Mahler: Symphony No. 2 / Mehta, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

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Product Description

"Beg to report safe delivery of a strong, healthy last movement to my Second. Father and child doing as well as can be expected." So ran Mahler's jubilant message on completion of his "Resurrection" Symphony, which after several years' painful gestation had come together in his mind with a sudden flash of inspiration. It had begun as a single-movement funeral rite, and gradually taken shape under the influence of Schubert's music, but the choral conclusion of Beethoven's Ninth was its Grail. Zubin Mehta's 25-year-old recording is a superb addition to the ranks of contending interpretations. It is lighter on its feet than Bernstein's classic version, with all the elements in Mahler's tonal landscape brought out in high relief: by turns lush, austere, grandiose, and intimate. Here is the Vienna Phil at its best, with two incomparable voices on the bridge--Christa Ludwig's steely mezzo and Ileana Cotrubas's soaring soprano. The "Legendary" on the cover is not hype: This is still as good as it gets. --Michael Church

Customer Reviews:

  • An attempt at an informed opinon
    Question: What do my favorite symphony and my favorite soprano have in common?
    Answer: They are both on this CD!!

    Ok, that said even Ileana Cotrubas can't carry this over the Klemperer/Schwazkopf recording. In my opinion (and this is probably because I was introduced to the other recording first), the tempos on this disc are too fast, and take away from the dramatic buildup that I think Klemperer does better. In the third movement the quicker tempo is nice but in the second section of the fifth movement (track six) the "swinging" of the violins for example doesn't have the same effect. Anyway you really can't go wrong with either recording, and if you think I'm a complete ignoramus, thats ok. I can see that this opinion may not be taken too well by some....more info
  • Annoy your neighbor! Or make them pray!
    I have 2 more versions of this monstrous symphony(Klemperer-New Philarmonia, Walter-NYPO), but none of them can match the intensity, passion, emotion, and fire of this version by Mehta and VPO. I almost cried when I first heard it!
    The quality of the CD is just a killer. YOU CAN HEAR EVERY INSTRUMENT WITH A LITTLE REVERB! That's especially true in the final movement. It's like being in the recording session yourself! The sound is huge. It's like that there was a wall of Marshall amps behind the orchestra & chorus! This CD should be played as loud as possible. It's the best to annoy your neighbors,or make them pray!
    The first movement is the most violent, bitter, and angriest I have ever heard. The climaxes are just sheer-powerful.
    The second movement is pretty much the same. The third movement opens with the best timpani I have ever heard. Those timpani strikes sound like you just woke up from a beautiful dream and went back to the cruel reality.
    The fourth...Oh, the fourth movement! By now, it's the best fourth I've ever heard. Ludwig sounds like praying! And in my opinion this movement should sounds like a prayer.
    Then the epical finale. The instrumental part is just monstrous. The off-stage band is amazingly awesome. You can hear every note they play. The voices part is the most powerful, passionate and emotional I've ever heard. When they sing the final word "tragen", they hold the last syllabus as long as possible. It really makes the climax more earth-shattering than ever before. That's really I want it to sound like, and other recordings didn't manage that well.
    The price is a steal, so go and get it! And make sure to get some tissues when you hear it. Because I lent this recording to a girl, and she cried for 5 minutes just after the voices sang the last word!
    And finally, if there was a 10-star setting, I'd give 11, and if it was 100-stars, I'd give 110!...more info
  • AUFERSTEH'N: Zubin Mehta Rocks the Golgotha!
    Given the numerous symphonic interpretations available for the canon of Gustav Mahler, from Szell to Bernstein to Tilson-Thomas to Karajan (etc. etc.), the task of sorting through the myriad choices of composer and/or cycle to find the 'best' recording can be pocketbook-painful. Double or triple dipping does give one a broad perspective of the work, but for the budget shopper (be it time or money), finding that one 'definitive' interpretation is usually the paramount objective. Thankfully, Amazon's review-system often helps in curtailing hype, penetrating bias and directing the wary consumer as to alternative options on the selected work. Thus was I brought, by clicking and comparing, to this 1975 recording of Mahler's epic 2nd, the "Resurrection." The overwhelming positive reviews, along with the fact that Zubin Mehta executed the entire symphony at a swift 81 minutes, therein reducing any tendency for long, drawn-out pomposity (the bane of Mahler interpretation), prompted me to purchase yet another version of this elegant, mournful, angry and profoundly *cathartic* symphony, perhaps my favorite of the Austrian maestro's vast sound-canvas.

    And this was not money spent in vain. Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic deliver an astounding performance of "Resurrection," one that resonates far beyond any other recording these particular ears have endured. The tone is set at the very beginning: dark, eruptive, with a rapidity that, initially, comes as a bit of a shock; yet also feels *right*, fully engaging the listener within the space of a few thundering bars. This is music that would plod and grumble in lesser hands; here it growls, it screams and howls, the anguish of a life in final decline: the Titan of the 1st, having struggled to culmination, now faces a foe that cannot be vanquished. From spring to winter, and then _beyond_: Mahler ambition and resultant art is staggering even now, more than a hundred years from its controversial inception.

    Of course, the man who wrote this music would immediately beg to differ with my musings above, on the grounds of sheer presumption. During the period this symphony was conceived, Mahler began to experience displeasure at the limitations of 'programme,' or detailed explanation of the symphonic work. In seeking the exact meaning of the movements, in labeling and categorizing what should be experienced beyond the reduction of words, the *purity* of the music itself was debased. These are noble sentiments, and aesthetically admirable, but also rather limiting for the purpose of this review... so on with the interpretations, regardless! Mahler himself provided several outlines of this symphony, the last emerging _after_ he publicly disavowed programmes, and these both support and offer counterpoint to the central themes. The opening 'Todtenfeier,' a grim funeral march, is usually thought to depict the epic struggle of a mighty being grappling with life, and realizing the yawing mouth of death as reward for such suffering; in a different programme, however, Mahler stated more ambitious concerns:

    "The [Titan hero] I bear to his grave, and whose life I reflect, from a higher vantage point...the question is asked: _What_ did you live for? _Why_ do you suffer? Is it only a vast, terrifying joke? -We have to answer these go on living...indeed, if we are only to go on dying! And...this answer I give in the last movement."

    Mehta's version of 'Todtenfeier' is 21.03 minutes long. The Allegro tempi gives the march an appropriately wrenching momentum, which accentuates the mellow passages - even in the bliss of strings and horns, one can feel a storm hovering at bay, with lightning-bolts trashing through the murky roil. It sets contrast upon these achingly beautiful 'memory-fragments,' nostalgic yearning ever swallowed by the chaos-shroud of a future battle. After the final release of the first movement - the swiftness of the end perhaps describing the sudden collapse of our Titan - nostalgia dominates the second movement, a striking contrapuntal Waltz that, while gorgeous on the surface, contains ambiguous foreboding beneath...

    The Scherzo, with its sunny central theme and shadowy intervening sections, seems to me a meld of the Funeral March and the 2nd Waltz, with the oblivion-shade infiltrating the reflections of yesteryear. In a letter to a correspondent, Mahler confessed that sections of the third movement were perhaps the most difficult of the entire symphony to compose, and at one time he "gave up and omitted" its climax. "Usually...I don't want to come to grips with [the difficulty and/or significance]... yet they continue to hold me up and finally force their way to expression. Now I see that it is the most indispensable, the most powerful part of the entire movement."

    The fourth passage, "Urlict," was originally composed as a separate song, and Mahler incorporated it into the symphony at a rather late stage, realizing he needed a bridge between the third and last movements. I must say that, in the end, it works perfectly as a thematic interlude: the softness of the music, its short duration and, especially, the sorrowful vocal: "oh, rosebud red!" -seems to give voice to awakened epiphany - the nostalgia-cloud is burned away with the last-gasp declaration: "I refuse to be sent back! I am from God and shall return to God!" And then, at the end of these "purgatory-strings," the dissonant shriek of death itself makes itself violently known with the opening of the fifth. From here the pace slows as Mahler recapitulates his various motifs toward the "Aufersteh'n" choral, building, building, ever building... until reaching that breathtaking climax of voice and instrumentation:

    "Rise again, yea, thou shalt rise again / My dust, after short rest! / Immortal Life! Immortal Life!.../ To bloom again art thou sown!"

    The impact of this choral, after the seventy-five minute endurance test of grief and remembrance, denial and acceptance, utterly overwhelms the senses: a riveting catharsis!

    This CD encapsulates the entire symphony, allowing for a smooth, uninterrupted listening experience. Audiophiles may gripe about the non-digital transfer, but for me, Mehta's rendition is the undisputable 2nd to own - and at ten dollars, a mind-boggling value.

    Highest recommendation....more info

  • Desert Island version of the Mahler 2nd.
    This is going to be short and sweet.

    First, I am going to completely pass on discussing Mehta's interpretation or the Vienna Philharmonic's performance, as well as the individual merits of Miss Ludwig and Miss Cotrubus. I think all that has been thoroughly discussed here already. In other words, everything that can be said, has been said, although perhaps not everyone has had a chance to say it. This is, simply, one of the great performances.

    Therefore, in brief, I would like to give a mention to those amazing men and women who twirl the dials: the engineers. This is an analog recording made near the end of the analog era. The art of analog recording had progressed steadily and significantly for over a half century so that, by the time these sessions were held, it had reached its' considerable pinnacle. This is state-of-the-art analog recording. There was simply no where else to go until a whole new way of recording sound, which was, in truth, just around the corner, came along. I may be over romanticizing this, but I can't help but feel Decca's engineers, never ones to turn in a 2nd rate job, went the extra mile for this project. It's as if they knew all the hard work they, their colleagues and predecessors had done over the years was now coming to its' exalted culmination. I sincerely feel the Decca Vienna team must have meant this magnificent recording to be their valedictory to the analog era. This digital re-master reveals layers of sound that could only have been hinted at on vinyl, as if in 1975 they were already looking forward to the day this analog recording would be properly presented in the digital medium.

    In short, all involved in this project reached beyond themselves, touched eternity, and bestowed that eternity upon us.

    ...more info
  • Awesome. Moving. Powerful.
    It's hard for me to say anything more. Of the four recordings of this symphony I've been privileged to hear, this one impresses me the most. The sound is excellent, by the way, with great clarity and oomph. I think some people see `ADD' and they think the sound is poor. Face it, digital freaks, (I am one!), analog recording was capable of the finest nuances, more so than digital, at least at the current state of the technology. I could not care less, as long as the recording sounds good and the performances are killer. The symphony, in part, deals with the resurrection of humanity. What more do you want? Ludwig and Cotrubas are affecting, the chorus will send you through the roof, while the orchestral playing makes of this symphony a living entity. And the price is a steal. This is deservedly called a Legendary Performance. Buy it and see why....more info
  • A basic recommendation
    This powerfully and gorgeously played and sung performance fully deserves its classic status. Mehta's performance of the opening movement is volatile and thrusting, in contrast to the more monumental approaches of both Walter-NY Phil and Klemperer-Philharmonia, and perhaps more in keeping with the descriptions of Mahler's own interpretation. The second movement is played in a very flowing, gracious manner that I find idiomatically Viennese, the Urlicht is spacious, hushed and movingly sung by Christa Ludwig, and the gigantic finale is masterfully shaped, with a very effective broadening out of tempo in the final passages that brings this work to a truly majestic conclusion.
    The sound quality in this remastering is very full bodied and present in the characteristic Decca manner, lacking only the ultimate low bass of some more modern recordings, but the superior qualities of the performance, together with it being at mid-price and on a single disc, makes it for me the basic recording to acquire....more info
  • Look no further
    The trick with Mahler, and it's a heck of trick, is the ability to negotiate all the emotional and musical twists and turns with aplomb. The problem with so many Mahler recordings is that they're uneven. Example: Think of Boulez's great outer movements in his recording of Mahler 7, then think of the perfunctory way he treats the second Nachtmusik. This 1975 recording is a rare exception to that rule. Mehta and the VPO nail Mahler 2 from the first bar to the last. Quite simply, this recording is indispensable. ...more info
  • bad recording
    I received the first recording and in the final movement there was a bad skipping. I notified Amazon and they sent me another recording which had the same problem. I received a credit and Amazon said the recording was evidently a bad one and they would check it out. Thanks Billy Ledet...more info
  • Great recording
    I can't hope to be more informative than the other reviews on here, but I must say - this is a really terrific recording of this piece. The recorded sound is excellent, and the performance is exciting and gripping. The first movement is a personal favorite of mine; I wouldn't mind it pushing ahead a little more at times, but otherwise I love the way it is handled. The singing in the fourth movement is superb; and the last movement is of course fantastic - what a climax at the end! I have access to one of the largest music library recording collections in the country, and have listened to numerous recordings of Mahler 2; this one is definitely my favorite....more info
  • A "Resurrection" to live again for
    One or two quibbles aside, this is a "Resurrection" Symphony I could live with quite comfortably as my only representation of the work, and can give it a "you can't go wrong with this one" recommendation. Those quibbles: The sound, while clear and detailed, is a little boxy, not quite as sumptuous as some recordings from this source (such as most of the Wagner opera sets Decca made with Sir Georg Solti conducting this orchestra), and there are a couple of textual points I wish Zubin Mehta had observed. (Gilbert Kaplan observes EVERY textual detail, and his performance is better recorded, but his soloists are a little shaky compared to Mehta's, and the London Symphony--experienced as they are in this work--can't quite match the Vienna Philharmonic.)

    Neither of these minor drawbacks negate this CD's status as perhaps the all-around best representation of this earth-shattering, mammoth and difficult-to-hold-together symphony. (Otto Klemperer's classic rendition from the early '60s, also on one mid-priced CD, is maybe a little TOO schmaltz-free to fully represent the intentions of his onetime mentor.) When he came to the New York Philharmonic in 1978 to serve as music director, Mehta seemed to illustrate the Peter Principle, producing generally uninspired results from an orchestra that can be stunning when it wants to be. But it was the level of dynamic and imaginative musicianship he summoned earlier in his career, to produce records like this one, that got him to New York in the first place. This performance exudes power and commitment without ever seeming exaggerated, and that goes for the vocal forces as well as the great VPO....more info

  • Musically Flawless
    So how about that? A Mahler second that actually moves! The result is one of the most exciting readings of all time. It's truly legend.

    This is one of the two greatest Mahler seconds. Here Mehta, who can often be an oddly questionable interpreter, lightens the music at just the right level, making it brilliantly unique. Instead of allowing the music to sink into itself, like most imitations of Bernstein's classic reccording.

    Music has to move, it has to speak, it has to breathe..

    Never has Mahler been so logically accessible and tended for. The experience gained from this recording is greatly edifying, if not spiritual.

    Technically however, its not perfect: one thing that makes it somewhat lacking. Sometimes the orchestra is not really synchronized. Precision is sometimes sacrificed for Mehta's ingenious creativity. However, to me these sort of flaws just make the piece more homely and natural.

    The Vienna is of course fantastic in sound. Brilliant, but deep and always resonant.

    This is some masterpiece material. A truly excellent CD....more info
  • A pinnacle for Mehta
    Though this is a re-release of one of Zubin Mehta's favorite works, this Mahler #2 recording has few peers. Mehta's intrinsic understanding of the architecture of this huge symphony is ever present, but so are his insightful homages to the simple folksongs Mahler incorporates in this journey toward redemption. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus of course understand this score better than any other orchestra and with the intelligent and soulful singing of Christa Ludwig and Illeana Cotrubas every aspect of the tonal spectrum is lavishly perfect. Hold on to your hats and hearts and bask in this quintessential Mahler Resurrection!...more info
  • A New Mahler Devotee
    Recently I have been 'converted' to Mahler, so I am not an expert on him, but I love this recording. The second movement especially is particularly wonderful, Mehta seems to get exactly what he wants from the orchestra. That movement is an especial favorite of mine, but the whole thing is great.
    If you are familiar with the work and looking for a good recording, I recommend this one. If you are new to Mahler, I recommend starting with this symphony, and of course this is a perfect recording to start on. The second symphony is relatively easy to listen to, and its scope, as with many of Mahler's works, is enormous.

    Other Mahler recommends:
    .Das Lied Von Der Erde (not familiar with a lot of recordings but I have the EMI w/ Fritz Wunderlich and Christa Ludwig. I like it a lot, esp. Wunderlich.)
    .Symphony No. 4 (I like the Chicago Symphony/James Levine/Judith Blegen recording.)...more info
  • Fabulous Mahler
    Fantastic performance of the Mahler Second by Mehta. This recording (and Mehta's excellent Bruckner 9th with the VPO, nla on Decca Legends) brings up an interesting point --- that sometimes classical musicians are at their best quite early in their careers. Certainly that is the case for Mehta, who never came close to his early efforts on Decca. Same thing in my opinion is true for pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy (fantastic Chopin Ballads/Scheri, Ravel Gaspard, and Rachmaninoff Preludes and Concerti on Decca Legends, and his early Bach BWV 1052 concerto and Mozart concerto recordings) and Maag's Mendelsonn Symphonies. In any event, essential Mahler, with good, though rather dated sound. Not to be missed. ...more info
  • Unparalleled Mahler!!!
    This is my favorite recording of Mahler's second. It is what Mahler was all about: conflict. Mehta does an outstanding job of conveying sheer passion and rage that turns into some of the most peaceful and beautiful music you will ever hear instantly. Mehta makes it flow so well. The sound quality is top-notch... you better have a large audio system to appreciate it even more. The soprano and contralto solo parts are too beautiful to describe. And the finale was truly heavenly... it brought tears to my eyes. No self-respecting Mahler fan can go without this recording. Buy it Now!...more info
  • As Good as Recommended
    I bought this CD because it appeared first when I searched for Mahler Symphony 2. There were lots of positive feedbacks on Amazon but I was a little concerned about the sound quality.

    Rest Assured Dear Reader, this is a Fantastic CD.

    Sound Quality is Good.

    Mehta's conducting and the Orchestra are simply top notch.

    I am quite satisfied with this purchase.

    Thanks, Amazon Reviewers.

    ...more info
  • Wow...
    It might get better than this, but I'm not really sure how. This Second is without question one of the most engaging, dynamic performances I've ever heard. If you're worried about Mehta's speedy tempo in the first movement, don't be; the music never sounds rushed, only tense and fiery and just smoldering with anger (except for the peace and celestial beauty of the second subject, which makes such an amazing contrast with the rest of the movement that it's hard to comprehend). The second movement is another brilliant contrast, a "Schubertian song": the VPO makes it tender and lyrical without ever becoming overwhelming. Then the scherzo (which starts with two brilliantly clear timpani strokes) is sinuous and mysterious and wonderfully macabre. Mehta and the VPO preserve the individual character of each of these movements while simultaneously managing to give them a unified feel, a sense that they belong to a coherent whole. As amazing as all of that is, however, it just can't compare to the final two movements. Ludwig has an amazingly full, rich contralto, turning the melancholy beauty of the Urlicht into something almost sacrosanct, and Cotrubas just soars above everything when she enters during the finale--appropriate for a movement that, in this recording, sounds as though the very gates of Heaven are opening and shining unimagined brilliance down onto Earth. I really can't summarize this recording effectively except to say that it's another one of those CDs that makes the music sound the way it was "supposed" to sound. It's just textbook-perfect. Add that to the fact that you get the *entire* symphony on one CD, and this becomes an unbeatable bargain. If it wasn't obvious already, I highly recommend this recording....more info
  • Mahler's 2nd Symphony
    What a wonderful Vienna Philharmonic performance of my favorite Mahler work. And, it arrived well ahead of the date anticipated. Thank you!...more info
  • Shallow Mahler....
    There is no where on this record where I hear and feel anything like Klemperer's awe inspired view of this music...instead I think Mehta goes in for Opera effects...the high C at the end on the trumpet is flat and the orchestra is not always together. As for the recording it certainly tells every flaw...even with the roughness of Klemperer's orchestra we have some feeling for the music....!!!...more info
  • Will shake the earth and resurrect you!
    Gustav Mahler's 'Resurrection' rose from the ashes of Todtenfeier and his Wunderhorn lied. The earth shaking opening bars are brought out to magnificent effect by Zubin and the Wiener Philharmoniker. Throughout the initial movement the contrast between agitated tensions and soft emotions is brilliantly captured by Mehta. The second movement is taken at a beautiful pace sounding ethereal. The timpani strokes announcing the third movement hold you engrossed right till the first call of the Resurrection theme succeeded by a beautiful fourth movement sung brilliantly. The choral soloists are superb.The finale is majestic with even the distant backstage brass sounding clear. By the time the closing bars precede the silence, you are resurrected from your spiritual slumber. Magnificent performance by the Wiener Philharmoniker and Zubin Mehta. This is a must keep CD.
    I started my Resurrection initiation by Hermann Scherchen and Wiener Staatsoper on 78 RPMs. Scherchen was broad and slow but lacking in spirit. My first LP experience of this symphony was Leonard Bernstein's New York effort of the early sixties and that was great. Mahler's friend Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer do not do full justice to the final movement as you will find with Bersntein's approach. When I got the vinyl version of this CD in 1976, I was like a boy with a slab of Snickers in my hand and I relished each moment of this recording. The CD sounds great over that vinly Decca recording. Zubin Mehta's later effort in the nineties with the Israel Philharmonic is great and sounds very much like the Wiener performance of the early seventies. The only other reading that arrests you like Mehta's performance is Sir Georg Solti's version with the Chicago Symphony which improves on his earlier London Symphony performance of 1961. This Mehta CD however is the perfect initiation for the Resurrection Symphony. Yes it is definitely ranked as a LEGENDARY performance. Go for it without having any doubts!...more info