William Steinberg

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"

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William Steinberg's recordings were ubiquitous in the 1960s, but comparatively few of his albums from that time have been released on compact disc, so this reissue of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in C minor, ("Resurrection"), is a hopeful sign. Broadcast in 1965 with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (later known as the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln), the Cologne Radio Choir, and vocal soloists Stefania Woytowicz and Anny Delorie, this recording of the "Resurrection" was made in the early phase of the mid-century Mahler revival, so it has some historical significance. Unfortunately, it also has the tell-tale signs of live recording for radio, in that the sound is slightly compressed and the orchestra has a distant quality that doesn't compare favorably with modern live recordings. To appreciate Steinberg's performance, the listener must adjust to the recessed sound levels and take into account the orchestra's occasionally inaccurate playing, but once past these minor problems, it's apparent that Steinberg was a committed champion of Mahler. The interpretation is sympathetic and quite moving, and Steinberg charts a clear course through the symphony that makes it coherent and compelling. This is critically important in the Finale, which in Steinberg's hands is tightly structured and focused, despite the episodic nature of the movement. Students of important historical recordings will find this rendition fascinating, but it requires some advance familiarity with the music, so it is not a first pick for newcomers.

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