Osmo Vänskä / Minnesota Orchestra

Mahler: 2 Resurrection

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The world may or may not be ready for buttoned-down Nordic versions of the sprawling, fevered, quintessentially Viennese symphonies of Mahler, but in the current series on Sweden's BIS label by the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, that's what it's getting. Critical and public reaction have split on these readings, and it's worth attempting a balanced perspective. First, Vänskä does not change gears in the mighty Second, and this is about as far as you can get from the heated Mahler readings of Leonard Bernstein that did so much to revive Vänskä's fortunes. It is difficult to square the expressive marking "wild herausfahrend" (setting out wildly) at the beginning of the finale with the straightforward reading offered here. Second, of course, not all of the symphony is wild, and where it is not, Vänskä and the Orchestra achieve impressive feats of control. The Minnesota Orchestra was the first to record the Mahler Symphony No. 2 in 1935 (a hefty stack of 78 rpm records!), and their institutional experience shows. Sample the utterly lovely, floating reading of the vocal "Urlicht" movement, an apotheosis of Klopstock, and you may be impressed enough to try out the whole thing. The long line is present in the big outer movements as well; it's just that the local detail is restrained in a way that may or may not agree with you. No such cautions apply in the case of the engineering, which is surely among the most detailed and subtle canvases on record for this work: it's worth seeking out the acquaintance with the best sound system and bringing the album over. Recommended on the whole.

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