Mahler Symphony No. 2, Klemperer, Concertgebouw Orchestra

April 02 2007

Great performance, poor audio, 4 out of 5 stars.

It’s difficult for me to rate any performance of Mahler’s Resurrection at less than 5 stars. It’s even harder when the performance features one of the greatest Mahler vocalists in Kathleen Ferrier and also one of the greatest Mahler conductors in Otto Klemperer. However, due to the surprisingly poor audio quality, this recording is not up to the standard later set by Klemperer in his studio recording Mahler: Symphony No. 2 / Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra.

Klemperer takes a slightly faster tempo throughout in this one. However, the hallmarks of his style still come through. He maintains a mostly steady tempo. He also really emphasizes the dissonance, especially in the first and last movements. I do feel like he loses a little momentum at the climax of the piece, right after the choir drops out and the orchestra is left to close the piece. This is not the case in his later studio recording. The Concertgebouw play very well and are in general clean and articulate. I especially enjoyed the violin solo in the Urlicht.

Kathleen Ferrier is simply marvelous. To my knowledge, this is the only recording of her doing the 2nd. She is quite expressive in the Urlicht, in which many say Mahler was trying to affirm his own shaky religious beliefs.

Unfortunately, the audio is subpar. Normally, this is a non-issue for me because I can still listen for the music and the interpretation. However, at least in my new CD, I noticed slight ticks and extraneous noises throughout. Of course, you also get the normal boxy sound that comes from a mono recording from the early 50’s. Worse still, the entire sound quality is inconsistent, as in sometimes we hear the high strings more clearly, sometimes we hear bass voices more clearly. It seems a bit like a crapshoot.

In summary, if you only get one Mahler 2 recording, this is probably not the one. Instead, strongly consider the later Klemperer studio recording already mentioned and also ones by Rattle with the CBSO Mahler: Symphony No 2 (Resurrection), Mehta with the VPO Mahler: Symphony No. 2 / Mehta, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (by no means a complete list). One factor in favor here is this is a live recording, and one really gets that sense (slight mistakes, but overall a more awareness of real music being made). Of course you also get the great audience at the conclusion :). Remember, this recording is strongly highlighted by Kathleen Ferrier, who may be the most valid reason to make this purchase.

This was originally written as a review on

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