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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 4 - Reiner

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Reviews: 4

Review by peteyspambucket August 24, 2005 (10 of 18 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I know that this is not going to be a popular review, but I've listened carefully to this SACD about 10 times, and I have found it to be unrelentingly boring.

From the tentative first bar to the final note of the last movement, I was wondering what qualities this recording has that makes it worthy of reissue after all these decades on RBCD, XRCD,and SACD. Without getting into much detail, I found every movement dull and lacking instrumental, rhythmic, and interpretive color, and the piece demands playfulness and character. This is not what Mahler wrote -- Mahler put all kinds of indications in the score for phrasing, color, accent, dynamics, and tempi (and even TECHNIQUE for certain instruments). Reiner's rejection of many of these marks is the ultimate anti-Mahler, and it makes for a deeply unfulfilling recording, no matter the vintage or audio quality.

In the final movement, the usually stunning Lisa Della Casa makes several errors in pitch that ruin the recording for me. She also does very little to liven up the movement, and I could not hear the "smile" in her voice. The Karajan/BPO, Maazel/VPO, and Levine/CSO, while different from each other, exhibit playfulness, drama, urgency, and an attention to tone and rhythmic variation and color, with sopranos (Mathis, Battle, Blegen) who really do sound youthful and angelic -- and who don't miss a note.

Regarding the sound, I found it to be distant but with a nice dynamic range, and there was some nice separation. The bass is stronger than one might get on RBCD, but I have heard overall better sound from RBCDs. I realize this is some kind of historic performance. That the sound is as good as it is after all these years, is remarkable, but that doesn't mean I'd ever want to hear this version again when I want to hear Mahler 4th. Sadly, there's nothing remarkable about the recording that makes the performance better. In fact, the sound is so good that, ironically, it makes it very clear that the playing and interpretation are intentionally lifeless and bland.

I knew that I would never choose to hear this again, so after all those listenings, I got rid of my copy. I was very disappointed and I can't recommend this SACD. For those "fans" of the technology behind the restoration, or fans of the Living Stereo series, I'm sure there are some who will blindly buy this and think it's OK, but for me, it's unacceptable. There currently is no strong contender for this symphony on SACD, and I'm not exactly expecting anything to come out anytime soon. When there are so many old analog recordings of this symphony that are really amazing, I keep wondering why this one for SACD? Stick to RBCD on this.

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Review by tfkaudio August 25, 2005 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I can't agree with the last review. I certainly will say up front that I am not a Mahler fanatic, but I loved this disc. It kept me compelled for the entire listening. With Mahler, this is not easily done, as many of you may know. This one flows from beginning to end. I really enjoyed it. If you are a Mahler junkie, then disregard this review, as I am an amateur.

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Review by Chris August 25, 2005 (12 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is in my opinion one of the VERY BEST Living Stereos so far! And we have already had quite a few good ones.

I find both the interpretation by Reiner,the playing by the CSO and the recording by Lewis Layton, absolutely outstanding!
Reiner lets us hear exactly what Mahler wrote no more, no less.
I don't find that boring at all !
On the contrary, "Ich geniesse die himmlichen Freuden" when listening to this the sunniest of Mahler's symphonies in such a perfect interpretation.
I also hope Reiner's equally perfect Das Lied von der Erde will be in the next batch from Living Stereo.

And once again Living Stereo makes me really wonder what progress, if any,has been made since 1958 when this recording was made.

Everything basically sounds as fresh and clear and natural as almost only live performances can.
The simple miking has rendered the soundpicture and perspectives more realistically than most, modern multimiked recordings ever have.

However superficially impressive the latest Telarcs and others may initially sound,on repeated hearings there almost always creeps in that feeling of "cut and paste" ,of too many mikes, of balances not at all the way you would hear them in a live concert.
There is NONE of that here.
Everybody, including the solist, is heard performing in a believable acoustic!
The critisism where I think Mr "P-Bucket" might have a valid a point is possibly regarding the soloist's singing. Both Edith Mathis under Karajan and von Stade under Abbado sound more angelic.
But neither of them has been recorded as naturally as Lisa Della Casa, who for once sounds realistic in size and timbre.
And she is thank God (Lewis Layton) not catapulted twenty yards in front of the orchestra as is the case in virtually all other recordings since the advent of multimiking!

I have in the past couple of weeks been to quite a few live concerts in Estonia and Stockholm during the Baltic Sea Festival, where I heard live, both the Marinsky under Gergiev the Swedish Radio symphony orchestra under Esa Pekka Salonen.
After such an intense live experience it is always a bit difficult to go back to "canned food".
But of the recordings I have listened to since Saturday's live Kullervo in Stockholm, this Mahler's fourth is one of few that sounds reasonably much like the real thing.
It isn't perfect, there are some slight signs of tape overload in the second movement. And strings,although mostly velvety and sweet, sound a wee bit forced a couple of times. There is still a long way to go to recreate the huge dynamics and true sonorities of a big symphony orchestra.

But strangely enough this old analogue recording does a better job than most modern ones do.

Compared to denser works like the sixth and ninth this wonderfully "lightweight" symphony by Mahler standards, certainly is easily digestable fare with its naive take on life after death.

And with this truly fantastic recording sold by many dealers for around 10$, it is like most other Living Stereos, a bargain not to be missed!

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Review by sacd_fan_2007 February 6, 2008 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Other than certain sections of Mahler Symphony 1, Mahler's Fourth Symphony may be the composer's only accessible work for non-orchestral music fans. It is a very light-hearted and classical piece. I played back this Reiner rendition on multiple occasions, and it was well received by me (a big Mahler fan) and classical music novices who were receiving an SACD demo. While I agree with some that Reiner lacks the sensitivity to interpret deeper and darker works, i.e. most everything else Mahler, he and his Chicago Orchestra seemed very natural and at ease in this Mahler 4. In fact, it is one of the most natural sounding performances that I've heard on record. This disc is currently one of my favorite SACD's and highly recommended!

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