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Mahler - Symphony No. 2

xaviescacs

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So I downloaded two versions, Simon Rattle at BSO w/Baker and Otto Klemperer at Philharmonia w/Schwarzkopf. I listened to Rattle last night and Klemperer today. I will say I liked the Klemperer version better. The Simon Rattle wasn't bad, the sound was better, but after hearing Klemperer, it seemed, well.... a little robotic. Klemperer was a more human. That the best way for me to describe my initial impression. I'd like to get at third just flush things out more and was considering the Jansons RCO, since it sounds like it was well recorded. Also, considering Boulez, Abbado-Lucerne and Jurowski-LSO (saw some good reviews for this) but, I don't currently have a cd/dvd burner and I've only found these available on CD. Also spotted an Ashkenazy at Sydney version, but only see an iTunes availability. I love some of Askenazy's work. He's Rachmaninov-Isle of the Dead and Shostakovich Sym. No. 5 w/RPO are fantastic. Anyone heard his Mahler?
Agreed. IMHO, it is Rattle's early one with the CBSO that is most interesting, albeit still not at Klemperer's level.
Klemperer rushes too much, not letting the music to breath. Just compare the first 2 minutes carefully with Rattle or Tilson Thomas versions. Klemperer's version seems to miss a lot, there is much more than he exposes. Klemperer's version is a bit old, in the sense that still carries this tradition of regarding Mahler as a romantic, and not fully understanding all that his music contains. Rattle or Tilson Thomas versions are more modern and way better in that respect, not caring about interpretation tradition and trying to analyze this music from starch and extracting all it has.

Of course, Boulez's is the most accurate and balanced one ;). Specially in the control of tempo, which is super human. Just listen how much tension, intensity and depth he is able to create here (listen up to 14:40). It reminds me of this passage. There is also another characteristic in Boulez version: its sharpness. Compare again the first 2 minutes with the others. In general, on could say that Boulez presents us the crude reality, the facts, without judging them beforehand, without prejudices.

About robot or not robotic, this is not romantic music, although is difficult to classify, it belongs more to a realistic interpretation of facts, more existential, despite its root being folkloric. Traditionally it has been interpreted in this fashion, like if it were Brahms, but I think that the more modern approach is more accurate, and this realistic characteristic is what Berg and Schoenberg liked about it, as an alternative to Romanticism, a true step forward. As an exercise, try listening to Schoenberg's violin concerto, and then go back to Mahler.

In summary, of these mentioned versions, if ones intentions are understand this music and what Mahler is trying to tell us, his philosophical points of view, I would recommend Boulez, Rattle and Tilson Thomas, but not Klemperer.

I haven't listened to Ashkenazy's version. However, In general I would say Ashkenazy is a great creator, this leads to interesting versions, which we can like or not, but very personal and less objective, I would say. This is not a bad thing, just a different approach.
 

Robin L

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If ever you're interested in Mahler 7, I strongly recommend Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra's reading of it. I was not terribly fond of the piece, until I heard that performance.

As for Mahler 2, I'd be happy to upload my own recording of Nagano and the OSM performing it - but then you'd be subjected to my terrible tenor croaks! All jokes aside, I think Nagano is a very strong Mahlerian conductor, and lament not being able to acquire recordings of him with the OSM. The Resurrection symphony is rather special to me; and I had a profound experience whilst rehearsing it the first time. I'm always glad to see others sharing in the power of this piece.
FWIW, I was recording engineer for the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra in the 1990's, when Kent Nagano was director. I'm surprised that Nagano has been drawn to Late Romantic scores. His SACD of Bruckner's Third Symphony Symphony [original version] is quite the wonder.
 

mSpot

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Klemperer's version is a bit old, in the sense that still carries this tradition of regarding Mahler as a romantic, and not fully understanding all that his music contains.
Then you should start thinking of Mahler as a romantic, because Klemperer was Mahler's friend and assistant, and he heard how Mahler conducted his own music.
https://mahlerfoundation.org/mahler/contemporaries/otto-klemperer/

As an aside, Bruno Walter had an even closer personal connection with Mahler.
https://mahlerfoundation.org/mahler/contemporaries/bruno-walter/

Music performance is something that is always evolving. Our attitudes are shaped by the prevailing style and accepted conventions of today. Imagine if pop musicians felt there was a correct or ideal way to play a cover song.

Listen to Willem Mengelberg's recording of the Mahler 4th. It is bizarre by today's performance practices, yet Mahler knew and admired Mengelberg.
 

xaviescacs

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Then you should start thinking of Mahler as a romantic, because Klemperer was Mahler's friend and assistant, and he heard how Mahler conducted his own music.
https://mahlerfoundation.org/mahler/contemporaries/otto-klemperer/

As an aside, Bruno Walter had an even closer personal connection with Mahler.
https://mahlerfoundation.org/mahler/contemporaries/bruno-walter/

Music performance is something that is always evolving. Our attitudes are shaped by the prevailing style and accepted conventions of today. Imagine if pop musicians felt there was a correct or ideal way to play a cover song.

Listen to Willem Mengelberg's recording of the Mahler 4th. It is bizarre by today's performance practices, yet Mahler knew and admired Mengelberg.
I've read Walter's book, but didn't know about Klemperer's relation with Mahler. That's a good one. Do you know for certain that his 2nd is similar to the original? Do you think Klemperer tries to reproduce the same he heard? To covey us Mahler's original interpretation? Also, Mahler regretted about many things in his life, including the textual annotation on his works and some movement ordering.

Music performance changes, many times guided by the public's opinion, and interpretation tradition has a strong weight in classical music, but, as I've said before, not everything is valid, and I truly believe that a score has a better way to be interpreted, and, to me, Klemperer and Abaddo don't get it right. Too simplistic and aesthetically idealistic in my opinion.

Of course that's not about proving or convincing anyone, just sharing what I think. The nice thing of making strong statements is that they often make people to want to say their opinion in contrast. :)
 

Robin L

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This ought to help, the very first recording of Mahler's Second symphony, 1924 [acoustic], Oscar Fried, Berliner Staatskappelle. Sound refurbished 2019. I'd say more Klemperer than Walter. When Walter got older, he started to bathe everything in schmaltz. I'll still take Lenny's inspired self indulgence over deliberately didactic music/lecture demonstrations. [Don't mind me, I've soaked up over fifty years of Classical Musical criticism---hyperbole is my second or third name.]

 
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xaviescacs

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This is interesting. Now I realize that I've made a major imprecision, betraying my own line of thinking.

There are two different themes here: one is the historical point of view, that is, trying to understand how original performances were. That makes us close to the composer's intention, or original intention, or original facts.

Having said that, one must recognize though that no human being is 100 % certain about his creations, and quite often composers like other's interpretations more than their owns. Mahler himself was very insecure about his compositions, and made changes during the years: changed tempi, movement orders, etc. That is a sign of a pursue of perfection that deviates clearly from the classical and romantic periods were pieces were rarely revised.

A different theme however is the quest for understanding what has been written, the score, alongside with its historical context, etc. Something that can only be done after some time. The goal of this line is to extract the maximum out of a score, interpreting what has been written. My opinion is that the best performances of a piece come from this approach, rather than trying to reproduce the original. Best in the sense that they are more informative and insightful, revealing more about the music and his author. In this category I find Klemperer's and Abbado's performances inferior to those Rattle or Tilson Thomas, and specially of Boulez's what I think is the most revealing and expressive one. In relation to the original performances however, the story is possibly the opposite, as the last posts highlight. ANd that is my mistake before, confusing the best interpretation with a piece with the composers intention. Those are simply two different things.

Well, anyway, thanks guys for your thoughts.
 

mSpot

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Do you know for certain that his 2nd is similar to the original? Do you think Klemperer tries to reproduce the same he heard? To covey us Mahler's original interpretation?
Of course I don't know, but I'm making the point that since Klemperer knew and worked with Mahler, that makes for strong case that he isn't doing it wrong. If you're going to say that Rattle and Tilson Thomas have a better understanding of Mahler, you need to build up your argument. It's also entirely possible that Mahler may find Rattle's interpretation both a bit foreign and perfectly valid at the same time. Composers are often delighted to see performers interpret their music in unexpected ways.
 

Daverz

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Of course I don't know, but I'm making the point that since Klemperer knew and worked with Mahler, that makes for strong case that he isn't doing it wrong. If you're going to say that Rattle and Tilson Thomas have a better understanding of Mahler, you need to build up your argument. It's also entirely possible that Mahler may find Rattle's interpretation both a bit foreign and perfectly valid at the same time. Composers are often delighted to see performers interpret their music in unexpected ways.

I think the "X worked with Y" thing is usually overstated. Klemperer, Walter, Mengelberg, and Fried were strong personalities, and their Mahler is very much their own. I do think the serious Mahler collector should have both the Klemperer/Philharmonia and Walter/NYP Mahler 2nds.

As for Rattle, his popularity baffles me.
 

xaviescacs

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If you're going to say that Rattle and Tilson Thomas have a better understanding of Mahler, you need to build up your argument.
Well, as I've said in another post, I find Boulez's recording to be the best, and I think he is able to extract more than anyone else all that the music has. In that sense, I think he understand better than anyone else I've heard what those scores contain. That's not perhaps understanding Mahler, but what he wrote.

I've tried to post some musical examples in other posts, but I don't have the time to fully explain myself using precise examples. In general terms, more contrast, a better equilibrium between sections, precise layering of voices, without overemphasizing none too much, not being afraid of exploring unpleasant feelings... Lets leave it there. :)
 

killdozzer

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I highly and wholeheartedly recommend this version:
Mahler%2BSymphony%2B2%2BVanska.jpg


Vanska really pushes the right buttons for me. I highly appreciate all of his work.

Of course, you have to hear it and see for yourself.
 
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One thing that complicates my choice (Rattle) is that I was discovering Mahler at the same time (I was in college checking out the library's CDs when I was penniless). It started with Haitink's Symphony 7 on Philips, which is a favorite to this day. Though I've come to love others, such as Sinopoli's 7th on DG.
I also discovered Messiaen at this time and still love Rattle's Turangalîla. And I've grown to love Myung-whun Chung, Boulez, and others too.

Part of it is the technical brilliance of the Rattle, and the high quality of the EMI and "4D" DG recordings back then. I'd never heard music so clearly before (unless a friend treated me to the SFS at Davies).

On the other hand, I have not warmed to other versions. I don't like Rattle's live version of the 7th, and I've never liked Bernstein's recordings much, even though I recognize he was a great champion of Mahler.
 
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xaviescacs

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Yes, he's mediocre in all sorts of music.
Trying to be empathic with this statement, I would say that he is so versatile that he isn't a specialist in anything. I like his Bach very much though. Register in the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall and give a try at Bach's passions.
 

Jim Taylor

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Why not? Some re-mastered reissues have better sound than previous releases, such as Bruno Walter, Szell, Bernstein, and Karajan.

You are correct; some do. But I have a small collection of music compared to some people, and I'm not an avid collector for the sake of sound. As I said in post #2, I " .... pay more attention to the performance than I do the recording quality." At this time of my life, I'm just an opinionated old grouch who enjoys his comfortable old shoes. :) Jim
 
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