Ray Barnes | Surrey, British Columbia Canada | 06/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Mahler 4th has been in the catalogue for a long time and still remains competitive, due to the warm and deeply felt slow movement, the polished playing, and Schwarzkopf's contribution in the finale. The Philharmonia strings' timbre is very truthfully recorded, due in no small part to the balancing of Walter Legge. The Lieder make a very apt and substantial bonus and Christa Ludwig's performances are no less recommendable. Fine documentation, recommended at medium price."
Nothing but blue skies
Jim Kibble | 05/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Contrasting this work with the stormier proceedings of his other symphonies, Mahler compared it to "the undifferentiated blue of the sky." It's true that the Fourth lacks the massive contours--the throw-weight, we might say--of its symphonic siblings. But it's a work of surpassing delicacy and beauty, from the opening salvo of sleighbells and reeds through the final, folklorical vision of heaven (courtesy of "Das Knaben Wunderhorn.") Klemperer handles it all with high polish and surprising warmth, which makes this a classic recording indeed: the closest we'll ever come to Mahler channelling Haydn with (as the man said) blue skies overhead."
Virginia Opera Fan | Falls Church, VA USA | 01/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Klemperer's conducting and the orchestra's execution are the prime reasons for acquiring this recording of the Mahler Fourth. About Schwarzkopf's singing in the finale, I have reservations. To place those reservations in context, let me say that I regard her as one of the great singers of the 20th century and possess virtually all of her studio discography and many concert performances. Unfortunately, I don't think Mahler's child vision of heaven played to her strengths. Mahler instructs the soloist to sing without a hint of parody. Simplicity in this music isn't Dame Elisabeth's strong suit with her constantly shifting colors and coy emphases. Her sophisticated style just doesn't work well in this context. She's the sort of kid who should be seen and not heard. It doesn't help that she seems somewhat out of sorts vocally and comes dangerously close to the vocal wobble that was so anathema to her and Walter Legge. So, with apologies to the shade of a beloved singer, this one is compromised by the vocal performance.
About the Ludwig/Klemperer lieder, I have no reservations whatever."
Unbelievable power, color, and feeling
madamemusico | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 08/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Otto Klemperer was the third and youngest of Mahler's three "protegees" who promoted his music after his death (the other two were Willem Mengelberg and Bruno Walter). He was also the strcturally cleanest and, like Toscanini, emotionally powerful without resorting to sentiment. (A filmed interview with Klemperer shows him saying that his approach is completely the opposite of Walter's sentimentality.)
That being said, the first movement of this Fourth goes extremely slowly. For the first few minutes, I began to think I had wasted my money on it. But just wait 'til you hear the music change, and morph: Klenmperer is right there with Mahler, reveling in the grotesque orchestration and harmonies, plunging the listener into deeper waters than any other Mahler Fourth! And he continues this through the Scherzo, the Adagio and the finale, the "children's view of heaven," beautifully sung by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
Though this Mahler Fourth IS slow, it is not extraordinarily so except for the first movement, which is 1:15 longer than James Levine's already slow-paced performance with the Chicago Symphony, but like that performance, Klemperer turns on the intensity when called for, reveling even more fully than Levine in the music's grotesque aspects. (It is precisely these grotesque aspects of the score that so revulsed Erich Kleiber, Wilhelm Furtwangler and Arturo Toscanini, none of whom would ever perform the score.) Klemperer's second movement is about the same tempo as Levine, but even more intense; and the third and fourth movements are actually FASTER than Levine. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, not exactly youthful-sounding but in good voice, sings the last movement simply and beautifully.
The fillers on this CD are some excellent performances of two songs from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" and three of the four Ruckert-Lieder. Why they didn't record the fourth Ruckert song, "Blicke mir nicht," remains a mystery, but since this is NOT a cycle the songsd may be performed independently. Ludwig is in excellent voice and, again, Klemperer's conducting is intense and on the mark.
The 24-bit remastering is terrific. The Philharmonia Orchestra sounds rich and full, so good that this could have been recorded yesterday. Highly recommended."