Birmingham Symphony Hall: CBSO & CBSO Chorus with Markus Stenz – Mahler Symphony No.2 “Resurrection” – Saturday 25th June 2022. 5***** . Paul Gray

This reading of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 – Resurrection – by conductor Markus Stenz, was simply one of the best interpretations of the work I have heard in recent years. Inevitably one thinks back to the heady days of Simon Rattle’s remarkable performance of the piece for the formal opening of Symphony Hall in 1991, and of Rattle’s deep understanding of the very special acoustic capabilities and properties of the hall. Indeed, Rattle’s understanding of both the CBSO, the CBSO Chorus – and of the exact spatial acoustics he desired – are totally integral to the architectural design of this astonishing building; rather like Richard Wagner’s vision for the very specific acoustics of Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Now, not every visiting conductor, especially if visiting with performers other than the CBSO, immediately grasps the unique acoustic potentialities of Symphony Hall, and, granted, maestro Stenz was working with the CBSO & CBSO Chorus in a work they not only know well and have performed often (and to international critical acclaim) but a work which has become synonymous with them, in the kind of made-to-measure acoustics Mahler might well of had in mind.

And it is not just the invisible, offstage instruments, here placed so perfectly in Symphony Hall in the mid-distance and further distance in the huge sounding chambers behind and above the orchestra, but the layout of the orchestra itself with, for example, violins divided left and right, just as Mahler wanted, giving the contrapuntal sections terrific clarity when themes pass around the strings.

Janai Brugger (soprano)
Karen Cargill (mezzo-soprano)
CBSO Chorus
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Markus Stenz
Julian Wilkins
(chorus master & organ)
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Saturday 25 June 2022

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