Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 2
Resurrection (1894) (arr. Heinrich von Bocklet for 2 pianos, 8
Piano 1: Brieley Cutting (primo), Angela Turner (secondo)
Piano 2: Stephen Emmerson (primo), Stewart Kelly (secondo)
rec. 2012, Queensland Conservatorium Theatre,
MELBA MR301144 [78:00]
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of Heinrich von Bocklet's
arrangement of Mahler's Second Symphony - published by Universal. This is a
version for a double piano duet which followed an earlier four hands
arrangement in 1895 and another one by Bruno Walter in 1899. This is the
first commercially available recording of the von Brocklet version. The four
pianists involved first performed the work together in 2011, recorded it in
2012, edited it over 2012/2013 and released it commercially in 2014.
It might be hard to think of a colossal orchestral and choral work such as
being performed in this fashion but it does
actually work pretty well. Obviously the range of timbre and sheer power of
the symphony orchestra cannot be matched but when the music is stripped back
in this way there is certainly a gain in terms of clarity. This is an
interesting musical experience and an unusual addition to the Mahler
After the initial shock of the opening bars of the first movement the ear
adjusts and the music can be enjoyed in this new format in its own right.
Indeed, there are gains in terms of clarity and intimacy. There isn't the
overwhelming spectacle one is used to in Mahler's epic orchestration but the
power of the two pianos can still be thrilling when the volume is turned up.
I did miss those tam-tam strokes and the deep string lines though.
The Andante moderato
is an undoubted success and one could easily
be fooled into thinking that the music is best suited to the piano. The
is brilliantly played and has tremendous forward momentum.
Yet again, the sheer brio and clarity draws the listener in. Mahler's music
is presented under the glare of some very close spotlights here and it
really glistens. The opening of the fifth movement is sensational but later
on the absence of the hushed choral entry is a let-down because two pianos
simply cannot even begin to compare. You don't experience the spine-tingling
frisson of the original. This was the only passage where I felt completely
We then come to the Grosse appell
("The Great Call")
where the off-stage brass perform their other-worldly fanfares. This has
less emotional impact in the arrangement presented here mainly because the
off-stage sound-world cannot be mimicked. The hushed choral entry that
follows this passage is, yet again, sadly missed. It really is a veritable
damp squib. However, the final two or three minutes of the symphony are
tremendous and we are led to a fine climax and thrilling conclusion. The
dedication and stamina of the players has to be admired and applauded.
Overall, this is a refreshing new approach to a great symphony that many
lovers of Mahler would enjoy. The symphony, with its sonorities stripped
away, still comes across with its epic quality fully intact despite some
passing reservations here and there. The playing is superb from beginning to
end and the sound quality is admirable. It's a triumph of clarity,
ringing tone and a wide sound-stage. A brilliant CD.