London Symphony Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 2

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With this recording, Valery Gergiev illustrates that, though he is among the foremost orchestral and operatic conductors of his day, he does not yet have the pulse of Gustav Mahler. Recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in April and June 2008, this two-disc set coupling the Austrian fin de siècle composer's Second Symphony and the opening Adagio from his uncompleted Tenth Symphony has all the parts in all the right places, but they add up to less than their sum. Gergiev's tempos are startlingly fast, and while it's true that Mahler tempos have grown perhaps too slow over the past half century, Gergiev's decisions result in a rushed and superficial performance. Gergiev also misses the mark on Mahler's characteristic instrumental colors, creating instead a bland and homogenous balance. The usually startling clarity of Mahler's lines and harmonies are terminally blunted. Most importantly, Gergiev sounds like he has no feel for the composer's unique combination of the vulgar and sublime. Neurosis and exaltation need to coexist to bring Mahler to life, but they are hardly in evidence here, replaced instead by a series of musical tableaux vivant. The London Symphony and Chorus performs with their standard virtuoso excellence, though, it must be added, with apparently little enthusiasm, and LSO Live does its usual job of presenting the performances in cool, clean sound.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Symphony No. 2 in C minor ("Resurrection")
1 21:49
blue highlight denotes track pick