This is a wonderful CD and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone with a liking for Mahler in order to understand more clearly the compositional structures of his fourth symphony. Whilst clearly not having the "heft" of a full orchestral version, the chamber orchestra version given here by the Manchester Camerata stands up very well on it's own distinct merits. What is perhaps interesting is the genesis of this version and the ongoing musical connections down the years.
Arnold Schoenberg founded The Society for Private Musical Performance in Vienna to do just that; give performances of contempoary (and otherwise) music to an private member audience in order to avoid the constant interruptions he experienced in public performance. I think I'm right in saying that no applause was permitted. Today, I guess this would be a bit like joining a record club. One of Schoenberg's composition pupils pre-first world war was Erwin Stein (1885-1958), the grandchildren of whom are in line to the British throne.
Erwin Stein was asked by Schoenberg to prepare a chamber orchestra reduction of Mahler's fouth symphony in 1921, which he did, although the original manuscript has long been lost, presumably in World War Two. What is actually recorded here is a reconstruction of the reduction that was made in 1990 by Alexander Platt, so we are two steps away from the original work which is now "after Erwin Stein"! Never mind, Platt has done a sterling job.
Stein left Austria at the time of the Anschluss and ended up in London (eventually working for Boosey & Hawkes, the music publishers) and was a noted expert on Mahler and Schoenberg, Weber, et al., all of whom he knew personally. He and his wife had a daughter, Marion, who became a well-regarded pianist. She married Lord Harewood, with whom she had three children, the youngest of whom, Jeremy Lascelles, is CEO of Chrysalis Music (music publishing again) in London. Following a rather newsworthy divorce, Marion then married the Liberal politician, Jeremy Thorpe. So, through subsequent marriages, the grandchildren of Mahler's transcriber are in line to the British throne. That set of musical "connections" aside, I'll return to the recording!
The notes provided by Avie are not very clear about the forces used, but everything else about this CD is well-nigh perfect. The sound quality, especially noting that this is a "live" recording, is, frankly, ashtonishingly lifelike - one of the best "red book" CDs I have ever heard. The conductor, Douglas Boyd, has gone for clarity and the soloist, Kate Royal, has gone on to become one of the UK's leading singers.
In summary, this interesting "ghost" Mahler 4 is essential listening!