A few years ago I saw Paavo Jarvi conduct the LSO in Mahler 3. Good, but not great, was my opinion at the time. And that’s pretty much what we get here. The orchestral playing and the interpretations are good, but not great. They are not a patch on Claudio Abbado’s Lucerne versions, for example. The 1st symphony was recorded in a concert hall in Wiesbaden, the 2nd in the romanesque basilica of Kloster Eberbach. Neither is especially attractive.
A reviewer on amazon.com has criticized the video in the 2nd symphony. I didn’t notice anything particularly wrong with the video, but there is something badly wrong with the sound. I suspect that this is something to do with the challenges of recording in a large and reverberant church. A lot of the sound seems quite muffled, but the biggest problem for me was the sound of the chorus. The chorus looks a bit on the small side for Mahler 2 to start with, but the way that they are recorded makes them sound quite distant, which totally robs the ending of its proper impact. Also, the magical section where the soprano soloist is meant to emerge almost imperceptibly from the chorus is completely wrecked as she sounds very close, and the chorus is so far away. It’s a shame, as the performance is pretty good – I much preferred it to Chailly’s eccentric and dull Leipzig performance, for example.
Visually there’s not really a great deal that you can do with a film of a symphony concert. Here we get the usual alternation of close-ups of orchestra members with close-ups of Jarvi and the occasional long-shot. However the first symphony contains one of the most visually dramatic moments in symphonic music when, towards the end, the horn players are all instructed to stand up. It’s bizarre then, that the Video Director chooses not to show it! We see the horn players a few moments later, when they’re already standing, but the camera angle is so high, and the image so fleeting, that if you didn’t know that they were supposed to be standing, you probably wouldn’t notice. A great shame.
One small irritation is that on the main menu, there is only the option to “Play Symphonies” and not to choose 1 or 2. So if you just want to watch 2, you have to skip through 1.
Technical details – 24-bit PCM Stereo or DTS-HD MA5.1
So – to conclude – a couple of good-but-not great performances, with the second symphony let down by poor sound. Abbado’s Lucerne performances are a much better bet.
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