Mahler: Symphony No 2 / Steinberg, Cologne Radio Symphony

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This performance isn't perfect technically: the chorus gets a little bit off the beat in its first stanza, there are a couple of unimportant brass flubs, and alto Anny Delorie has issues with her memory and with an extra wide vibrato. However, purely as an essay in great Mahler conducting, William Steinberg turns in a performance as powerful, both in its parts and as a totality, as anyone ever has. He gets a superb response from the orchestra, and there are moments here that really do set a new standard in this music: the second movement, for example, is the best yet recorded--the string playing is simply miraculously sensual and romantic. The scherzo, at a measured tempo, offers a clinic in characterful woodwind detail. Indeed, the prominent winds recall Klemperer and add a thrilling rush to moments such as the big choral in the finale, with its trilling piccolos.

More importantly, Steinberg captures the emotional intensity of this work as have few others. The climax of the first movement, the scherzo's "scream of despair", and the "dead march" in the finale express genuine rage and terror. Steinberg's control of tempo is absolute; he manages transitions with effortless mastery. The symphony's closing chorus, with the organ particularly well-balanced, seldom has been delivered more convincingly. Off-stage perspectives are unusually effective; indeed, given that this is a 1965 live performance, the stereo sonics are far better than any studio versions of the same period. In short, this is a "must" for all serious Mahlerians, as well as a worthy memento of a seriously underrated conductor.

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ICAC 5001

  • UPC: 5060244550018

  • Label: ICA Classics

  • Composer: Gustav Mahler

  • Conductor: William Steinberg

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Cologne Radio Chorus, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Annie Delorie, Stefania Woytowicz