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In Reply to: RE: Which Mahler 2 to start with? posted by hesson11 on April 12, 2017 at 17:33:53
The Walter's pretty good.
But, if you want all of the raw energy of Mahler - if you want the power with which Mahler himself wouldn've brought to his music - then there's only one - SOLTI/LSO on Decca London.
See that sketch of Mahler conducting? That's just one of many that Mahler inspired.
Now -- think for a moment. Think. Why would Mahler inspire such drawings? Such caricatures? And, who so many in the same vein?
Why? Was because he was gentle, kind, placid conductor?
Was because he conducted music the way listeners these days like to hear post-Beethoven repertoire - restrained, underplayed, stifled, underpowered, polite, reticent?
Or, because HE WAS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT??
Severius! Supremus Invictus
You don't have to buy into the histrionics in Mahler. You don't need a Bernstein swooning over the orchestra like he's saving the world. Mahler's music itself is plenty good enough to be played simply as music.
If you want to hear the music in Symphony 2, listen to Boulez or Gielen, or Klemperer for that matter. Intelligent, musical..... you don't need more than that. It's quite enough.
I think in the sharp hindsight of history, he was let down a bit by Decca's producers and recording engineers by the "juiced up" sonics of much of that Mahler set. It may have been state of the art at the time, or appropriate for the lesser speakers and playback equipment that was then common (my Dad didn't even get a stereo system until 1968) but today we know better, and even the "juicing up" is more subtle and sophisticated.
I was lucky to hear Solti and the CSO in the concert hall many times, and that's what I think of when I think of him.
Still, Newey, you'll be glad to know, I like that set.
But then Kubelik revealed the irony and Bavarian brass sound to me.
Klemperer. the rustic heart.
Bernstein, the "spirituality."
Walter, the folksy pair-bonding fun.
But then, all of the above come up short elsewhere:
Kubelik is a bit too expedient, much like Solti.
Shock and Awe just wasn't part of Walter's bag of tricks.
Bernstein doesn't press forward enough.
That's because Bernstein is too busy gilding the lily and over-emphasizing that organ entrance! ;-)
BTW, as you may remember, I've heard YOUR very copy of the Bernstein Resurrection Symphony (a bit of it anyway) when we were over at Robert C. Lang's house with Jared Sacks in 2010. (Wow - has it been that long?)
Also BTW, what is "folksy pair-bonding fun" and what does it have to do with the Mahler Second? ;-)
No no no. : ) Bernstein gilds the lily too much in the 1st mov't. As for the choral finale, Mahler saved so many surprises from his toy box for the end, why rush it? We've got:
"Langsam" at fig. 46, later the directive is "somewhat" pressing, then somewhat cautious right before fig 47. "More motion" at fig 47. A four measure ritard before fig 48 and the Pesante indication, and, significantly: a great *unfolding* of power. We're also back to 4/4 from 2/2; symbolic?
Personally, I think Bernstein is more in the ball park than Solti, and others who take the finale at a relatively breezy tempo. Mahler doesn't warn the conductor about dragging, unless I missed the indication.
The Finale is a risk that pays-off, IMHO. He keeps it going with carefully graded crescendi. Gets me every time, and that's a rarity these days.
As for pair-bonding fun, the 2nd mov't is a landler after all.
But one thing that does strike me whenever I listen to symphonic works with a score is how often various conductors will ignore various indications (dynamics, speed adjustments, articulation specifications, etc.). Chamber and solo performances seem to me to be more scrupulous in this regard.
London for the more appropriate brass sound.
A conductor can be appropriately fiery yet still manage Mahler's more inward moments and passages with sensitivity.
More often than not, Solti doesn't have the right feel for Mahler or the Central European sound Mahler knew.
Solti "barely scratches the surface"? Perhaps you should elaborate to help us discover what we should be listening for in order to know if a given conductor has "scratched the surface".
And, pray tell, what is the "right feel" for Mahler? Is it somehow tied up with the entrance of the organ, as suggested by your post below?
I used to have the Solti/LSO album in my LP days (I think it was my imprint version) - I liked it, but I still felt that Solti's approach was, in general, over energized.
I like the performance, but it always seems to me that the recording engineer jacked up the volume of the basses at the very beginning. Not an appealing effect; the music speaks for itself.
I want to put in a vote for Tennstedt/LPO on LPO Live; it's an exciting and well-recorded performance. Mehta/Vienna is another good one.
The Bernstein organ reply was a bit of light-hearted irony, though your black hole of a thread above surely sucked up everyone's patience for irony and jokes on this forum lately, include your own, apparently! : )
Honestly: the entrance of the organ is stunning. That said, Bernstein's first movt is a bit wayward, the second not as rustic as it could be (see Walter) but he comes into his own by the 3rd movt. The 5th is as apocalyptic and transcendent as one could want and--to bring us back to your request--compare the NYPO brass playing of the chorale leading up to the "Opening of the Graves" with Chicago's: the NYPO's burnished, yet powerful sound is a balm compared to the CSO's brass, which sound downright synthesized. I used to like the Herseth/Solti sound. Not anymore, sorry.
Anyway, yes, you put it best: Solti's over-energized. "Shock and awe" is certainly a must in Mahler, but my goodness, there's a lot of poetry between the lines too, that Solti, IMHO skates over. Take the ascending horn solo in the 1st movt: don't you wish Solti would allow the section to breathe a little? The only metaphor I can come up with off the top of my head is a leaf lofted by the wind: the best conductors let it float naturally. With Solti the lyrical sections remind me more of someone tugging on a kite. In a word: Solti has problems turning a phrase.
Compare Solti's 8th to Morris'. I imprinted on the former, but there's so much more material that Morris reveals, both lyrical and textural, that Solti flattens with his pile-driving approach. If you want real-world example, compare their orchestral interludes in Part II.
I suspect Newey will accuse me of preferring plush, limo Mahler but all I'm saying is that when attention paid to the more "mature" elements of Mahler's sound world, the shock and awe becomes even more powerful.
first heard on an Independent World Releases LP I picked up in 1975 at Garland Audio (along with an SP-3A, D-76, and Tympani 1C's that, unlike the LP, I no longer have).
Morris' ensemble, the "Symphonica of London", is itself a "pickup" group. But he and his producer picked well, not least in the vocal soloists they were able to round up. An expansive interpretation done well.
Morris Mahler 8 and 10 now remastered and released on HDTT download and physical disc.
In Part II, one can actually hear those three piano/harp rolled chords (!) right before the mandolin entrance.
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