STEWART CROWE Reply to on 3 March 2011
|I find my self surprised to be writing a review of this recording in such favourable terms, as I was never as enamoured of Rattle's CBSO recording as many, and I have been distinctly unimpressed with the majority of Rattle's Berlin output both in terms of performance and recording. In the case of the first recording, while it was very good, the critical over-hype especially here in the UK was extraordinary! I have always felt that there was an element of Dr.Johnson's dog dancing on its hind legs about the reaction, especially from those who recalled the dire, dead days of this orchestra under Hugo Rignold when standards seemed to have sunk beyond redemption! The recording was rather muddy, and both soloists were in truth past their best.
Since moving to Berlin, I feel that Rattle has too often succumbed to "Mercedes-Benz" syndrome-performances are beautifully polished, sleekly played-and rather dull. EMI has not triumphed in catching the full impact of the Berlin Philharmonic and STILL have problems with the Philharmonie's acoustic.
I have in particular found Rattle's Berlin Mahler to be particularly dull-I actually gave away my copies of 5 &10. I had not expected to like this recording either, but I was "persuaded" (bullied!) by a friend from Germany to expend the paltry sum for this recording-and I am extremely glad I did. It now joins the pantheon of my favourite "Resurrections", recordings of which I have too many to admit to. Yes, it is softer-grained than some, and if you think that this symphony should be a breakneck adrenaline rush in the manner of Solti, you are not going to like this performance. If, like me, you are looking for something more profound and sensitive, then this recording is a strong contender. Rattle's tempi are on the broader side, but well chosen and his interventionist approach ensures plenty of ebb and flow with apposite changes of tempo, and extreme gradation of dynamics. I love his use of portamento, and there is no shortage of rubato either.
I am at a loss to understand the carping about the soloists-maybe because one is Mrs Rattle?-as they sing beautifully and sensitively at all times. Chorus and orchestra are magnificent, and finally EMI have produced a wonderful sound picture, very accurately reproducing the experience of being in that hall. The climax is floor-rattling and speaker blowing-but offstage brass is a tad too offstage for my preference, though it is audible.
So, for the first time in my view, Rattle has given us a much improved performance of noble, heroic and moving proportion, and I urge you to ignore some the sideswipes that have been launched at it and hear it for yourself.
A most unexpected and welcome pleasure that I recommend unreservedly with 5 stars, a first for me where Rattle and Berlin are concerned! Stewart Crowe.