MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor
SANDSTRÖM: Lobet den Herrn (2003). Ave Maria (1994). Hear
my prayer, O Lord (1986). Es ist genug (1986). A new song of love (2009).
Te (1993). Agnus Dei (1981). Singet dem Herrn.
The Royal Concertgebouw has a long association with music of Gustav Mahler. Willem Mengelberg, a close friend of Mahler, conducted a festival of all of the symphonies in 1920, and since that time Mahler's music appears often in their concerts and recordings. Their earliest recording of the mighty Resurrection is the live performance from July 1951 with Otto Klemperer, which can be heard in all its glory on a new remastering (REVIEW). Bernard Haitink recorded it for Philips in May 1968 and Riccardo Chailly recorded it for Decca in November 2001. There also exists a magnificent Philips multiple-disk DVD set of seven of the symphonies (including No. 2) with Haitink recorded over a period of years in the Eurovision Christmas Matinee series; for more details see our REVIEW. Now we have another version, this from the commendable RCO Live series, edited from concerts December 3, 4, and 6, 2009, with Maris Janssons on the podium, part of the orchestra's presentation of all of Mahler's symphonies with various conductors to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahler's birthday and the 100th anniversary of his death. This new Resurrection is a deluxe issue with two SACDs containing the symphony, and a DVD of the December 3 performance. This is the conductor's second recording of this work; some years ago he recorded it for Chandos with the Oslo Philharmonic. This new recording is exemplary in every way and benefits from multi-channel sound, particularly on DVD. One might wonder why a larger chorus wasn't used—it appears well less than 100 singers are involved. Video, unfortunately, focuses most of the time on the conductor—do we really want to see him that much close up? I would prefer not. However, we do have the opportunity to see the off-stage brass in the final movement. This is a worthy issue, although not the Concertgebouw Orchestra's finest performance of the work.
Valery Gergiev continues his London Symphony traversal of the Mahler symphonies with this issue of Symphony No. 5 recorded during concerts in the Barbican in September 2010. As usual, this is a dynamic reading although tension slacks a bit in the finale. The LSO is at its best, the sound well balanced except for cymbals that are decidedly too far back. If you enjoyed Gergiev's other Mahler recordings you'll want to have this.
More than a decade ago this site gave a very unenthusiastic review of Swedish composer Sven-David Sandstrom's Piano Concerto (REVIEW). This Channel Classics issue features choral music in the composer's unique use of human voices, includes non-language sounds, humming, vocal tremolo, and layered repetition. The 32 singers of the superb Swedish Radio Choir under their music director Peter Rijkstra are to be commended for their virtuosity in producing these most unusual sounds. Excellent audio with the chorus in front. Complete texts are provided in Swedish with English translations. If you're looking for something totally different in choral repertory, this surely is it!
R.E.B. (February 2011)