Melbourne Symphony Orchestra / Markus Stenz

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"

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Markus Stenz won considerable critical praise for his 2011 release of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," which he recorded with the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne on Oehms Classics. While fans should definitely get to know that sensational recording, they should also be aware that Stenz had made another recording of the "Resurrection" in 2004, conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. This is a similar performance in its boldness and excitement, but the CD format does not compare favorably with Oehms' super audio recording, and the big, boomy sound of the live recording here has less focus and clarity. In soft passages, the listener may strain to hear details under the fairly blurred sound, and the loudest sections have less impact because the microphone seems to be placed too far away to capture the full effect. Still, this performance has positive points, especially in the determined pace of the music which steadily builds momentum -- note the urgency of the Scherzo, a high point of this recording -- and the compelling expressions that fully convey this work's gravitas, terror, and awe. On its own terms, this is a respectable presentation of Mahler's Second, good for the casual listener who isn't particular about having the best sound quality. However, among audiophiles, it's plainly at a disadvantage because Stenz's later recording was such a superior do-over with outstanding reproduction.

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