Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 - Luisi
|Site review by akiralx December 5, 2008
|This SACD set contains a one-off live performance by the MDR SO from 2007, with applause before and after (separately tracked). I'm not sure how much, if any, patching was done after the concert. For the most part the playing is very fine, with only a slight lapse in ensemble at around the 11-minute mark in the first movement, and a minor slip by the timpanist later on being evident to me.
This ensemble lapse mainly stemmed from Luisi's quite daringly slow tempo at that point - throughout his tempi are fairly orthodox (the performance lasts 88 minutes), but his approach is to play the work in quite a romantic manner. I was going to say 'old-fashioned' but that sounds too pejorative, although the reading did remind me of some older recordings I have, by Klemperer for example (though his overall timing is much less). It is certainly less incisive than more recent recordings I have, for example Boulez's on DG which I listened to just before this.
Thoughout the performance there are some passages that are quicker than usual, rather more that are slightly slower, but Luisi makes one feel that they make sense. I found the approach quite persuasive and a refreshing change - it comes across particularly in Luisi's very suave treatment of the second movement landler, with subtle tempo shifts that bring out the rustic qualities of the music - very nice. But there is no shortage of drama as the arresting opening of the scherzo shows.
In Urlicht, Fujimura is not the best technical singer but she is accurate and has an appealing plaintive voice which seems to suit the music, and she is certainly distinctive.
A word or two about the recording: it is very good - and sounds especially spacious in the last movement where there is an audible feeling of air around the singers and orchestra. I get the impression that this is because the choir is not particularly large, and that the whole ensemble is playing in quite a big space. But it is very detailed with no excessive reverberation. This is not the most impactful performance - but it is a very musical one. Nor do I get the impression that conductor (and engineers) are trying to blast the listener out of his seat.
I wouldn't rate this recording above the other SACD sets I have: probably Kaplan is in first place, closely followed by MTT and Luisi. But I enjoyed it very much and I can recommend it to anyone wanting a fresh view of the Resurrection Symphony.