Benjamin Zander - Philharmonia Orchestra - Mahler: Symphony No. 2 - ConcertoNet.com
20 January 2014ConcertoNet.com
Matthew Richard Martinez
In the earlier days of SACD, Benjamin Zander was a
pioneer. His recordings of Mahler symphonies were some of the first of each
work to appear on the fledgling format. Once Telarc got out of the SACD
business, it seemed doubtful that Zander would come to complete a cycle of the
symphonies. Now under the auspices of the audiophile company Linn, this
recording marks his return to Mahler on SACD and it is most welcome.
his last recording, the catalogue has filled up with exceptional recordings of
the work from the likes of the acclaimed Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival
Orchestra to the classic Vienna Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta. Admirers of the
work will want to leave room in their collection for this newest performance.
interpretation is not radical yet exceptional at the same time. His choices of
tempi are in many ways middle of the road, with the "Scherzo" being
the most extreme in its sheer singability. Yet his mastery of phrasing and
shape makes for an exceptionally cohesive performance that, at times, astounds
with its freshness. The space he gives his the score is perhaps the most
revelatory contribution. The Philharmonia Orchestra seems to take the freedom
and run with it yet perform with the utmost nimbleness of ensemble.
is most successful in moments as in "The Great Call" of the last
movement or the delicacy with which Zander navigates the Ländler of the second
movement. But Zander still leaves room for force and drama as in the transition
between the two themes in the "Scherzo" or the cascading final bars
of the first movement. Still, this is not a recording in the mold of the late
Bernstein with its extremes. There are more dramatic recordings to be sure. But
this recording succeeds in bringing the wistful moments of Mahler's music to
the forefront, using those as a springboard, not in a melodramatic way, but
reflectively to center this "Resurrection" as a personal and selfless
struggle. It is this approach that makes the more audacious moments of the
piece seem that much more powerful.
Philharmonia perform with adroitness and sheer stunning beauty. The strings are
particularly limpid with a clean, lyric tone that oozes refinement yet is still
moving. The brass are particularly powerful yet extremely well balanced. The
woodwind solos are superb.
Connelly sings "Urlicht" with a creamy, untroubled mezzo voice that
shapes the long phrases with ease. Her consistency of production and color
makes the piece luxuriant and moving. Miah Persson is outstanding as usual, but
seems beset with a slight flutter. She still manages the utmost subtlety in her
singing and her floating soprano is sumptuous. The Philharmonia Chorus is
exacting and meticulous in their performance yet sufficiently robust at the
climax of the piece.
recorded sound, I must confess, may not be to everyone's liking. The
multi-channel sound is involving and richly detailed, but has moments of
imperfection and the seemingly close recording of the forces makes for some odd
shifts in sound placement. It is mostly minor and not a deal-breaker, but is a
this, if you have room for another Mahler 'Resurrection' in your collection,
Zander is worth more than a glance. The pliant and rapturous playing of the
Philharmonia, the outstanding soloists, and Zander's powerful and fresh reading
make this an exciting release and a welcome addition to the catalogue. It was,
thankfully, worth the wait.
Related LinksBenjamin ZanderGustav MahlerMiah PerssonPhilharmonia ChorusPhilharmonia OrchestraSarah ConnollyMahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'