Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 4
Hans Vonk, cond; Esther Heideman (sop); Saint Louis SO
5186323 (56:41) Live: St. Louis 5/3–4/2002
This recording is one of a series of special CDs produced by the Saint Louis Symphony that preserves performances conducted by its 11th music director. Maestro Vonk personally selected the programs before his death in 2004, so they may be regarded as an important part of his recorded legacy. This is one of only two currently available Mahler symphony
recordings conducted by Vonk; a performance of Symphony No. 2 is available only as part of several large box sets.
Unlike some of Mahler’s music, the first movement of the Fourth is generally played at a faster pace than Mahler is known to have conducted it. In 1904, Mahler conducted in Amsterdam a first movement of 20 minutes’ duration. The genius of this movement is such that, at just over 17 minutes, Vonk’s performance never sounds impetuous or overly eager. He is attentive to Mahler’s actually quite complicated thematic scheme, producing an effective and enjoyable introduction to the piece.
In the second movement, the
violin isn’t quite as insinuating or crude as it might be. Christopher Warren-Gee for Zander on Telarc produces an especially nagging tone. The winds of the Trios caper and swoon by turns. “Ruhevoll” is a deceptive title, and Vonk (and his excellent orchestra) exploit the wide dynamic range of this third movement, producing truly thunderous fortissimos, the most impressive coming (appropriately) with the “heaven’s gates” music. Soloist Esther Heideman’s “Himmlische leben” is naively charming, and an altogether perfect coda to this performance.
The sound is bright, detailed, and spreads across a generous soundstage. This is a very fine performance, marred slightly by the overly eager audience, which interrupts the beatific calm of the ending with clamorous enthusiasm. It is, however, well merited.
Among relatively recent recordings, one can choose from Zinman’s low-priced RCA release in excellent SACD sound, Haitink’s sparkling, authoritative RCO Live version, also in SACD, or Zander’s Telarc CD, a bargain with its scintillating discussion disc. But listeners should not overlook this new recording by Hans Vonk, comprising as it does an idiomatic performance in more-than-adequate stereo sound.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Esther Heideman (Soprano)
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria
Length: 56 Minutes 31 Secs.
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