Recorded in Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis, 10 and 12 October 1982 DDD
TELARC CD-80081-2 [42.01 + 39.19]

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Rattle with Janet Baker on EMI, Zubin Mehta and Haitink both on Decca, Klemperer with Schwarzkopf also on EMI, and a stunning Solti on Decca - given the abundance of outstanding recordings of Mahler 2, stiff competition will indubitably be the bane of any new version. Yet Slatkin's recording on Telarc certainly has its own place. It is dramatic and accomplished, well-paced, and full of drive. From the very first note of the excellent and impressive opening, one is struck by Slatkin’s exquisite communication of the restless, nervous energy - a characteristic of this performance. There are some lovely touches here - 5-6 minutes into the first movement, Slatkin creates a wonderful sense of distance and beauty, and the light mood of the second movement, influenced as it is by Austrian folk dance, is extremely well captured. Slatkin allows the third movement to flow, and brings out the driving rhythms energetically. The opening of the fourth movement is tear-jerkingly serene and poignant. Maureen Forrester’s voice is just right for this music - mature, rich and deep, although a bit more strength and support would not go amiss, and at times she can come across as slightly breathy. The dramatic eruption that opens the final movement is effectively explosive, and Slatkin again depicts the last movement’s disquietude excellently, in a compelling performance. The sinister atmosphere of the off-stage fanfares is also brilliantly expressed. Needless to say, Slatkin manages a tremendous end to a monumental work.

Slatkin seems to excel in the more stirring sections of this work, bringing out the climaxes and dramatic passages most effectively, and brilliantly encapsulating a sense of urgency. On the other hand, one felt that the tender passages were played in a slightly matter-of-fact way, and that more poignancy and sweetness is required. Similarly there could with advantage have been an increased cultivation of that bitter-sweet sound of which Mahler is such a master. Sections that contain shimmering ethereal strings could have been slightly enhanced and more glisteningly incorporeal. Again, Slatkin could have made better use of the dramatic pause occasionally, and the work could have been slightly snappier in places; sharper and tauter.

The playing of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra is excellent, and the sound good. Slatkin imbues the symphony with a good dynamic range - ones strains to hear the chorus entry in the last movement; as indeed one should. This is a steady yet exciting performance – perhaps not as "great" a recording as Klemperer’s or Solti’s, but still one that I can heartily recommend.

Em Marshall

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