London Philharmonic Orchestra / Jard van Nes / Klaus Tennstedt

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"

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Klaus Tennstedt was a late-blooming superstar who rose to international fame in the 1980s purely on the strength of his musicianship, rather than through any self-aggrandizing desires or designs. His career as the conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra concluded in 1987, due to increasing ill health, but Tennstedt returned over the next few years to conduct concerts, of which this 1989 performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection," is representative. Because of Tennstedt's inspired leadership and the orchestra's willingness to follow wherever he led, this is a profound and gripping recording that compels listening, perhaps more than many later recordings that boast state-of-the-art recording technology. (For digital recording of its time, this double-disc is quite as clear and deep as many hybrid SACDs.) The LPO achieves a marvelous feeling of eschatological drama in the Allegro maestoso, and the tension and shocking force of some passages are balanced by the serenity and soothing beauty of others. Tennstedt draws out all the marvelous sonorities and bizarre effects that give life and lethal power to this grim movement. In the Andante moderato, Tennstedt eases the mood and takes this interlude at a truly gemütlich pace, in preparation for the cataclysm to come in the Scherzo, the soul-searching of Urlicht, and the ecstatic visions of the choral Finale. Of the numerous recordings of the "Resurrection" that crowd the catalog, this one stands out for its authentic spirit, its glorious sound, and magnificent expressions, and it should be purchased on sight for fear it might be missed; performances like this don't come along every day.

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