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Mahler: Symphony No. 4 Original recording remastered

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, March 7, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

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Mahler's Fourth and Das Lied von der Erde were Reiner's only Mahler recordings with the Chicago Symphony, and both are reminders of his orchestral wizardry and his prowess as a Mahlerian. Tempos are on the swift side for a piece many conductors like to linger over, but the forward flow doesn't obscure telling details. Reiner gives the slow movement a chaste solemnity, and the final heavenly vision is beautifully sung by the creamy voiced Della Casa. This Mahler's Fourth falls closer to Boulez's objectivity than to Bernstein's emotionalism and remains today what it was when recorded--one of the best Mahler Fourths in the catalog. It's also one of the best-sounding, as RCA's Living Stereo engineering holds its own even after 40 years. --Dan Davis
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 7, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 53 minutes
  • ASIN: B00004KH79
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,378 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Reiner conducts the Chicago Symphony in one of the greatest ever recordings of Mahler's Fourth . . . This symphony resounds with big time music as if it's been a rare occasion. A milestone it certainly was, for this rendition is still impressive--even after five decades (and even by today's 'hyper hyped' recording standards it sounds really good). Kalman Rubinson of Stereophile remarks that "Fritz Reiner's Mahler 4 has been eagerly awaited by many [...] who find this among the great performances of the work, completely lacking in artifice and offering the music with simplicity and clarity." In this performance we detect the conductor's distinctive qualities that made him a legend. And what a grand instrument the Chicago Symphony was in those days! My review goes for the SACD edition of this album which is quite excellent in every way. As for recorded sound quality, i'll rate the SACD as a fairly better, more defined and a shade more dynamic affair than the current RCA CD. What's especially interesting in that recorded document is the extent of dynamic contrasts the conductor and his orchestra were able to produce. That view on Mahler stands as a prime instance of what has been said in The Art of Conducting: "Fritz Reiner was one of the most brilliant stick technicians. [...] He had the orchestra at the tip of his baton." We can feel it, after all, for here is exceptional music by a non specialist of Mahler (unlike Bruno Walter who was a close friend of the composer and is presumably known as `the master'). It reminds me of Boult in England who frequently succeeded outside the British repertoire (his Schubert Ninth is an awesome example).

The CSO has made something really good out of the 1st movement: The theme is introduced with a clear, far-sighted zest rarely heard on disc.
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Format: Audio CD
It's a real shame that Fritz Reiner only made two Mahler recordings (he and the CSO also did a fine Das Lied von der Erde). Throughout this account, it is clear that the Hungarian maestro had a great feel for the idiom, conducting the first two movements with character, well-placed glissandi, and wit. Also praiseworthy is the playing of the Chicago Symphony in this, their first Mahler recording. Despite the trumpets' tendencies to blast, it is evident that they were a Mahler orchestra of the first rank even in 1959. Although this is one of the quickest Fourth's on record, the recording never seems rushed. The second movement is a particular delight, the CSO demonstrating their ability to play "in between the notes" (to use a Stravinsky phrase). What keeps this performance just below the very best (a select and diverse group consisting of Szell, Previn, and Haitink) is Reiner's unwillingness to play the third movement with the requisite warmth and Della Casa's heavy-sounding soprano in the Finale (the playing gets a little raucous in this last movement as well). Still, the "Reiner Sound" is evident throughout as he makes much of the Mozartisms and Schubertisms that abound and shapes the melodic lines with elegance and authority. This recording is enthusiastically recommended to those who admire Reiner's work in Chicago, to those who do not cotton to some of the other recordings I've mentioned, and especially to those who yearn for a recording from a real "Master of the Baton" (are there any such conductors in existence today?).
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Format: Audio CD
I agree with reviewer below-there is a low-frequncy rumble in track two. But honestly, I have played this disc five times since buying it without noticing the flaw. That's the agony of hi-fi-now that the hum has been detected by better ears than mine, I want to listen for it!

Still, nothing spoils the radiant sweetness of this quick but abidingly musical performance. The third movement opening phrases are in fact among the fastest I have heard, but the Chicago string players breath as one player, their lovely tone quality sounding from another generation despite the crisp articulation. In the final movement, the orchestra's clear but gentle delineation of detail creates a perfect accompaniment to Lisa della Casa. Others of Reiner's recordings ( his Beethoven 6th,Strauss Ein Heldenleben, Debussy La Mer) also contradict his severe appearance and image while still showing flawless preparation and execution.

Aside from the rumble, the sound is really beautiful-resonant with orchestral solos in clear perspecive and plenty of mass and power when Mahler's dynamic range opens up.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an excellent recording. Reiner conducts with both verve and sensitivity, the orchestral playing is first class, and the 20bit remastering makes this sound like a contemporary recording, apart from the tape hiss. In particular, I definitely prefer it to the much touted Szell because, while distinguished by beautiful orchestral playing, that interpretation is marred by too slow and careful sounding renditions of the first and last movements. The only qualifications I would offer is that some might find the Reiner orchestral sound too full of cutting edge briliance for such a mellow work.
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Format: Audio CD
Like dozens of other conductors in his generation, Fritz Reiner ignored Mahler for his entire career, coming up with this notable Fourth Sym. and a rather less convincing Das Lied vo der Erde when the Bernstein bandwagon started rolling. Why did so many musicians dismiss Mahler, who seems to us a towering giant? One reason is that he invinted his own highly personal, highly charged emotional world, and others didn't know how to enter it. That's certainly true here. The reason that critics praise Reiner's cool, objective, no-nonsense Fourth is that they, too, are reluctant to expeience Mahler's "excesses."

Bernstein reveled in them, of course, and uncovered the genius beneath the untrammeled emotionalism. Reiner stands back and relies upon his conductorial strengths, incredible ensemble and balance, precise control, and of course great musicality from the CSO. But he doesn't really step far into Mahler's complex universe. The choice, then, lies with each listener. I love everything on the surface of this reacording, especially della Casa's beaautiful voice and the CSO, but I will turn elsewhere when I want to feel Mahler deeply.
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