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Mahler: Symphony No.4 [Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig] [Accentus: ACC10257] [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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“The greatest mix of colours that ever existed” was Gustav Mahler’s description of the third movement of his Fourth Symphony. Riccardo Chailly, one of the most adept interpreters of Mahler of our time, and the Gewandhaus Orchestra transformed the entire Fourth Symphony into this kaleidoscope of sound.
The unmistakable timbre of the orchestra has become synonymous with late Romantic repertoire and Mahler-esque style – it was described by Der Tagesspiegel as “uncommonly present, even in the thread-fine pianissimo, compact, concentrated, satin”. Once more, the connection between Chailly, the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Mahler proved to be exceptional: The way Chailly “moulded the music, which is so familiar to him, with loving gestures, confidently alluding to a thousand subtle details, allowing the orchestra to rise and fall – that is perfect.”
Picture Format BD:Blu-ray, FULL HD
Sound Formats BD: PCM Stereo, DTS HD Master Audio
Region Code: 0 (worldwide)
Running Time: 61:14 min
Running Time Bonus: approx. 16 min
Disc Format: BD 25
Subtitles: German, English, French, Japanese
Subtitles Bonus: German, English
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 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.
of Bluray recordings,where I can watch conductors perform
Chailly last tackled this symphony 11 years ago. It is, he confesses on the accompanying interview, 'unfinished business'. In truth, how could anyone settle on a final reading of this work? Chailly brings the plurality of the piece to bear on this performance, fusing 'neo-Classical' detachment and an almost Elgarian sense of space and nobility.
The Gewandhausorchester is a superb instrument for exploring these contrasts. A really bouncy string spiccato and nimble woodwind, though never overplayed, give a requisite dose of acid, while the third movement is a model of Apollonian grace and restraint. They play up the 'Humoreske' elements of the work, while never denying its heart.
Chailly and the orchestra are also wonderfully clear throughout (mirrored in Accentus' on-the-ball camera work). Contrapuntal lines tell within often-complex textures, as opposed to the lusher plusher recording Chailly fashioned during his time at the Concertgebouw. Evident of this is the really spry quality Christina Landshamer brings to the final movement, effortlessly graceful with cheekily vivid diction.
Whether Chailly, or even Mahler, attains resolution within the finale's decidedly strange view of heavenly life remains unclear. Pitched somewhere between the certainty of the 3rd Symphony and the even more plural language of the 5th, Mahler 4 is anything but conclusive. But in this jostling and vivid performance, Chailly and his excellent Leipzig musicians remain wonderfully alive to all interpretative possibilities.
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