Benjamin Zander - Philharmonia Orchestra - Mahler: Symphony No. 2 - Words and Music

With neat timing, the Resurrection arrives ready for All Saints. Zander was famous for his timing when, 21 years ago, he conducted Beethoven's Ninth in under an hour. Here he is extra slow in the dancing, unsung middle movements, both of them in three time as if they were variations on the Laendler. The andante moderato sounds almost lazy but the easy swing catches on to its rondo repetitions of the principal dance tune, the final time after comic pauses, beautifully timed by Zander, and unexpectedly pizzicato.  There's less of the ruhig (calm) in the In ruhig fliessender Bewegung and, though it moves with a mischievous goblinesque gait, it is so brim-full of shining melodies that refusing to be swept along becomes impossible. The main tune of undulating quavers slithers from section to section as if spotlighting each in turn. Zander brings them out. It ends with a chord as awesome as God's wrath so that mezzo Sarah Connolly makes real impact coming in querulously and alone with the Wunderhorn verse O Roeschen rot. This short movement is the key to the work, an adagietto like the Fifth's, which ends similarly with a hanging chord resisting resolution for as long as a wind player can hold breath. The forty minute finale features the Philharmonia Chorus intoning the great a capella crowd whisper 'unsterblich' (immortal) though they are outgunned by the orchestra at the end. The instrumental first half is marred only by a shaky trumpet who must regret not having a second go. Presumably even the Last Trumpet may blow a blip.            

01 November 2013