Bernard Haitink / Dresden Staatskapelle

Mahler: Symphony No. 2

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Over his long career, Bernard Haitink has been one of the most reliable Mahler conductors, having performed and recorded the symphonies many times with some of the world's finest orchestras, so this recording of the Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection," has an obvious advantage by virtue of his reputation. He has released performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on Philips and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on CSO Resound, so this live recording on Profil adds a fresh take on a masterpiece that Haitink has always found new ways to interpret. The distinguishing feature of this performance with the Staatskapelle Dresden is its spontaneity and freedom, which occasionally comes close to looseness, but holds together because Haitink's rubato is never sloppy and his beat is firm, even when tempos change. While the orchestra's playing is energetic and compelling, and the depiction of the Last Judgment is extremely dramatic, the recorded sound is a little variable, due to an extremely wide dynamic range. Listeners should expect both extremely soft dynamics, as in the song "Urlicht," and spine-tingling climaxes, as in the Scherzo and in many places in the Finale, where the orchestra fairly explodes with its stored-up power. Special consideration has been given to the the off-stage band, which sounds remote yet is not obscured in any sense. While devotees of this work usually have particular versions they regard as the ne plus ultra, open-minded listeners will find that this is an exciting performance that rewards repeated listening.

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