The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra's second Prom under Mariss Jansons consisted of just one major work: Mahler's Second Symphony. One of the largest pieces in the repertoire in terms of its length and the forces involved, the so-called Resurrection Symphony is, at the most basic level, a blockbuster of a score perfectly suited to the Albert Hall, where the apocalyptic terrors and unequivocally affirmative apotheosis of its final movement resounded magnificently in the cavernous acoustic.
Earlier sections of the piece, though, did not consistently match the comprehensive interpretative richness that made the last two movements so resolutely memorable. While the orchestral playing held to the highest standards throughout, combining a lithe attack with precision under Jansons's firm yet flexible control, there were moments amid the vehement, doom-laden progress of the vast opening funeral march that felt curiously becalmed. The second movement's self-consciously old-fashioned naivety seemed literal rather than viewed from a perspective that was both nostalgic and ironic, and even the outcry of spiritual despair at the climax of the comic-grotesque scherzo registered as marginally underpowered. Perceptive and refined though Jansons's overview of these emotionally intricate statements was, it fell short of the ideal range and scale of their potential impact.
Greatness entered the performance immediately following the end of the third movement, with the first notes of the Knaben Wunderhorn setting Urlicht as intoned by mezzo Gerhild Romberger, who brought a simple dignity of expression to the straightforward text that was mirrored in a renewed security and subtlety of orchestral response. With the entry of the chorus in the fifth movement – a relatively small but choice body comprising the Bavarian Radio Chorus and the WDR Radio Choir, Cologne, who sang seated until launching themselves at their final ecstatic soaring – and bolstered by the radiant soprano of Genia Kühmeier, the interpretation's drive and emotional sweep became ever more compelling until reaching an overwhelming sense of elation in the symphony's last bars.
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