Following the Fourth, https://www.colinscolumn.com/column-post-4000-released-today-april-8-semyon-bychkov-the-czech-philharmonic-with-chen-reiss-record-mahlers-fourth-symphony-for-pentatone/, and Fifth Symphonies, https://www.colinscolumn.com/semyon-bychkov-the-czech-philharmonic-record-mahlers-fifth-symphony-for-pentatone/, Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic continue their Mahler cycle with the Second, an eighty-seven-minute ‘Resurrection’ that is happily accommodated on a single disc.
Bychkov sees the work whole, a deeply considered thought-through reading, played with devotion and captured in lucid and dynamic sound (aiding Bychkov’s concern for clarity of detail, without being clinical), that avoids histrionics and hysteria (although these may be considered Mahlerian essentials) while being compelling in terms of symphonic unity and “rise again” inevitability, with no lack of expressive beauty and thrilling climaxes, the latter made the more so for not being pre-empted.
Following a first movement (that some may consider being rather cool and lacking theatricality), the Ländler second is nicely judged between languor and pointed rhythms, sensual at times, to be contrasted by the arresting timpani strokes that launch the Scherzo-like third movement, given with rhythmic sway, the right amount of sonic edge and (left as on the page) schmalz, a searing climax, and a dissolve (a ripe contrabassoon highlighted) into ‘Urlicht’ that finds Elisabeth Kulman (heralded by otherworldly brass contributions) digging deep into the Wunderhorn text (printed in the booklet). As for the expansive Finale, the scene is set from the off, patiently and potently, for ultimate “eternal life” (from Klopstock’s ode, with added words by Mahler), via two powerful crescendos (which could have been held longer), a tempo-ideal march, well-judged offstage perspectives for the military band and the faraway-calling horns and trumpets, the Prague Philharmonic Choir entering as hushed as possible, and introducing Christiane Karg, the music growing and growing to a sumptuous, opening out gloriously, existence-enhancing conclusion. Pentatone PTC 5186 992.