MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
Latonia Moore, soprano; Madja Michael, mezzo-soprano; Wiener Singverein; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Gilbert Kaplan, cond.
DGG 474 594 (2 CDS for price of one) (F) (DDD) TT: 85:52 (5 channel)

STRAUSS: Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64. Suite from Der Rosenkavalier.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Christian Thielemann, cond.
DGG 471 636 (F) (DDD) TT: 77:23 (5.1 channel)

Both of these were reviewed by R.D. when the original CDs were issued; please check his reviews: MAHLER / STRAUSS. I agree with completely about the quality of both of these in performance. Most of Gilbert Kaplan's life has been devoted to study and performance of Mahler's "Resurrection." His first recording of it, released in 1988 with the London Symphony, was the best-selling Mahler recording of all time. I imagine those who were interested in that recording also will wish to have this brand-new one which incorporates several hundred changes, most of them unnoticeabe to the average listener. I have more reservations than R.D. did about the two soloists—when there is a magnificent orchestra and chorus directed by a fine conductor it is unfortunate to have the quaity diminished by inferior solo singing. No quibbles whatever about Thielemann's Strauss; he is a master of this repertory, and I don't recall ever hearing a more glowing account of the final trio in its orchestral version.

In this column the emphasis is on sonic quality of these recording. R.D. was highly impressed by sound on the original CDs; now we have both in surround.....and they are quite magnificent. The expanded frequency range and dynamic range of SACD is a definite plus, with the extra channels adding warmth and considerable depth—although it is odd that the Mahler is five channels, the Strauss six (the sixth is the added .1 channel which contains low-bass information). Why aren't both of them six channel? The only sonic deficiency of the Strauss is a touch of stridency in the violins—and the engineers surely missed a golden opportunity by not having the distant hunting horns in Alpine Symphony's third section ("The ascent") sound from the back. There is a distant sound to the multiple brass in this brief interlude, a good perspective, but it's all from the front. The Mahler symphony's huge orchestra and chorus are conveyed more accurately via multi-channel. Both of these are sonic blockbusters indeed, and highly recommended. The two CDs of the Mahler sell for the price of one. Both highly recommended. Incidentally, the sound of this Mahler recording is far superior to the dry, unattractive sound heard on the same label's Boulez/VPO Mahler Symphony No. 3 (REVIEW).

Another puzzling issue on these releases is the fact that the Mahler SACD will play on all CD players, the Strauss is not a "Hybrid" SACD, and cannot be played on regular CD players. Strange that one company would release some performances as "hybrid," others not.

R.E.B. (November 2003)