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Mahler: Symphony No. 2 - Fischer

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 - Fischer

Channel Classics  CCS SA 23506 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection"

Lisa Milne
Birgit Remmert
Hungarian Radio Choir
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Ivan Fischer (conductor)

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Review by Graham Williams - September 21, 2006

Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra have already given us an excellent Mahler 6 on SACD Mahler: Symphony No. 6 - Fischer and now follow it up with a truly stupendous Mahler 2.

Fischer’s powerful performance of the first movement funeral march is quite swift (21.30) – a true Allego maestoso, but nowhere is it ever rushed, just driven forward purposefully. He avoids any irritating interpretive mannerisms of the sort that have sometimes marred his earlier recordings for Channel Classics although the sudden relaxing of the tempo at 16.33 took me a little by surprise. Climaxes have huge impact, yet are easily accommodated by the magnificent recording.

Fischer treats the second movement with great affection, playing it as a jaunty ländler. He brings out the humorous qualities of the music by using subtle rubato to accent the main theme. It is not overdone, but makes MTT appear tired and lacking in imagination in comparison.

The third movement begins with two very arresting timpani thwacks. The tempo is flowing and quite relaxed. Fischer emphasises the sardonic humour of the music and the interplay of the themes are clearly defined by the excellent balance he achieves. The playing is wonderfully alive with a dreamy central section in which the trumpets blend perfectly with the strings. I can’t imagine it sounding any better than it does here.

Birgit Remmert’s singing in the Urlicht movement is straightforward and un-mannered, though I did find her slightly effortful, and not as moving or involved as, for example, Christa Ludwig for Mehta and Bernstein or the incomparable Lorraine Hunt Lieberson on the MTT version.

The crash that begins the finale will test most listener’s equipment to the full, yet is it is reproduced here with clarity and ease, while the huge crescendo at 10.00 leads to an awesome climax such as is rarely heard outside the concert hall.
No attempt is made to place any of the offstage brass anywhere but behind the orchestra (a lost opportunity or a blessing, depending on your point of view) and the surround channels are used throughout purely for ambience. This is certainly no loss as one can hear in the magical interplay of the solo flute and off-stage orchestra at 19.01.
The entry of the choir (the excellent Hungarian Radio Choir) is clear and firm, unlike the wooliness of so many choirs in a number of other versions of this piece, and is perfectly balanced with the orchestra, while the entry of Lisa Milne’s radiant soprano soars exactly as it should. The ending is played, and reproduced, with all the power and grandeur one could wish for.

Jared Sacks really has got the measure of recording in the new Budapest palace of Arts and, as I have indicated, the sound quality on these two SACDs is absolutely superb. The bass instruments are reproduced with much more impact than in the earlier recording, yet the overall sound has even greater transparency. The orchestra is seated as for MTT with the violins split left and right, basses on the left etc. as Mahler would have expected. This arrangement always seems to reveal a wealth of inner detail and that is certainly the case here.

Throughout, the Budapest Festival Orchestra play with the utmost virtuosity for its founder and I cannot recommend this version too highly. This is a great achievement for all concerned.

Copyright © 2006 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comments (4)
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Comment by Luukas - January 1, 2016 (1 of 4)

I just listened the whole album and I found many thing to enjoy here. For example the brass - at the beginning of the fourth movement - was captured perfectly, exactly as Mahler intended. But on surround the sound was little bit distant. It was also a disappointment that the rears are used only for the ambience. I hoped that the sound of the offstage band could be heard from the rears.
Otherwise the SACD is excellent.

Comment by Bruce Zeisel - March 13, 2017 (2 of 4)

Sometimes "offstage" brass are positioned in the balcony toward the rear of the hall - Usually not the center but one of the corners. Sometimes, (in Boston and in the shed at Tanglewood) they are sounded from an opened door from the left or right rear of the stage. That is probably what happened in this performance. Had it been from somewhere out in the hall, I think it would have been recorded in the rear channels as is Luukas' preference.

Generally I am VERY happy to have the rear speakers used to recreate the spatial qualities of the hall. I do not like "special effects" as in so many 2L recordings. I feel that is a misuse of the technology.

But to be clear, if the composer asks for off-stage anything, that sound should come from said location in a mch recording.

Comment by Carlos M. Alvarado - April 4, 2017 (3 of 4)

This Resurrection recording is truly outstanding with a huge dynamic range. For the tuttis the impact is visceral and the cellos and basses are joy to hear. I'm glad I discovered this score and this recording. Wow.

Comment by Lawrence Schulman - April 8, 2017 (4 of 4)

I just re-listened to Fischer's Mahler 2, and was deeply moved. The choral orchestra is wonderful, the soloist is wonderful, and the chorus is wonderful. Fischer underplays the score, and it works as I have rarely heard. He takes his time, and the emotional climax of the last movement is overwhelming. A highly recommended set. I would also recommend Otto Klemperer's incredible version from the 1960s, which can be found on SACD.