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CD Review

Gustav Mahler

Symphony #2 "Resurrection"

Rae Woodland, soprano
Janet Baker, contralto
London Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
BBC Legends BBCL4136 30 July 1963
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It has taken some time to actually write about this release. I had this performance on Music and Arts (885 released in 1995). At that time I pointed out that it was better sounding than the Intaglio release previously available but had no other comments. Now this release changes things even more. No doubt one reason is they have a source closer to, if not the original. This is not everything, however, because comparing the two discs I realized this latest incarnation is a completely different musical experience.

I listened to the CD several evenings in a row. For awhile all I could write was "wow". I am hearing music that is just not "in the grooves" of the M&A disc. The details are so numerous that I shall mention but a couple. The timpani is much more clearly defined and present. It was distant and in some cases not audible in the other release. This is also true of the other instrumental solos. In addition there is a fluctuation in the tempo that is free and natural. It has a pulse like life does. The M&A release was a good one but the excellent is the enemy of the good.

You may know that Gilbert Kaplan was inspired to conduct the Mahler 2nd after hearing Stokowski perform it with the American Symphony Orchestra. Had Mr. Kaplan heard this performance I am not sure what he might have done. The experience is spiritual, not religious.

A few other details before telling you that you MUST have this recording and not just if you are a Stokowski fan. The notes reveal that the original plan was for Stokowski to perform Mahler's 8th but that fiscal necessity precluded that possibility. (They calculated a loss of 6K.) In a review of the Leopold Stokowski Society's recent issue of Boris excerpts with Stokowski in San Francisco I (and many others) raved about the transfer by Paschal Byrne. He was also the engineer for this awesome release.

(A week later) I have several recordings of this symphony including some of the most highly praised and both Kaplan recordings. When I reach for a "Resurrection" (that sounds really odd) however, it will be this one.

Copyright © 2004, Robert Stumpf II