Mahler's Second Symphony was one of Otto Klemperer's signature pieces. We have many recordings of him conducting it, in the studio with the Vienna Symphony from 1951 (this release) and with the Philharmonia (1963), and live versions with the Concertgebow Orchestra (1951) and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra (late 1960's). In general Klemperer was a more exciting conductor in front of an audience, but this studio version comes awfully close. There is a real urgency in the first movement, the middle two movements have both a lyrical and a slightly acerbic quality in keeping with Mahler's vision, and the last two movements rise to apocalyptic heights. Klemperer, who told us that he eschewed sentimentality, did not confuse that with deep emotional expressiveness, and this, combined with his usual firm sense of the architecture of the whole piece, makes this reading one of the best. Tempi are relatively quick, especially in the first movement. Unfortunately, the Vienna Symphony in 1951 had some ensemble and intonation problems, which are exascerbated by Vox's close-miked and edgy mono sound. From a sonic point of view, the Philharmonia version is much better (better played, more clearly and spaciously recorded); as an interpretation, I still prefer this one. I've seen this recording through 3 incarnations (the first in a monophonic "Vox Box" of LPs in the early 1960's, the second in a horrible "simulated stereo" LP version on Vox's Turnabout label), and the sound on this one is the best of all and probably the best we can expect. I have not heard the Concertgebow version, recorded in the same year and featuring Kathleen Ferrier as the soloist, but that might be better played, if not better recorded. I give this 4 stars only because of the poor sound and rough orchestral playing; the interpretation is 5 stars plus.