This is a study in musical recordings of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony, fifth movement («Im Tempo des Scherzo. Wild herausfahrend»). The author has collected, analysed and compared more than 85 recordings of this work, made by different conductors and orchestras in the period of 1924–2009. The first part of the article gives a brief presentation of the performance history and the recording history of this work, inscribing it in changing cultural contexts where ideas of the German and the Jewish has had a certain role to play. The article’s second part discusses musical differences between the recordings. A main topic is the question of how Mahler’s music can be said to reconstruct the very idea of the symphonic by consciously playing with musical figures and by placing orchestration at the forefront of symphonic articulation and form.

The article’s theoretical point of departure is the so-called performative turn in musicology. The author refers to the somewhat puzzling fact that in current textbooks and analyses of Mahler’s music, actual performances and interpretations are rarely taken into account, nor even named. Mahler’s music is generally analysed as if diverging performances do not make a difference as to the question of how the musical figures and processes are to be understood. However, in the history of recordings there are obvious and striking differences in musical understanding and expression, interpretation and style, tempo and balance, phrasing and articulation. Arguably, these differences are not merely of a secondary and accidential nature, which leaves the «work,» as such, unaffected. Rather, musical performances and their history may be regarded as constitutive as to what the musical work actually is.

Keywords: Performance studies, historical recordings, Mahler, Symphony No. 2