On CD: Tennstedt's "Resurrection"
Web-only review by Mark J. Estren
Recorded under terms that kept it unreleased for 20 years, Klaus Tennstedt’s February 20, 1989 live performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” symphony has now been brought back to life – and even in a field crowded with excellent Mahler Seconds, this one stands out.
In 1982, Tennstedt recorded a fine Mahler Second for EMI when he was Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic. In 1987, cancer forced him to step down. But in 1989, Tennstedt, although ill and never known as a podium dynamo, seems to be channeling Mahler’s spirit as he shapes the music.
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The performance is slow and massive – 93 minutes, compared with (for example) 82 in Bernard Haitink’s recent Chicago Symphony version – but majestic and monumental. It does not drag – it builds. The first movement is a grandly spun-out funeral march, its climaxes bordering on the depressive. The second movement is more solemn than usual, its gentle dance theme wistful, nearly weepy. The third movement’s grotesqueries therefore seem to continue what the second has to say. It is only in the fourth movement, Urlicht – sung warmly by Jard van Nes – that there is some uneasy restfulness.
The start of the finale is so powerful that it seems to shake the musical foundations – and it is only gradually and through much struggle that chorus and orchestra win through to eventual affirmation of life beyond death. The concluding measures are so broad that they provide ample time for a feeling of exaltation to balance all the earlier despair – cementing Tennstedt’s reputation as a truly outstanding Mahler interpreter.
--Mark J. Estren
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