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Mahler: Symphony No. 4

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 5, 1990
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Product Details

  • Performer: Jo Vincent
  • Orchestra: Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
  • Conductor: Willem Mengelberg
  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Audio CD (February 5, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B00008FJJ6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,712 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I've been listening to the DG recently released Mahler
Complete Edition Gustav Mahler: Complete Edition that I find absolutely superlative - except that I was disappointed with the inclusive of the 4th Symphony with Boulez and the Cleveland Symphony. So I have been listening to other performances, and I stumbled across an authorized Philips release of the Mengelberg 1939 reading of the symphony. I'm not a fan of historical recordings, and I'm suspicious of reviewers who wax poetic about all of the detail they hear in a particular recording (that because of its age or acoustic or early electrical recording technique or performance venue simply isn't there to be heard), but that's my opinion, and as I read more about this particular [live] recording, I grew more hesitate because of comments about the quality of the acetate used to make the master and the inherit defects of that master. So I decided not to buy the CD (or any of the many public performances CDs), and simply download the recording. I'm listening to it now and I am pretty amazed about how clear, detailed, moving, and wonderful this performance is... yes, there is surface noise, there are "whooshes" and a persistent ticking, but its not distracting, the ear adjusts. Here is a performance from a conductor who heard Mahler perform the piece, attended rehearsals (can you imagine?) and made amendations to his conducting score based on what he heard and what Mahler said. In short, this recording is a worthly companion to the other great Mahler recordings we are blessed to have including the many included in the "Complete Edition' box.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a very, very interesting recording, for all the historical reasons outlined by the other reviewers. Whether one can draw a straight line between what the young Mengelberg heard Mahler rehearse, and what he incorporated into this 1939 rendition, is somewhat debatable, and best left for Mahler specialists. What wasn't debatable for me, however, was what this rendition added to my understanding of the piece overall. I heard things in this rendition (especially the 3rd movement) that I've heard nowhere else.

I have many other renditions of this symphony, but this will be one to which I will return frequently. (As noted by others) Mengelberg's flexibility with tempi were more extreme than you'll be accustomed to with many other interpretations, but (by gum!), they all worked very well...this interpretation is all "of a piece", so to speak, regardless of how it relates to those done by others. I also must throw laurels at the feet of Jo Vincent, for her clear, innocent and very straightforward singing in the 4th movement. IMHO, those sopranos who approach their roles in this symphony more...operatically...tend to distract from the mood and the intent. Jo Vincents's intonation didn't seem absolutely perfect, but otherwise she just nailed it for me. She's right up there with Lucia Popp (Tennstedt's studio version on EMI.) as my favorite in this symphony.

A note on the quality of the sound. I have heard both the Philips recording of this work and also the cleaned up version done by those wizards at Pristine Classical. The latter really takes the sound quality to a new level..I'd recommend finding this recording on their website and downloading...economics about the same (if not better).
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Format: MP3 Music
Perhaps it is not so surprising that an originally Dutch label (now part of Universal Music) should continue to issue the recordings of celebrated conductor Willem Mengelberg, even if this Philips CD was in fact manufactured in Japan under the label "Phonogram International BV", when it was under the Polygram umbrella - how confusing the world of classical label takeovers has become. This live performance from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in 1939 before the German Blitzkrieg and before Mengelberg starting getting himself into hot water over his Nazi sympathies - but that's another story and my job is merely to consider him as a musician, especially as I suspect that he was, like many a careerist conductor, if anything rather apolitical and more obsessed with music and his championing of it (think Karajan).

The sound is really good for...well, a crackly, poppy, vintage live mono recording of that era and I have no trouble listening to it. However, Pristine Classical has released their own re-mastering and I have no doubt, even without having heard it, that that will be superb (it's unavailable on Amazon). The real surprise for the novice is the freedom with which Mengelberg pulls tempi about, changing every few bars, applying schmaltzy rallentandi and rubati - all, apparently, with the authority of one who knew the composer himself and heard him conduct this work in 1904.
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