- Orchestra: Cleveland Orchestra
- Conductor: Pierre Boulez
- Composer: Gustav Mahler
- Audio CD (January 3, 2000)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Dg Imports
- ASIN: B00004R9F4
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,296 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Mahler: Symphony No. 4
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Normally, Mahler's Fourth Symphony is the one that you turn on for great background listening. It's beautiful, lyrical, and Mahler at his most mellow. But underneath its innocent exterior, there's a lot going on, and who better than technician Pierre Boulez to point out the mechanics? Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra deliver an impressive performance of this heavenly work that, on the surface, stays clear of romanticism (or, to some ears, rampant emotion). Instead, Boulez focuses on clarity throughout each and every passage. From his quick-tempoed opening movement to the heart-warming "We Enjoy Heaven's Delights" song of the fourth (performed here by soprano Juliane Banse)--Boulez slowly transitions from clinical to dramatic. It's a captivating, modernist interpretation that's thoroughly enthralling. This shouldn't be your reference Fourth (save that for Bernstein and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), but it is an innovative, great-sounding recording and a welcome addition to Boulez's Mahler cycle. --Jason Verlinde
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When Boulez brings his anti-romantic view to this music, I hear desecration but many others hear revelation. He's always been intentionally a divisive musician. However, Boulez possesses some undeniable vitures (precision, intellect, clarity) that are applied here. To appreciate those virtues you must allow yourself to accept Boulez's insistence in skimming over the surface of the score and erasing all of Mahelr's careful expression markings. I'm not very willing to give in, but if you are, please don't say that he has revealed the truth about Mahler or cleaned up other conductors' excesses. In reality Boulez uses his own style to trump Mahler's, and apparently many listeners find that a relief. The recorded sound from 2000 is thin and turns disagreeably harsh at loud volume.
The symphony's relative brevity is highlighted in this crisp, bracing performance which reaches its gently rocking conclusion three to five minutes ahead of other versions in my collection. Access is ensured by Boulez' care with orchestral textures and balance and by the glorious Cleveland acoustic. I'm not sure, however, that Boulez provides access to everything. Concurrently with composing this symphony, Mahler wrote, "Suddenly a stormy wind blows across the meadow and shakes the leaves and flowers which whimper and moan on their stems as if begging for salvation". I have always felt this awareness of a terror that can shake the apparent beauty when listening to Mahler, but I don't hear it here. True, Boulez takes care to observe the heavy portamento that Mahler asks of the violins at, for example, 4' 48" in the first movement, but elsewhere anything that might cloy or carry an emotional burden seems to have been expunged.
So this lovely recording does not make we feel I have had my withers wrung. It is a Mahler performance that refreshes. I especially like the contribution of Juliane Banse in the last movement. She meets Mahler's demand for "a singing voice with a gay, childlike sound, but entirely free from parody".
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