Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986

By Lewis M. Smoley | Go to book overview

SYMPHONY NO. 4 IN G MAJOR
Movements:
1. Bedächtig. Nicht eilen.
2. In gemächlicher Bewegung.
Ohne Hast.
3. Poco Adagio. Ruhevoll.
4. Sehr behaglich ("The Heavenly Life")

ABBADO, CLAUDIO/Vienna Philharmonie; Frederica von Stade, soprano - DG 2530 966; 413354–2 GH(1979); 10-DG 447 023 (1995) "57:43" Abbado's reading is very uneven, replete with annoying mannerisms, inappropriate tempi and untoward dynamic shifts. Generally agitated motion produces a forced, hard-driven effect. Only in the finale does all go quite smoothly, especially graced by the beautiful voice and expressive reading of Frederica Von Stade. The preceding movements simply do not hang together. While the first movement begins in an appropriately relaxed mood, Abbado's usual sense of urgency pushes the music beyond the limits characteristic of the Viennese comodo style being evoked here. In the second movement, the same process occurs, interrupted only by disturbing mannerisms (Abbado constantly slows up for the clarinet keck phrase), resulting in a disjointed reading. The Poco Adagio movement drags on mercilously but an underlying tension disturbs what should be a restful, somber atmosphere. Again, strange and uncomfortable shifts in tempo and dynamic levels play havoc with transitions. Yet the closing section is beautifully played. Balances and sonics are generally good and the playing excellent despite self-conscious brass.

ABRAVANEL, MAURICE/Utah Symphony; Netania Davrath, soprano - Vanguard C-10042 (1968); Vanguard OVC 4007 (1991); 11-Vanguard 08.7013.79 (1995) "51:55"

In keeping with the general stylistic approach apparent throughout his symphony cycle, Abravanel offers a temperate, detached reading the only virtue of which is that it tends to stick closely to the letter of the score. Playing is generally fine but for some lapses in precision in the middle section of the third movement. Sonics are adequate but close-miking sometimes distorts balances, especially in the third movement. The best work occurs in the finale, played with a delightfully light touch and sung in a youthfully coquettish manner. The other three movements fail to satisfy with their uneven tempi and phrasing in a generally agitated and objective approach. Essentially, the performance rarely rises above the routine.

-81-

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Gustav Mahler's Symphonies: Critical Commentary on Recordings since 1986
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Symphony No. 1 in D Major ("Titan") 1
  • Symphony No. 2 in C Minor ("Resurrection") 33
  • Symphony No. 3 in D Minor 59
  • Symphony No. 4 in G Major 81
  • Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor 107
  • Symphony No. 6 in a Minor ("Tragic") 141
  • Symphony No. 7 in E Minor ("Song of the Night") 167
  • Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major ("Symphony of a Thousand") 189
  • Das Lied Von der Erde 205
  • Symphony No. 9 in D Major 225
  • Symphony No. 10 in F-Sharp Major (Unfinished) 255
  • Bibliography 268
  • Index to Conductors 269
  • Index to Orchestras 284
  • Index to Soloists 298
  • Index to Choruses 322
  • Index to Record Labels 334
  • About the Author 355
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