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MAHLER Symphonie n.4 (Leipzig 2012)
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Es ist die größte Farbenmischung, die je da war , beschrieb Gustav Mahler den dritten Satz seiner 4. Sinfonie. Riccardo Chailly, einer der versiertesten Mahlerinterpreten unserer Zeit, verwandelte im Frühjahr 2012 mit dem Gewandhausorchester Leipzig die ganze Vierte in ein solches Kaleidoskop der Klänge. Das unverwechselbare Timbre des Orchesters steht synonym für spätromantisches Repertoire und Mahler sche Stilistik ungemein präsent, selbst im fadenfeinen Pianissimo, kompakt, konzentriert, seidenmatt bestätigt Der Tagesspiegel und erklärt die Verbindung von Chailly, Gewandhausorchester und Mahler zu einer überaus fruchtbaren Liaison: Wie er mit liebevoller Gestik die ihm so vertraute Musik modelliert, souverän auf tausend raffinierte Details hinweist, wie er die orchestralen Massen an und abschwellen lässt, das ist perfekt.
1. Die Welte Mignon Aufnahmen 2. Mahler spielt Mahler Sinfonie Nr. 4, 4. Satz 3. Riccardo Chailly über seine Interpretation der 4. Sinfonie Gustav Mahlers mit dem Gewandhausorchester
The third of Chailly's live Mahler DVDs with the Leipzig Gewandhaous Orchestra has the same abundant virtues as the previously issued Second and Eighth symphonies - a sense of naturally flowing tempi, an ear for inner parts within the whole, a vitality that captures the pristine glow of this most innocent of all Mahler symphonies. --Andrew Clark, FT
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The next necessary ingredient is a soprano who can sing the ingenuous, simple and direct role of the angel, describing Heaven, perhaps through the eyes of a child, without making herself or her voice the "star of the show." Christina Landshamer adds this component seamlessly. She does not dominate, and that is as Mahler wished, preferring an angel who lovingly narrates, describing for us a child's view of Heaven.
The Blu-ray's DTS HD Master Audio allows excellent sound reproduction for a Mahler work where (as in all Mahler works!) there are so many sounds that we don't want to miss.
Likewise, Blu-ray's photographic reproduction is crisp and clear, and allows the photographers who filmed this concert (26/27 April, 2012) to show off their remarkable abilities. Every detail of the figuring of the wood of the basses, cellos, and violins will take your breath away at the beauty of the instruments. On their wood block, the sleigh bells, which appear immediately in the first movement, are shown clearly, demonstrating right away the excellent editing that went into making this a photographically wonderful Fourth to watch.
This is the best editing I've seen in a DVD. Often, in eagerness to show each instrument, when it has its brief solo moment, the results can be desultory, jerking suddenly from one solo instrument to another. Here, it is well-done, smoothly-done, maintaining the flow of the symphony.
At the end of this excellent performance, Riccardo Chailly continues something I am happy to see is becoming more frequent in many performances: he recognizes and urges applause for musicians, in groups and as individuals. The audience reacts enthusiastically, giving musicians appreciation that has in the past been too often denied them.
And now, to why I've called this review "Extra Special."
It would have been more than adequate to see and hear, on the highest technological level available today, an excellent performance of Mahler's Fourth.
But the Bonus "Extras" on this DVD are a delightful surprise and an invaluable addition.
Even the trailers are of such quality that it would be hard to watch them without wanting to rush out to order the Blu-ray discs of them.
The gigantic "extra" here is a chance to hear Mahler himself, playing a piano version of the finale--the fourth movement of the Fourth. Yes, it's really Mahler's playing. Before the era of magnetic tape and even of records, there was the Welte-Mignon device. It was a special invention, which could be coupled to a piano. It would reproduce on the pianos keys the notes struck by the pianist and recorded on a sort of piano-roll mechanism. Holes in the piano roll would, through pneumatic action, direct the keys and even the pedals of the piano to play, just as the pianist's actions had been "recorded" on the piano roll.
So what you see, in the middle of the Leipzig Gewandhaus auditorium, is a grand piano (a Steinway, I believe) being played by the Welte-Mignon machine, from the "blueprint," a piano roll "recording" made by Gustav Mahler himself. It's quite an experience for those of us who so revere Mahler.
Another invaluable "extra" is a short program, explaining (and showing!) how the Welte-Mignon operated and operates today. This phenomenon and the many details which complicate sound reproduction on the Welte-Mignon, were described in some length, by Henry-Louis de la Grange, in the appendix of his fourth volume on Mahler. But to see the machine in action, and with expert explanation, is enlightening. And who could provide expert explanations? It's none other than Hans Werner Schmitz, the "Technical Maintenance" engineer for the CD, "Gustav Mahler und Sein Klavier." Yes, he shows us how the Welte-Mignon sends a message to its "fingers" to strike the keys just as Mahler had wanted, and to its "feet" to hold the pedals, as directed by Mahler's blueprint.
As if these extras were not a more-than-generous bonus, there is also a 15 minute program in which Riccardo Chailly speaks about the many exceptional challenges to executing a respectful performance of a Mahler symphony.
He speaks of what the Germans call "Durchsichtigkeit," being able to read between the lines for the many instrumental parts, and taking into account the many notes made by the composer--especially a composer such as Mahler.
This is one DVD where I think you'll agree with me that it was really like getting several excellent DVDs for the price of one. The bonuses make it "extra-special."
Now to the symphony. My good friend Clive Goodwin has termed Chailly’s Mahler “bel-canto Mahler”, and I could not agree more with his designation. Everything glows and flows, and there is an almost sublime beauty ever-present throughout the performance. And there is more: the stated tempi are taken almost verbatim (with the exception of the finale), from the first movement’s “Bedächtig – nicht eilen” (“deliberate – don’t hurry”) at 16:50 through the appropriately spooky Scherzo with a brilliant solo part by concert master Frank-Michael Erben (sadly not credited, also superb in the 3rd movement) at 8:43. The Scherzo’s “deconstruction of the Viennese Ländler” (Chailly) is followed by the symphony’s highpoint, the slow 3rd movement (“Ruhevoll” at 19:47), beautifully played in what I consider the ideal tempo. The finale, “Sehr behaglich” (“very much at ease” at a fairly brisk 8:12), shows soprano Christina Landshamer at her youthful best and then brings the work to an almost inaudible conclusion. Throughout the performance, Chailly manages to pick up several seldom-heard details. The Gewandhaus musicians (with properly divided violins), both in solo/group play and in the tutti passages, give us their genuine Mahler sound, with all the proper portamenti, glissandi, eerie harmonies and sharp transitions. There are quite a few very good recordings of the Fourth to be had, but Chailly’s shines out as one of the most inspired.
The result has been an interesting mixture. This is now a fleeter view of the symphony but also one that manages to bring out the darker elements lurking below the surface. This may seem to be a contradiction in terms but in reality it makes for a compelling and illuminating performance.
The subject of tempo is very important to Chailly who has taken great pains to go back to original sources and performances practices in order to observe specific instructions and metronome markings that are sometimes not observed as well as they might be. Interestingly, his performance of the final three movements is faster than the current three recent performances that I have on DVD/Bluray, those being the two Abbado versions and the Gergiev version. The last movement in particular is given both a markedly faster performance than the others as well as delivering an altogether darker view of the text.
Only by comparing this performance with Reiner's from 1958 does one find a similar approach to such tempi. Reiner delivers the fastest first and third movements of these five comparisons and is also swift in the remaining two movements. Significantly, Reiner's version has long been much admired. Thus Chailly is closer to Reiner than either of the Abbado versions or that by Gergiev.
Chailly makes the point that even in the calmest or least troubled movements there is darkness or irony. That is obvious in the second movement and the climax of the otherwise serene third movement always comes as a troubled and unexpected surprise. The text of the last movement has a clear problem with so much slaughter of animals for the delight of the inhabitants of Heaven by saints and unlikely inhabitants of Heaven as Herod. How can this be a scene of peace or joy - or is this asking us to question this ourselves? Chailly takes that view and the upbeat tempi for this movement underlines the irony or questionable nature of the text relative to the carefree music that supports it.
This then is an interesting view of the work which makes us ask questions about possible sub-texts. There are two bonuses - those of Chailly's views on performance and a description of the Welte-Mignon piano player device. That is then heard as Mahler's recording of the last movement of this symphony is heard on a piano. This is an interesting experience but unlikely to make listeners wish for a return to times past for recording enjoyment.
The recording quality is superlative with detailed but unobtrusive camera work and crystal clear imaging. The sound is one of the best yet heard in this medium and is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo.
I would suggest that this disc now has strong claims to be the current leader of video discs, and if that response is challenged, then its position of at least one of the very best is unlikely to be a cause for complaint.
A response to the anonymous negative voter of the previous version of this slightly modified review:
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