Lorin Maazel / BBC Symphony Chorus / Sarah Connolly / Michelle DeYoung / Sally Matthews / Philharmonia Ensemble / Philharmonia Orchestra

Mahler: Symphonies 1, 2 'Resurrection' & 3

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Previously released as separate CD packages in 2013, this slip-covered set of Gustav Mahler's first three symphonies presents Lorin Maazel and the Philharmonia Orchestra in rather mixed live performances. Because there is serious competition from many superb recordings that are readily available, this reissue from Signum Classics will mostly be of interest to Maazel's committed fans and curious Mahler-obsessives who need to hear every extant recording. Otherwise, listeners can pick and choose. The Symphony No. 1 in D major is a routine reading that brings the work across with no nonsense (thankfully without an interpolation of the rejected "Blumine" movement), yet with no real inspiration either. Indeed, there is a marked sluggishness in Maazel's tempos that suggests either flagging energy or perhaps a lack of imagination or enthusiasm for this over-played work. The Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection," is given an exaggerated ponderousness that robs it of any potential for real catharsis, and there is no sense of apocalyptic urgency from Maazel's underwhelming third movement to the perfunctory finale. The most enjoyable of the three performances is the Symphony No. 3 in D minor, which is comparatively free of sluggishness and excessive reverence, and the music feels fresh, vital, and exciting, as if Maazel and the Philharmonia had snapped out of a trance and decided to give the performance their all. Instead of buying this set, listeners should consider acquiring the Symphony No. 3 by itself, and skip the other two recordings.

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