Pierre Boulez / Staatskapelle Berlin

Mahler: Symphony No. 2

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This is not Pierre Boulez's only Mahler Second, but since Boulez turned 80 the year it was recorded, this 2005 performance with the Staatskapelle Berlin is likely to be his only performance of the work issued on video. It is more controlled and more overtly emotional than his 1973 recording and less polished than his 2005 performance. Boulez's tempos are a bit on the quick side in the opening Allegro maestoso, Andante moderato, and Scherzo and a bit on the slow side in "Urlicht" and the Finale. The Berlin orchestra does not have as lovely a sound as the Vienna orchestra, but its playing is still able, adept, and always together. His singers, soprano Diana Damrau and especially mezzo-soprano Petra Lang, are both very fine, and his chorus, the Chor der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin, is ineffably quiet when it enters and unbelievably loud when it exits. Watching Boulez conduct is fairly interesting -- without a baton, his gestures are minimal, his cues are maximal, and his beat omnipresent -- but clearly most of his work was done in rehearsal. EuroArts' sound is clear and deep and while the camera isn't always pointed where it should be -- seeing the instrumental soloists is great; not always seeing Boulez's cues is less so -- the images are clean and distinct.