MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection"
Rae Woodland, soprano; Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; BBC Chorus; BBC Choral Society; Goldsmith's Choral Union; London Symphony Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4136 (F) (ADD) TT: 79:59
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This is a major issue both for Stokowski and Mahler aficionados. In the annals of historic BBC Proms concerts it joins the legendary Mahler Eighth presented March 20, 1959 with Jascha Horenstein and the LSO (see REVIEW). As stated in Michael Jameson's CD notes, Stokowski had a long association with Mahler's music. He had attended the world premiere of the Eighth in Munich, and gave the American premieres of that work and Das Lied von der Erde in Philadelphia in 1916. He also conducted the "Resurrection" in Philadelphia in 1921, the Eighth with the New York Philharmonic in 1950, available now in several fine CD issues. In 1965 Stokowski performed Symphony No. 2 with the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, two years later he conducted it again in Philadelphia, and in 1974 made an RCA recording in London —he was 92 at the time. The recording was made during difficult times and does not represent the famed conductor at his best; for that one must listen to this BBC performance from 11 years earlier. (It's interesting to note that the RCA recording was made in quadraphonic sound; it would be fascinating to hear it in that format).

There were tentative plans for Stokowski to conduct the Eighth at the Proms but the prohibitive costs made this impossible so it was decided to do Symphony No. 2 instead. This was the first performance of the work at the Proms and it meet with tremendous critical acclaim. And it is a superb performance that builds to a massive climax! There are a few orchestral slipups but they are minor considering the magnitude of the occasion.

It's surprising that the recording is not in stereo; Horenstein's Mahler Eighth of several years earlier was in effective two-track sound, but Symphony No. 2 has well-balanced, spacious sound. The near-maximum playing time of the CD prohibits inclusion of much of the applause. What it not stated is an event related to me by Charles Gerhardt who attended the concert. At the cataclysmic conclusion there was a huge uproar which continued for some time until Stokowski came on stage and announced (if my memory is correct), "Do you vant to go home, or do you vant to hear more music?" In response to the roar of approval, Stokowski repeated the finale of the Symphony (!), beginning with the entrance of the chorus. At the conclusion pandemonium reigned as the audience shook the walls of Royal Albert Hall with their acclaim. Thank you, BBC archives!

R.E.B. (February 2003)