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Mahler: Symphony No 4 / Tennstedt, SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden


Release Date: 10/18/2005 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 5039   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Eva Csapó
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Klaus Tennstedt completed a cycle of the Mahler symphonies for EMI in the decade between 1977 and 1986; in addition, he recorded Das Lied von der Erde and selections from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the latter with Lucia Popp, who was his soloist in the Mahler Fourth. The performances included on this new Profil CD were recorded in 1976, just five years after the conductor had left East Germany to begin his (deservedly) successful career in the West.

Tennstedt excelled in the more pastoral and lyrical elements in Mahler’s music, which were most congenial to the warmth of his conducting style. The Fourth would seem to be just his glass of beer, but the EMI recording was a mixed blessing: I characterized the first movement as
Read more “breathless” in my review in 25:2 of the reissued re-master. In listening more recently, I find tremendous enthusiasm in this movement but just a touch of glibness, too: the hectic pace tends to smooth out the rough patches—just where one wishes he would linger a bit. Nevertheless, I found (and still find) much to admire in the remainder of the performance, judging the estimable Ms. Popp to be “characterful and animated” in the finale. The sound is on the light side, though much less turbid in the re-mastered version than in the original recording.

Sound is one area of difference immediately noticeable in the “new” performance: a wide-open and airy, though slightly reverberant, soundstage, with notable instrumental definition and decent (though somewhat undefined) bass, altogether sounding very fresh for its age. The sleigh bells in the opening (and throughout the movement) are over-prominent, but in general this first movement feels less fleet of pace than in the later recording (though it’s only a few seconds longer). Tennstedt, in his younger persona, conducts with the same enthusiasm but with more brashness and spirit, and seems to revel in the freshness of Mahler’s invention. The second movement is again delightful, with a slightly higher Mephisto quotient than in the subsequent performance.

In keeping with his overall conception, Tennstedt’s third movement is fluid and doesn’t linger, the timing about a minute and a half shorter than in his London performance: emotion registers in dynamic levels and in emphasis rather than in pace. The sound in this movement is less than pristine, as some roughness and distortion enter; the timpani in the “heavenly gates” music sound a bit flat and ill defined. Tennstedt’s conducting of the limping finale is very effective, perfect preparation for the naive song that follows. Eva Csapó is an engaging soloist, but she is placed quite forward in the mix, pushing the accompaniment into the background, only to have it resurface furiously between verses, until the more meditative ending. As with the EMI recording, this one is somewhat of a mixed bag, but its good points outweigh the negative, and an alternate performance from such a sympathetic artist is always—or should be—welcome.

The recording of the three selections from Des Knaben Wunderhorn was made a month before that of the symphony. The reason for these particular excerpts escapes me, with the exception of “Das irdische Leben,” which provides a perfect complement to the finale of the Fourth. Both “Rheinlegendchen” and “Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?” receive delightfully characterized and spirited renditions from Ms. Csapó. It seems a pity that Tennstedt was never engaged to record the whole set, either with Ms. Csapó or with Bernd Weikl and Ms. Popp, who are heard in the selections released by EMI (including a splendid “Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?” from Ms. Popp).

I can safely recommend this disc to admirers of Klaus Tennstedt, who will doubtless require little prodding to acquire it; in addition, I can happily recommend it to all Mahlerians.

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria 
2. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: no 5, Das irdische Leben by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Eva Csapó (Soprano)
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1893; Hamburg, Germany 
3. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: no 7, Rheinlegendchen by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Eva Csapó (Soprano)
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1898; Hamburg, Germany 
4. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: no 4, Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Eva Csapó (Soprano)
Conductor:  Klaus Tennstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1898; Hamburg, Germany 

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