Thursday, October 23, 2003

Review - Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection"

Artist: Vienna Philharmonic/Gilbert Kaplan

Posted on Thu, Oct 23, 2003 at 4:00 AM

The academic perfectionism that dogs most classical music appreciation is a bit tedious. In fact, it's distracting to the point of being distasteful to most people. Yet, if it weren't for obsessive, pointy-headed scholars, there likely wouldn't be much of a market for continuing to look backward over the past 300 years or so of music. When such over-intellectualism is applied to work as vibrant and emotional as Mahler's pre-modern symphonies, the prospect of having the music drained of its still-beating heart -- "Symphony No. 2" is a relatively young piece, dating back to the 1890s -- is a dire one, indeed. Thus, this "Critical Edition" (a performance based on a meticulously researched and updated score) could have been a dangerously careful bore. Yet conductor Kaplan is both a fan of Mahler and a fervent researcher, and his work in studying and correcting the score sprung from an obvious emotional connection to the piece. Kaplan founded "International Investor" magazine and only began conducting -- in 1981 -- out of a desire to perform this piece; since then, Kaplan has come to own "Resurrection" both literally (he acquired Mahler's manuscript score in 1984) and figuratively (he's conducted the piece all over the world). Accordingly, this deeply dissected performance is both exceedingly accurate and exceedingly affecting. The luscious magnificence of the opening movement is overwhelming in its grandeur and, despite the funereal connection to Mahler's First, Kaplan ensures plenty of fiery uplift. For the pointy-headed ones out there, minute differences between this edition and other editions are surely noticeable; what comes through to the casual listener is a conductor in love with a particular work, and utterly able to translate that work's magnificence.

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