Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Frankfurt RSO/Paavo Järvi: Gustav Mahler, Symphony No2

Katie Boucher
The National
May 25, 2010

Virgin Classics

This live recording of one of Mahler’s best-known symphonies brings together a show-stopping team of performers.

The Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra, a well-known Mahler Orchestra since the 1970s, has, under the leadership of the Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi, shown a new, more subtle approach to Mahler’s famously expansive oeuvre. Here, it is joined by the brilliant British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and the highly sought-after French soprano Natalie Dessay. To top things off (Mahler never was one to do things by halves), the celebrated Basque choir Orfeón Donostiarra provides the mixed chorus in the final movement.

The result is magnificent. This is an epic work, full of giant structures and a complexity of musical language as yet unseen during the Romantic era. Yet in these hands, which deftly negotiate the Austrian composer’s penchant for multiple layers of sound, it feels entirely instinctive.

Particularly impressive are the choir’s haunting vocals in the final movement, which hum and then soar before fading out in a din of percussion. Mahler was often said to be drained by the sheer magnitude of his own work following a performance. Jarvi’s interpretation of this juggernaut of a work, though less bombastic and sentimental than some of his predecessors, is nonetheless guaranteed to have left him sprawled in a chair, dripping with sweat.

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