Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mahler: Symphony No.4, Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen - Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Levi

Gustav Mahler
Symphony No. 4, Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen
Frederica von Stade, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Yoel Levi
Telarc CD80499


Whether this is the best performance of Mahler's 4th I've ever heard, I wouldn't really know. But I bought it (influenced by David "gimme-a-period-instrument" Hurwitz) and didn't return it to the shop, give it away as a present, feed it to the neighbor's dog, or play frisbee with it.

Classics Today Rating: 10/10

There is a tendency, among both serious critics and normal listeners, to prejudge recordings of basic repertoire works when they are recorded by so-called "second tier" ensembles. The cynical inclination to dismiss such releases is only heightened by the extravagant claims sometimes made by partisans on behalf of these organizations, prime examples being the English press' flogging of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Simon Rattle, or closer to home, Atlanta's endless string of Grammy wins under the competent but often dull Robert Shaw. Atlanta under Levi is another matter altogether. This partnership has been responsible for a superb series of recordings that has not received the recognition it deserves, in some part for the reasons just mentioned. This is a pity, because on any reasonably objective listen, not only is this Mahler Fourth a jewel in Telarc's series of Atlanta recordings as a whole, it's quite possibly the best-played, and definitely the best-recorded Mahler Fourth currently available. I played this disc "blind" to some European colleagues of mine, and they all agreed that this was the finest performance they had ever heard. Ever. Levi simply gets everything right: perfect tempos, incredible clarity of textures, and most importantly, a totally idiomatic response to the music itself. And what playing! From the spectacular solo winds (French horn, take a bow!), to the warmly cultured strings (save for a wonderfully nasal solo violin in the Scherzo), to the immaculately judged percussion, this is an ideal Mahler sound. Frederica von Stade's voice has deepened and darkened since she last recorded this symphony and the songs, some two decades ago, but her artistry remains undiminished. This is greatness, folks, sheer unadulterated greatness. And that's a fact!

--David Hurwitz

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