Every Mahler symphony offers endless possibilities for emotional depth and musical imagination, so what can one say about a reading like this one of the Fourth Sym. that starts at the beginning, reaches the middle, and comes to an end? There are no remarkable events along the way. Other than being a bit brisk, and a little breathless in the finale, Gielen has nothing to say. But of course, that is what he wants to say, that Mahler, in his mind, shouldn't be seductive, ravishing, dramatic, turbulent, conflicted, ironic, faux-naive, sentimental, or volcanic.
If you agree, here's the Mahler Fourth for you. Among so-called "objective" readings (Reiner, Szell, Boulez), it's neat, cleanly played, and pleasant. The soprano in the finale, Christine Whittlesey, has the right child-like voice, although she does little to dramatize a child's view of heaven. The orchestra plays middling well, and the recorded sound from 1988 is clear and natural (a virtue common to all of Gielen's Mahler cycle).
The generous 18 min. filler, a lush but not overblown Vorspiel by Franz Schreker, is linked to Mahler by anti-Semitism. Schreker had a Jewish father, amking him fair game for being banned under the Nazis, even thogh he was lucky to die in 1934 before turning sixty. His style is almost identical to Korngold's, if less flamboyant. Gielen does well by this soothing, impresisonistic score, which could also be described as pleasant.