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  LSO Live -
  Mahler: Symphony No. 4 - Gergiev
  Mahler: Symphony No. 4

Laura Claycomb (soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra
Valery Gergiev (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Site review by Castor February 28, 2010
Performance:   Sonics:  
Any preconceptions that Mahlerís Fourth Symphony might be the least suited to Gergievís generally forceful approach to Mahler were proved, in many respects, to be unfounded by this recording. The Russian maestroís predominantly genial reading of the work is as surprising as it is welcome, though it is certainly not without its controversial aspects.

The first movement, marked Bedächtig Nicht eilenóRecht gemächlich (Deliberately. UnhurriedlyóVery leisurely), is exactly that in Gergievís hands, and though the conductorís opening tempo sounds almost cautious, the performance gradually gathers momentum. The lyrical second subject is unfolded spaciously and is definitely not rushed (in fact the timing for this passage is a few seconds longer than that on Ivan Fischerís recent superb recording). At 16í08Ē the movement is on the swift side (only Fritz Reiner on Living Stereo is fractionally faster among the recordings I used for comparison), but it still exudes a straightforward relaxed quality, free from any jarring mannerisms. All sections of the LSO are able indulge themselves in playing of the utmost refinement.

Mahlerís ĎOhne Hastí marking for the 2nd movement is taken very literally by Gergiev, and though the steady tempo might seem too deliberate for some listeners, it does allow both the humorous and sinister elements in the music to be vividly etched. Fine playing by both Andrew Haveron (leader) and the principal horn should be mentioned, and only in the radiant section (from 6í41Ē) was a sense of rapture lacking, as here the strings are dominated by the accompanying winds.

After two measured movements Gergievís opening tempi for the wonderful slow movement will come as a shock. In spite of Mahlerís indication ĎRuhevollí, its opening moves far too rapidly and no feeling of calm is ever established. Throughout there is an unwelcome sense of impatience and a reluctance to allow the music to flow naturally, while the movementís central sections seem overwrought. Only in the coda does Gergiev achieve the required stillness and luminosity. At the other extreme, MTT on his recording with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra dragged this movement out to 25í27Ē, an astonishing six and a half minutes longer than that taken by Gergiev. The versions by Fischer, Haitink and Szell in their different ways all seem closer to Mahlerís intentions.

The Texan soprano Laura Claycomb, who is also the soloist on the MTT recording, does not quite manage Mahlerís instruction to sing in 'a joyful, childlike expression completely devoid of parody'.
Though the latter was certainly achieved, her voice sounds a little too mature for the former and her diction is sometimes vague, but overall she does not disappoint. Gergiev here manages to achieve much of the serenity absent in the previous movement.

As the series has progressed the recording team has managed the intractable Barbican acoustic with increasing success. Whether due to the smaller forces involved and Gergievís care for internal balances, the sound quality has a clarity and definition not previously experienced even in the best of the earlier issues. Each of the instrumental lines and inner voices can be followed with ease, and there is more hall ambience captured than ever before. Gergievís seating of the orchestra (antiphonal violins, basses at the rear etc.) also further aids the transparency of the sound.

Unquestionably, as so often with Gergiev, this is a performance that will divide opinion, but it is a fascinating one nonetheless.

Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and

Works: 1  

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 4 in G major