Benjamin Zander / Philharmonia Orchestra

Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"

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Benjamin Zander rose to international prominence in the 2000s, almost entirely on the strength of his exemplary recordings of Gustav Mahler's symphonies, which have been widely admired and emulated. Not only did Zander carefully research the background of the symphonies to develop a sense of what Mahler's music sounded like in his time, he also gave invigorating and inspired performances with the Philharmonia Orchestra that were accompanied by entertaining discussions of the works in detail. Most of the cycle was released on Telarc, but Zander withheld his 2009 recording of the Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection," which disappointed him; he waited until 2012 to record a more satisfactory version on Linn Records. The symphony has been issued here in standard CD and hybrid SACD formats, with the music presented on two discs and the conductor's eloquent commentary with musical examples on the third, so listeners are advised to find ample time to appreciate both. From the outset, it's clear Zander has something important to say musically, and his phrases, dynamics, articulation, and handling of the orchestral balances are immediately noticeable and distinctive. Fans of Zander's approach to historically informed performance practice will appreciate the authentic touches and economy of his interpretation, and the efficient playing of the Philharmonia Orchestra shows the rapport Zander clearly had with his musicians. The particulars of the score are clearly evident in the playing, often with unexpected nuances and delightful shifts of color. Such attention to details isn't myopic, though, because Zander has a definite trajectory in mind, and he controls the symphony's impetus and pacing with great care. Because the performance is thoroughly engrossing and emotionally draining, thanks to Zander's intensely passionate interpretation and the Philharmonia's committed playing, hearing it in one sitting is the best way to take in the full effect of the score, and to grasp Mahler's "emotional counterpoint," which Zander describes in his remarks. This powerful recording of the "Resurrection" is highly recommended for all who are interested in Mahler, but most especially for newcomers who will benefit from Zander's profound erudition.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection"
1 22:42 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick