ICA Classics – William Steinberg conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.2 (Resurrection)

Stefania Woytowicz (soprano) & Anny Delorie (contralto)

Kölner Rundfunkchor

Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester [Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra]
William Steinberg

Recorded 10 September 1965 in the Funkhaus, Saal 1, WDR Cologne

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: March 2011
Duration: 80 minutes



This tremendous performance of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony opens in fiery and incisive terms, the conductor pushing the music ahead with palpable energy, then lingering awhile, yet embracing wholeness – all tremendously exciting, an account aflame with emotion and rough-hewn grandeur, aided by some decidedly rustic-sounding woodwinds. It’s thrilling and fluctuations of pace are very convincing; the first movement is full of character, some of it sinister, some of it wild.

William Steinberg (1899-1978) was returning home: he was born in Cologne. A protégé of Otto Klemperer, Steinberg held positions with the Palestine Symphony (today the Israel Philharmonic) and then in Pittsburgh, London (Philharmonic) and Boston, and notched up numerous fine recordings. This may not be a plush-sounding performance of Mahler’s Second, nor does it offer the greatest playing, the strings can be thin, but there is a commitment and a personality that offsets some minor failings; and, quite clearly, Steinberg could galvanise an orchestra to his will, and he has an individual yet innate way with this massive work.

After a high-voltage first movement, the dance-measures of the second have an easy gait; then the deliberation of the scherzo (using the “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” setting of St Anthony preaching to the fishes) convinces and gives time to underline articulation and accents without diminishing the drama of Mahler and Steinberg’s conception; creator and interpreter do seem as one. ‘Urlicht’ lacks mystery, Anny Delorie a little restricted, not always on the note and rather loud. There’s real surge to the huge finale, however, much atmosphere, some thrilling crescendos, a steady but purposeful march, some heroic high trumpet-playing and a notable ‘last post’, a dove-like flute, a soaring Stefania Woytowicz, and an enthusiastic chorus adding irresistibly to the final tumult.

This moving and exciting performance is captured in vivid stereo sound. Forty-six years on, and even in our Mahler-sated times, there is plenty of room for a Maher 2 as good and as distinctive as this one is.

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