Mahler: Symphony No. 4 Hybrid SACD
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|4. Symphony No.4 In G: IV. Sehr Behaglich|
Ivan Fischer writes of Mahler's masterpiece, "There is a unique purity and transparency in Mahler's 4th Symphony. The enchanting sleigh bells take us to his inner child, to his dreams of angels, fairy tales, angst and pure, divine love. This child-like symphony needed a different orchestra: no dark tuba, no heavy trombones, no large arsenal of massive brass. A chamber orchestra in fact, where the clarinets act as mock trumpets, the solo violin tunes his strings sharper in order to scare us and the lightness of the whole orchestra lifts us up to his lovely, childish vision of paradise."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Fischer has a way of making works come alive for me. His Rachmaninoff 2 made me finally appreciate a symphony I always felt was a bit schmaltzy. His Mahler 6 made me finally understand a work that had left me cold.
I can't comment on whether or not he follows Mahler's requests, I don't have the score. But it just sounds..."right". And the multi-channel SACD layer is the most realistic orchestral recording I've ever heard.
Finally I found the Mahler Fourth of my dreams. With all due respect to others who have had their say on this interpretation, I find nothing emotionally lightweight about it at all. The first movement reminds me of the powdered candy I used to pour from a long paper tube onto my tongue: it seemed intensely sweet at first blush but left the most surprisingly bitter aftertaste. I don't know where that wonderful aftertaste comes from but I think the sound of the orchestra has something to do with it. There's always a special treat to hearing Mahler played by an Eastern European ensemble, with its tart winds, and the Budapest Festival Orchestra here offer a wonderful anodyne to what I hear as the corporate blandness of so many better-known Symphonies and Philharmonics. My ear was constantly arrested by orchestral colors and turns of phrase that seemed different but intuitively "right." Yes, the expression "like hearing the work anew" is in serious need of retirement but I'm going to trot it out one more time because it applies so well here.
I've never heard the scherzo done better. The solo violin sounds more diabolical than in any other version I know and the phrasing is wonderfully pointed. In contrast, the trios, in which Fischer achieves a sense of aching nostalgia, are meltingly beautiful.
If the glockenspiel had been given just a little more presence in its one fast variation in the third movement, Fischer's interpretation would have been, for me, perfect. As it is, it's as near to perfection as I ever hope to find. The opening cello melody and its variations are beautifully inward and profoundly moving and the oboe-led second thematic group leaves a lump in my throat. From there the movement builds effortlessly and inevitably, yet the "Gates of Heaven" episode sounds like the most glorious surprise (the slight acceleration leading into the E major chord is magnificent). Fischer sees this as the real climax of the symphony, playing it as the climax of the first movement magnified, as it were, and in this way he ties together the two "slow-ish" movements (with the scherzo between them), making a proper introduction to the finale.
For three decades I've found the finale the dead spot in this symphony. Not that the movement isn't beautiful, per se, but that it seems a sad anticlimax, especially after the adagio. By not overplaying the third movement ("beautifully inward" and "profoundly moving" do not mean "milked") and taking this finale at a blithe amble, Fischer alone makes it seem an inevitable and perfectly fitting conclusion, and Miah Persson's voice, shorn of any sense of artifice or souped-up "sophistication" is just ideal.
Did I happen to mention that this performance is more rich in portamento than any I know?
This won't be a Mahler Fourth to all tastes, any more than any other is or ever will be, but it's nice to be reminded, every now and again, that some things are worth waiting for.
Unlike another review given here, I actually find Fischer rather congenial and, at times, "moody" sounding in the first three movements. A look at the timings will show you that he's no speed-demon early on. But the fourth movement is taken quicker than usual. Sound weird? Consider that both Mahler (his piano roll) and Bruno Walter were consistently timed just around 8 minutes for the vocal finale. One has to remember that the fourth movement isn't a cozy sounding aria designed to make an opera house soprano feel comfortable. Instead, it's a boy's view of heaven and, more to the point, the longing to finally "live" with plenty of food to eat, and plenty of excess time to actually enjoy being a lad with lots of excess energy. But even more to the point, is the fact that Miah Persson sounds positively ideal for such a role. In other words, she's convincing as a youthful lad.
In addition to all that, add on Channel Classics usual outstanding sonics - combined with Fischer's usual care for balances and phrasing (without dragging) and you've got yourself a first class winner. Too bad that that remastered Bernstein set looks so tempting though! (which also has a really good 4th).