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<<  -- 2 --  David Wilkins    MONUMENTAL ACHIEVEMENTS

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The Second Symphony 'Resurrection' always held a special significance for Bernstein. It was the work he chose to perform after the assassination of President Kennedy, in Israel after the 1967 conflict and, interestingly, it was this piece's Urlicht movement that he had introduced as an unscheduled concert item when he learned of the death of his mentor, Mitropoulos, in 1960. There is a third full commercial recording of the work -- made with LSO forces in Ely Cathedral (for Unitel video and CBS / Sony records) in 1973. That is to be treasured for the magical contribution of Janet Baker but, in fact, the essential interpretation remains largely consistent in terms of timing and emphasis across the three performances.

The aggressive immediacy of the 1963 Sony sound serves the opening lower string figurations particularly well. There is plenty of weight in the 1987 DG recording too (also with the New York Philharmonic) and the momentum of the movement is similarly overwhelming but the temperature seems to be lower. Detractors often accuse Bernstein of pulling this movement about unnecessarily. They should, perhaps, have a look at all the explicit markings about tempo fluctuations in Mahler's score and then wonder whether the majority of conductors aren't rather cowardly in rejecting the composer's calls for flexibility.

Jennie Tourel (Sony) and Christa Ludwig (DG) are the respective mezzo soloists. They both counted themselves as among Bernstein's friends as well as colleagues and there is little to choose between their poignancy in the Urlicht movement -- Tourel a touch earthier, perhaps; Ludwig more hushed. The span of the vast finale is expertly handled and the choirs firm of technique and commitment in both cases. Inevitably, DG manage to open-out the incandescence of the apotheosis more spectacularly [listen -- DG volume 1 disc 4 track 4, 35:12-36:08].

Bernstein - Mahler - CD 4 Volume I. Copyright (c) Deutsche Grammophon GmbH

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Copyright © 26 August 2001 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK

 

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