MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
ALL - STAR ORCHESTRA - Gerard Schwarz, music director and conductor.
The Berlin Philharmonic each year gives presents a concert in a European city to commemorate founding of the orchestra in 1882. For the year 1998, the concert was given in the grand Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. In this magnificent venue is kept Vas, the 17th century French vessel which sank on its maiden voyage in 1626. The ship was raised in 1953, restored and, after years of restoration, can be seen in all of its majesty . It is quite a sight, and the huge ship is the back of the performing area. and forms the back of the stage area. The program includes some music associated with the sea, beginning with the overture to Wagner's Flying Dutchman, followed by Tchaikovsky's The Tempest. Then we have Debussy's Three Nocturnes with the concluding Sirènes in which we hear women in the chorus. The entire chorus is featured in the concluding Verdi Four Sacred Pieces. This is a terrific concert, and it is a pleasure to watch Abbado who in 1998 was in fine physical condition. Video and audio are first-rate. A recommended issue!
This site already has mentioned the fine performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 with Neemi Järvi recorded in Riverside Church in New York in 2007 (REVIEW). That performance was part of a project to make a documentary about the symphony and the life of Mahler. Now we have this 90-minute documentary called Of Love, Death and Beyond - Exploring Mahler's Resurrection Symphony produced and directed by Jason Starr, filmed on location in Austria, Germany, Italy and the United States. There are historic reenactments of important interludes in Mahler's life, and interviews with many scholars and philosophers. It is a beautifully-made film and surely most listeners will find insights into Mahler's masterpiece that had escaped them previously. Each of the five movements are examined in detail. There are 2 brief bonuses, Thomas Hampson with pianist Craig Rutenberg performing St. Anthony and the Fish (music used in the symphony), and Die Aufrstehung (The Resurrection), a brief choral work sung by Neuer Knabenchor Hamburg, with a text by Klopstock, also related to the symphony. This is a first class production in every way and highly recommended. The documentary is available as a single DVD (VAI 4547)for those who already own this video of the symphony.
The All - Star Orchestra would seem to be a vanity project for conductor Gerard Schwarz, who last year planned the project and found financing for it. Leading players from major American orchestras came to New York for four days of rehearsal and recording. Half of the musicians were from the New York area, but players included David King, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Alexander Hanna, principal cello of the Chicago Symphony, John Ferrillo, principal oboe of the Boston Symphony, and Nancy Goreres, principal bassoon of the Pittsburgh Symphony. A distinguished group indeed and we consistently hear playing of the highest order. This is planned as an education/music appreciation series featuring commentary by Schwarz.Unfortunately, as an educational vehicle, there's not much here, surely not the in-depth presentation by Michael Tilson Thomas in his San Francisco Symphony Keeping Score series. All of the performances were taped in high definition in Manhattan Center, a venue known for its fine acoustics. Camera work is fine, as is audio, and while Schwarz is a capable conductor, he is not an exciting podium personality, and as a lecturer/commentator, he is rather bland. Each program attempts to include a contemporary work, and these are the highlights, particularly Samuel Jones' Cello Concerto brilliantly played by Julian Schwarz. However, we don't really need the symphonies listed above, fine though these readings might be. This series has been telecast on PBS in New York, possibly other cities as well. There is much of quality here, and a plus is that the programs, with two to a DVD, are issued at budget price.
R.E.B. (December 2013)