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Mahler: Symphony No 4 / Upshaw, Dohnányi, Cleveland Orch

Release Date: 05/23/2008 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 440315   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Daniel MajeskeDawn Upshaw
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A quarter-century after producing George Szell's celebrated recording, Paul Myers has returned to Cleveland to set down Christoph von Dohnanyi's interpretation of a work which has been taped many times in the interim but rarely with such cool precision—and not at all, I think, in Cleveland. Certainly, neither of Lorin Maazel's recordings was made there, and it is his soft-centred echt Viennese account which has dominated the lists in recent years. The new Cleveland disc has a greater range and impact than the old, but Decca's sound, effective enough in its unremitting brightness, is not exactly state-of-the-art. I found it slightly constricted, with none of the seductive patina of Maazel's 1983 version and too much minutely observed Read more instrumental detail.

That said, this is probably the best yet in Dohnanyi's Mahler series. His first movement is much less heavily inflected than Leonard Bernstein's. But, for once, the more objective, Szell-like manner is not unsympathetic. It was after all the music's apparent simplicity, the stylized brightness of mood, which so confounded Mahler's contemporaries. There is no profound Weltschmerz here, neither a titanic struggle with, nor a resigned acceptance of, Death. Dohnanyi obtains excellent results by setting a sensible tempo, the jingle player rigidly in step as the first subject creeps in. Only the horns are not quite as disciplined as you might expect from this source. In the second movement, the menacing timbre of Freund Hein's fiddle is consciously emulated by Daniel Majeske; his 'ugly' nuances are not always well integrated into the line, and the trio sections, though full of detailed pointing, seem rather lacking in charm.

It is the slow movement which brings a real feeling of disappointment. There is plenty of carefully sustained string playing, but the distracting oddities of balance—plus such details as the horn fluff at 7'48'' (which could surely have been excised) and the 'inverted comma' glissandos (from 13'55'' ff)—ensure that we're never really inside the music. To turn to Maazel and the Vienna Philharmonic is to enter a different world. This is profoundly emotive music-making, the sonorities immaculately tailored, the sentiment all the more moving for its cool restraint. You may feel that Maazel has his faults: his tendency to slow up affectionately at phrase-endings limits the effectiveness of the outer movements and his interpretation of the Bedachtig marking of the first is more deliberate than many will like. So Dohnanyi's finale almost restores the balance. This is an extremely alert reading, with both conductor and soloist responsive to every nuance of the text. Though the orchestral accompaniment is not always as light and delicate as it might be, woodwind tone is wonderfully well matched at the start.

Coming hard on the heels of Sylvia McNair's more generalized rendition for Haitink, Dawn Upshaw is a demonstrative, almost unruly child; her intonation and enunciation are, moreover, flawless, with just the right hint of boyish vulnerability. More creamily beautiful than either, Kathleen Battle copes gamely with Maazel's exquisite torpor, but she can seem too much the coy seductress after Upshaw's breath of fresh air. However you rate Dohnanyi's performance in its entirety, this is another triumph for Upshaw, less so for the engineers whose microphones bring her a little close.

-- Gramophone [4/1994]
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Daniel Majeske (Violin), Dawn Upshaw (Soprano)
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/1992 
Venue:  Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio 
Length: 57 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Language: German 

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