This disc marks the beginning of a new Mahler cycle with these forces in SACD sound. If you collect SACDs, you’ll be impressed with the engineering in the surround-sound format, which is very natural, coherent, and has plenty of room ambience without excessive rear-channel emphasis. “Natural” also describes Zinman’s performances. The first movement has a great sense of flow, and he doesn’t drag out the introduction as relentlessly as some others have. He catches the rustic character of the scherzo to perfection, though I do wish he’d exaggerated the Jewish music in the funeral march a bit more. The music could take a bit more schmaltz, and a bit more spookiness in the march itself despite the careful observance of Mahler’s dynamics.
The finale, on the other hand, erupts vividly and again benefits from Zinman’s making due allowance for the romantic second subject without his feeling the need to slow down excessively. The Tonhalle brass also play very well in their big perorations, though in the final bars Zinman’s theatrical treatment of the bass drum and timpani (a big crescendo) can’t compete with a literal reading of what Mahler actually wrote: a huge, sustained fortissimo roll. Having Blumine as a bonus enhances the attractiveness of the package, and it’s correctly placed after the rest of the symphony as an encore, not as the original second movement (for that, turn to Mahler’s first, unrevised version of the work). This release begins Zinman’s cycle very auspiciously. I look forward to hearing more.