Mahler: Symphony No. 4 / Berg: Sieben fruhe Lieder

Mahler: Symphony No. 4 / Berg: Sieben fruhe Lieder

by Claudio Abbado, Renée Fleming
     
 

Hearing the opening of Gustav Mahler's Fourth Symphony, with its innocent jingling of sleighbells and the Schubertian melody that follows, it's easy to imagine that this is going to be a more easygoing, peaceful work than the composer's other angst-ridden symphonies. Some conductors choose to pursue precisely that path; and perhaps it's this, along with the gratifying… See more details below

Overview

Hearing the opening of Gustav Mahler's Fourth Symphony, with its innocent jingling of sleighbells and the Schubertian melody that follows, it's easy to imagine that this is going to be a more easygoing, peaceful work than the composer's other angst-ridden symphonies. Some conductors choose to pursue precisely that path; and perhaps it's this, along with the gratifying star turn offered to a soprano soloist in the final movement, that has made it one of Mahler's most popular symphonies. But Claudio Abbado is not one to trivialize Mahler's vision in this way, and his new recording of the Fourth -- another in a series of live recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic -- seems dedicated to bringing out the symphony's darker undertow. Mahler was a master of musical grotesquerie, and it's the elements of distortion and sometimes creepy exaggeration -- most famously the mistuned violin solo in the Scherzo -- that Abbado really excels at bringing to our attention, animating the spectral and uncanny world that much of this symphony inhabits. Renée Fleming provides another sort of animation in the Finale, singing the child's vision of heaven that concludes the symphony. Even if Fleming's rich, lustrous voice sounds more knowing and mature than naively childlike, there will be no complaints about the beauty she brings to the part. Alban Berg's luxurious Seven Early Songs allow Fleming more room for expressive expansion, featuring the kind of soaring melodic lines her voice is made for. Combined with Abbado's strong credentials as a Berg conductor, Fleming's singing here makes this one of the most seductive recordings available of these lyrical gems, not to mention an ideal encore to the distinguished Mahler performance it follows.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
Incredibly, the world's greatest living conductor is getting better as he gets older. It's true -- Claudio Abbado, whose combination of effortless technique, lucid textures, and luminous tone coupled with his endless love for music has made him the preeminent conductor of our time, has only gotten better with age. Abbado's first Mahler's "Fourth" from 1978 is beautifully played by the Vienna Philharmonic, radiantly sung by Frederica von Stade, and joyously conducted by the young Maestro at the first peak of his powers. After his successful years with the Berlin Philharmonic and especially after some health problems, Abbado's second Mahler's "Fourth" from 2005 is extraordinarily spiritually led by the old Master at the peak of his interpretative abilities. His fluent technique is even more refined, but Abbado now seems more relaxed and thus more expressive than before, allowing and even encouraging portamento and vibrato. His lucid textures are less contrapuntal now and more flowing and his luminous lines are more lyrical and even more luminous. And his endless love of music -- and of life -- has infused the performance with a tangible sense of transcendence. The Berlin Philharmonic responds to its former music director with obvious affection and consummate artistry. Some listeners might find that Renée Fleming is too ironically maternal for the child's view of heaven that closes the symphony, but no listener will complain that Fleming is anything less than incandescently erotic in Berg's "Sieben frühe Lieder" that closes the disc. Deutsche Grammophon's live sound is entirely translucent.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/10/2006
Label:
Deutsche Grammophon
UPC:
0028947755746
catalogNumber:
000575902

Tracks

  1. Symphony No. 4 in G major  - Gustav Mahler  - Claudio Abbado  - Christopher Alder  -  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  - Nikolaus Boddin  - Renée Fleming  - Lionel Salter  - Guy Braunstein
  2. Early Songs (7), for voice & piano (or orchestra)  - Alban Berg  - Claudio Abbado  - Christopher Alder  -  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  - Nikolaus Boddin  - Renée Fleming  - Otto Erich Hartleben  - Carl Hauptmann  - Paul Hohenberg  - Nikolaus Lenau  - Rainer Maria Rilke  - Lionel Salter  - Johannes Schlaf  - Theodor Storm  - Guy Braunstein

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