After critically-acclaimed recordings of Mahler’s Fourth and Fifth Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov continue their Pentatone Mahler cycle with a rendition of the composer’s Second, nicknamed “The Resurrection”. They are joined by soprano Christiane Karg, alto Elisabeth Kulman and the Prague Philharmonic Choir. Starting with a funeral march, passing through the introspective alto song “Urlicht” and ending in choral bliss and euphoria, Mahler’s Second is a deeply spiritual and personal contemplation on the secret of life and the possibility of overcoming death. For Bychkov, the symphony “shows the life cycle in all its struggles: suffering, joy, irony, humour, love and doubt.”
The Czech Philharmonic is one of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras, with a rich tradition of performing Czech masters and music from Central Europe. Semyon Bychkov has led the greatest orchestras of the world, and is Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic as of the 2018/2019 season. Orchestra and maestro released recordings of Mahler’s Fourth and Fifth Symphony (both 2022) on Pentatone, kicking off a complete Mahler cycle. Elisabeth Kulman has participated on several Pentatone releases, while Christiane Karg makes her Pentatone debut.
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Semyon Bychkov – Conductor
Prague Philharmonic Choir (Track 6)
Elisabeth Kulman – Alto (Tracks 4 + 6)
Christiane Karg – Soprano (Track 6)
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:26:47
|Original Recording Format
|April 7, 2023
This has quickly become my favorite performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony, nicknamed “The Resurrection.” It is a massive work for full orchestra, chorus, and alto soloist. At nearly an hour and a half in length, it is demanding of your commitment as a listener. But it rewards! It rewards throughout!
If you are not a fan of Mahler, this is the symphony that might win you over. It is filled with brilliant themes, great lyricism, tremendous orchestral color. Symon Bychkov’s pacing is just perfect for my taste – he never loses the overall thread of the music, maintaining tension across the entire magnificent arch of the piece.
One can certainly pick nits here and there (does the end of the first movement have enough ferocity? does alto Chistiane Karg have enough gravitas to fully deliver the critical “Urlicht” movement? (she does, in my opinion), does Bychov over-manage the sound of each of the instrument sections that the big picture of the first movement loses out?). My overall answer to these nits is, get over it. This is a great performance with tremendous power, great emotional range, and exceptional beauty.
The Czech Philharmonic is unarguably among the great orchestras performing today, and their performance for Bychkov here is magnificent. Both alto Christiane Karg and soprano Elisabeth Kulman deliver spine tingling performances.
And the sound quality from the Pentatone recording team is superb. The sound will blow your hair back and knock off your socks. Now I need to listen to Bychkov’s earlier recordings of Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5. A friend told me they are terrific.
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