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Classical Club #10 Mahler Symphony No 2: Resurrection

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There have been some fine suggestions in the club so far, but my suggestion for my first entry is Mahler's Resurrection.




At some point in everyone's experience of classical music you will have to listen to a big symphony where everyone in the orchestra plays a part and in my opinion few are better examples than this piece. Mahler lived at the end of the Romantic period into the early Modernist or neo-classical periods when travel was becoming more feasible and allowed adoption of influential music genres into composition in a way which was not possible  in previous eras. Mahler was also a bit of a controversial figure as far as his love life was concerned and both physical and mental illness probably determined the nature of his compositions throughout his life.

However, for this piece of music you can forget about all of that! You can also ignore the nod to religion in the title as this is not a religious composition. You can also ignore any debate about how Rattle has interpreted the score. This symphony is about listening and right from the start the big bold brasses and percussion grab your attention, merging into the first haunting theme of the 1st movement which in turn introduces you to the multiple changing tempos which characterise the rest of the symphony.

This symphony is technically in five movements but it is usually played with a break after the first movement and the others run together which works well. The second movement brings in woodwind, plucked strings and harp though Mahler can't resist bringing in brasses and tympani as the movement develops before dying away into nothing. Tympani announce the 3rd movement, a beautiful trip in which various sections of the orchestra  take turns in leading, at times with a light air and others much more threatening as the music develops into its final conflict between "life" and "death". The all too brief Ulrich's sing of the fourth movement is masterfully sung by Janet Baker (remember that she will been sat in front of the orchestra for a hour or so doing almost nothing) and the plaintive nature of the tune is seldom presented better.

The final movement is a resolution of the first four with many previous themes returning, building and building to its immense double climax (you think the piece has finished but it hasn't!) with massed choir, organ, tympani rolls and a huge crescendo of everyone playing together. Fabulous to experience live!

I've chosen this Rattle/CBSO performance as I find his Berlin Phil piece a bit sterile for my liking. It's also a live piece which adds to the ambience. Other good performances are Kaplan/Vienna Phil and Fischer/Budapest which has an incredibly detailed presentation and a hall with an excellent acoustic to set it off.

To me it doesn't matter why you listen to this piece. Each movement can be appreciated and it can be a piece which can make you interested in other big orchestral works. Or you can use it as a test of your hi-fi's ability to manage the ultra-quiet ppp parts as well as the huge crescendos where you might introduce your amp to new parts of the volume dial or see whether you can discriminate if there is one harp or two playing. However you listen I hope you enjoy it!

Edited by wino2020
Wrong singer!
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