This is the second of Chailly's Mahler cycle, after a monumental Eight that somehow does not quite take off, we now have a similarly relaxed Second. The playing of the magnificent Concertgebouw is indeed beyond reproach, brass and strings are an utter wonder whilst the whole orchestra makes a magnificent noise especially in the fortissimo passages in the Finale. Chailly's opening is menacing and the first movement develops quite sturdily, although one cannot but sympathize with Mahlerian gurus in some queer aspects that Chailly chooses to emphasize, occasionally undermining the structure of the music.
Donald Mitchell's notes are indeed a model of a scholarly eulogy on the Mahlerian cult. The effects in the Finale are top notch, both with the off stage band and with the horns and final apotheosis. Melanie Diener and Petra Lang sing with utter conviction, the latter's 'Urlicht' is splendidly effusive and mournful at both ends of the spectrum. I would not be recommending this issue as a standalone Mahler Second, Klemperer and Bernstein remain essential listening here. Still, Chailly's characteristically personal statement is warm and does deserve plaudits; one awaits the rest of the cycle with intrigued interest.
Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech