Simon Rattle / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"

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Critical opinions of Simon Rattle's Mahler recordings on EMI vary, and it is reasonable to expect that his 2010 live version of the Symphony No. 2 in C minor, ("Resurrection"), will have a mixed reception. Yet while this is not the greatest recording ever made of this revered work, it is a respectable effort, and like most of Rattle's renditions of the symphonies, it has worthwhile moments. Recorded in concerts between October 28 and 30, 2010, this is Rattle's second go at the work, since he recorded it with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 1990. This time, he leads the Berlin Philharmonic, a world-class ensemble that has performed the Second so many times under numerous conductors, it could play it blindfolded. What Rattle adds to make an interpretive difference are a few unexpected exaggerations in tempo -- sudden slow-downs for emphasis, or rushing to build excitement -- so there is a slightly mannered quality to his reading that is unnecessary. However, Rattle delivers a convincing performance of the Scherzo and uses the energy of its return in the finale to propel the rest of the performance, making up for some lethargy in the early movements. The sound of this recording is somewhat variable: excellent in the loud passages, but in need of volume adjustment in the softest sections, such as the brass chorale of "Urlicht" and the distant fanfares in the last movement. This recording is plainly not the only one to hear, because there are several performances on the market that are better, but Rattle fans will want it for the sake of completeness, and it is worth hearing for study purposes.

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