Gilbert Kaplan / Wiener Kammerorchester / Vienna Chamber Orchestra

Mahler 2: Arrangement for Small Orchestra

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Gilbert Kaplan's musical career has been almost entirely devoted to performing Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection," and an arrangement of the work for small orchestra is used for his third major release, following recordings of Mahler's original with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. For this 2014 CD on Avie, Kaplan leads the Wiener KammerOrchester with soprano Marlis Petersen, mezzo-soprano Janina Baechle, and the Wiener Singakademie, and even though the orchestra is about half the size of Mahler's intended forces, it doesn't sound especially thin or depleted, quite unlike the true chamber versions of Mahler's music arranged by Arnold Schoenberg, Erwin Stein, and others. The chief benefit of this reduction, arranged by Kaplan and Rob Mathes, is that it makes the Second Symphony available to community orchestras and other ensembles that can't muster the numbers to pull off the full instrumentation. Yet many listeners won't be able to detect much of a difference, if this recording gives an accurate indication of what is in the arrangement. In terms of volume, the Wiener KammerOrchester may not be as shattering as a full orchestra, but the climaxes work in proportion to the orchestra's size, so that's not really much of an issue. What's more germane is that Mahler's chamber-like writing carries over into this version with little change, and since the bulk of the symphony is transparently scored, no harm comes to the music in this reduction. In terms of the interpretation, Kaplan's choices of tempo and pacing are rather straightforward and conventional, and he has conducted this work so many times, it's safe to say that he gets the results he wants. While newcomers to this work must have a recording of Mahler's original, Kaplan's utilitarian version is primarily of interest to musicians and devotees of this work.

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