SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor “Resurrection” – Lisa Milne, soprano/ Birgit Remmert, alto/ Budapest Festival Orchestra/ The Hungarian State Choir/ Ivan Fischer, conductor – Channel Classics
Published on January 6, 2007
Conductor Ivan Fischer (b. 1951) recorded this mighty rendition of Mahler’s 1894 Resurrection Symphony in 2005, the same year Fischer inaugurated, in collaboration with Marian Mahler (the composer’s granddaughter) the Mahler Festival of Budapest, an outgrowth of the Hungarian Mahler Society. Inscribed at the Palace of Arts in the Millennium City Center, Budapest, Mahler’s alternately terrifying and ecstatic visions come fiercely projected in surround sound, courtesy of engineers Hein Dekker and C. Jared Sacks.
The opening movement, a funeral march (in memoriam Hans von Bulow) interrupted by elegiac, nostalgic, and apocalyptic episodes–many of which hearken to Wagner’s Die Walkuere–tries to balance equally raging forces in C Minor and C Major. The feverish yet plastic rhythms and orchestral timbres suddenly melt in a diaphanous mountain song, colored by horns, sliding strings, and harps. That Fischer indulges Mahler’s glissandos and portamenti resonates with a desire to extend the original Mahler performance-practice. The inexorable march of fate reaches a shattering climax, then a slow buildup, even through twittering bird calls. The tympani part crawls out of the floor, urging us all to a common doom.
The lovely Andante moderato (an extended laendler with grotesqueries) provides a moment of repose in a universe fraught with spiritual abysses and disillusionment. Lovely sounds from the Budapest Festival flute and ostinato strings. Even the more convulsive passages hold a passionate, lyrical element. When played in counterpoint, the lyrical and frenzied impulses create some of Mahler’s (and Fischer’s) most convincing music. The Scherzo places some of the laendler material in an ironic, minor key setting, employing pastoral elements (and a marvelous oboe) from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The heraldic elements in the music reach colossal heights, especially in Mahler’s use of horns, two harps, and triangle. The Urlicht (quoting Klopstock’s poem) promises the enduring light of inextinguishable life; but the Finale rudely breaks forth, the forces of disruption and temptation which must be overcome if one is to face the Last Judgment spiritually cleansed. Hieronymus Bosch is not far away. Stunning, shattering chords, militant, hysterical, rapturous, agonized in every part, strive for transcendence. Brilliant trumpet work in multiple parts. My whole listening space lit up, a spasm of acoustical revelation. When Mahler brings in the soli, the chorus, and the orchestra in full, collaborative panoply, the effect for Mahler acolytes should put this high on the must-have list.
– Gary Lemco