SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
* MAHLER: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 10 (Adagio) – Elena Mosuc, Zlata Bulycheva / London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra / Valery Gergiev – LSO Live
Published on February 14, 2009
MAHLER: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 10 (Adagio) – Elena Mosuc, Zlata Bulycheva / London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra / Valery Gergiev – LSO Live multichannel 2-SACDs 0666; 100:00 ****1/2 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Mahler wrote his second symphony during the period 1888 to 1894, the first movement completed in 1888 as the symphonic poem Totenfeier (Celebration of Death), and the remaining movements written in 1893 to 1894, apart from some early sketches for the second.
The Second Symphony was recorded in April 2008 and, part of Gergiev’s Mahler cycle, is a considerable success on SACD. The first movement is powerfully presented by Gergiev and the LSO, with excellent playing from all sections. Gergiev achieves a wide dynamic range, from the most delicate of pianissimos to the most muscular of fortissimos. The second movement depicts happy memories and Gergiev’s warmth here brings out the joy successfully; after the coruscation of the first movement, the contrast is startling, and welcome.
The Scherzo (with quietly flowing movement) has the LSO show a very light touch, the fleetness of foot coming with some astonishingly tidy playing. While some may find this a bit breathless, others will be captivated by the whirligig of atmosphere; the movement’s “scream of despair” is achieved with much effect. The short fourth movement, Urlicht (Primal Light), is a song about the meaningless of life, and is sung rather plainly by Zlata Bulycheva in somewhat phonetic German. However, in the last movement, she and Elena Mosuc do blend well. This substantial finale uses words from Klopstock’s Resurrection with additions by Mahler, the hymn making up the second half of this movement. Opening with the “scream of despair”, followed by a long passage with off-stage horns, well caught in this recording, the movement develops into a Dies Irae. The chorus enters very quietly and with tremendous magical effect about half way through the movement, and give a very performance indeed. Mosuc’s soaring soprano is successful, too, and Gergiev handles the build-up to the end with an excellent grasp of architecture, the ending with organ and bells underpinning the structure with great power.
The Adagio from the Tenth Symphony was recorded in June 2008, and again the LSO’s sections are shown to excellent effect, from lustrous strings to burnished brass! Gergiev coaxes an excellent reading; it is to be hoped that he will perform one of the completions.
There is a good deal here to interest even the more critical Mahler listener; those who enjoy Mahler with a softer centre than Gergiev gave in his performances of the Sixth may well be surprised how much affection and range there is in his reading of the Second. The Barbican is not an easy venue in which to record large forces, a substantial orchestra and chorus, but LSO Live gives a largely first-class recording sounding splendid in both stereo and surround programs.
– Peter Joelson