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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Fine Mahler from NottJuly 10 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent M2 from Nott, though it doesn't challenge my favorites. Up to now I wasn't sure if Nott and his Bamberg orchestra would be up to the task of this difficult symphony. Previous Mahler recordings from Nott received mixed reviews, although his M9 fared well. But this M2 performance impressed me. The orchestra may not be considered first tier but they play superbly and I find little to criticize. Nott takes sensible tempos throughout this work and brings out a lot of drama as well as a myriad of details. His subtle tempo variations throughout this work are very effective and natural without seeming imposed on the music.
The first movement has a good mix of drama, atmosphere and respite, and Nott doesn't allow the music to drag, although I wouldn't mind a bit more urgency at times. And for once the downward triplets that end the first movement don't bog down or sound lethargic as in so many other recordings - Rattle for one. The second movement is a bit leisurely and dreamy but has some nice string playing and it never sounds too slow. The third movement is a bit too leisurely at first but soon becomes much more. The central part is exquisite and detailed and the big climax at 9:10 is hairaising. The woodwinds really shine here and there's a nice ebb and flow. The forth movement is also very good. One sticking point for me in this work is the forth movement contralto, in which so many recordings disappoint. Too often the singing is too heavy with too much vibrato. But Lioba Braun sings beautifully in this movement as well as the last movement, though she is not a first choice. Some good recordings have been ruined by terrible singing, like Litton/Dallas. The last movement packs a big punch where it needs to and has plenty of drama, while the off stage effects are just right - not too distant. I like the way Nott observes Mahler's instructions to hold certain notes for the horns, which many conductors ignore. He does Mahler proud for the most part. And Nott doesn't drag out the chorus parts as does MTT in his recent performance, although I like MTT very much. The Bamberg orchestra plays with the necessary weight and intensity,though not quite as good as MTT's SFS or Fischer's Budapest players. The singing is very good from the contralto, soprano and chorus. The recording engineers do a very nice job getting it all down in warm but detailed and spacious sound - no easy task in a live recording. The organ, bells, chorus, and orchestra come together in a moving finale. I find little to criticize in this new M2 even though it's not a first choice, but I'm sure others with different tastes will find something. Even though this is a live recording the audience is very quiet and certainly nothing to worry about.
So how does this new M2 rank among others? Well, it's almost as good as my favorites; Fischer, Mehta/VPO and MTT. Normally I like Bernstein and Tennstedt but they are too indulgent and uneven in this work. Klemperer, Rattle, Abbado and Kaplan are good but not top contenders for me. Paavo Jarvi recently recorded this in Frankfurt but that one is disappointing. Jarvi hasn't quite figured out Mahler yet. Musicweb & BBC magazine were impressed with Nott's M2. I don't always agree with the critics but this time they were mostly right.
4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Mahler on valiumJuly 24 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Jonathan Nott's Bamberg Mahler cycle has had mixed reviews, but this Second seemed to be generally favourably received, so I wagered a try. I am sorry to say, however, that IMHO this recording really adds nothing unmissable to the already amply stocked catalogue. Its main drawback are the insuperably slow tempos in the first three movements. Everything drags, there is at times no sense of pulse at all. Typical Mahler instructions like 'Drängend' or 'Vorwärts' seem to mean nothing to Nott, and the result is a tame kind of staidness. The articulation drawls, there is a lack of attack, with sforzato accents underplayed and no real bite when a certain motif needs to get our attention. A broad and lyrical approach needn't be a problem - Tennstedt's recent LPO version takes almost ten minutes longer, yet is infinitely more involving and exciting; but unlike Tennstedt, Nott doesn't know how to kindle this symphony's inner fire.
The playing in general is adequate rather than distinguished; there are some frayed edges in the brass in the later stages of the work. The singing too is fine, but not exceptional. The distance effects are managed quite well, though the final 'Great Summons' is oddly balanced. The recording is a strange mix of clarity and murkiness. The loudest passages come off quite well, such as the end of the Scherzo or the great cataclysm just before the choral entry in the Finale. Otherwise, detail, especially in the bass, often gets lost, even in such important passages as at #51 in the Scherzo, where the lower strings are barely audible, at least listened to in stereo. The percussion suffers too (though I must hand it to Nott that in the Finale he does give us one of the best percussion crescendos on record).
This is clearly no match for such searing performances as the aforementioned Tennstedt (Symphony No 2 Resurrection), or Paavo Järvi with the Frankfurt RSO (Mahler: Symphony No. 2, Resurrection). Other strong contenders are Fischer (Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in c minor [Hybrid SACD]), the London Kaplan version (Gilbert Kaplan Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"), or the unjustly underrated Zinman (Mahler: Symphony No. 2). So if you want to spend money only once on this symphony, I'd advise you to look there.