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Mahler: Symphony No. 4 / Sampson, Vanska, Minnesota Orchestra

Release Date: 01/03/2020 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 2356  
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Minnesota Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

In Gustav Mahler's first four symphonies many of the themes originate in his own settings of folk poems from the collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Horn). A case in point, Symphony No.?4 is built around a single song, Das himmlische Leben (The Heavenly Life) which Mahler had composed some eight years earlier, in 1892. The song presents a child's vision of Heaven and is hinted at throughout the first three movements. In the fourth, marked ‘Sehr behaglich’ (Very comfortably), the song is heard in full from a solo soprano instructed by Mahler to sing: ‘with serene, childlike expression; completely without parody!’ The symphony is scored for a typically large, late-romantic orchestra (though without trombones and tuba) and an Read more extensive percussion section which includes sleigh bells as well as glockenspiel. However, Mahler mostly deploys his forces with a transparency and lightness more akin to chamber music or eighteenth-century models like Mozart or Haydn. The Fourth has become one of his best-loved symphonies and is here performed by Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, joined by the angelic voice of English soprano Carolyn Sampson.



This is a difficult symphony to hold together and far too many performances are let down by indifferently realised finales. Vänskä connects it very well to the closing mood of the third movement, but an immense responsibility lies on the soprano soloist in the closing Das himmlische Liebe from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The Klemperer studio recording was fatally undermined by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf’s too-knowing, overly sophisticated, rendition: the work needs a mixture of radiance and simplicity – this is a child’s vision of heaven, with Saint Martha in the kitchen. I have never heard the piece as I hear it in my head, but Carolyn Sampson captures very much of the radiance, despite some darkness in the lower register and some indifferent articulation. Perhaps the ideal voice would be that of a younger Emma Kirkby, and she certainly performed the piece, notably with Norrington at the Carnegie in 2001, but, to the best of my knowledge, never recorded it.

The first two movements are splendidly realized, combining poetry with a sense of momentum, and just the right touch of the spectral in the soloist’s tuned-up violin in the second movement.

The quality of recording is beautifully clear – as one expects from BIS – and I like very much their robust, bio-friendly, slim packaging, a huge improvement on easily-broken jewel cases.

Make no mistake: this Mahler 4 ranks with the very best, and I shall return to it very often.

– MusicWeb International

This cast does not generate as dreamy, airy, wafting textures as those of Szell and Bernstein; the textures here are plainer but make something no less convincing: the matter-of-fact clarinet, the barely-poco-vibrato string tone, and Sampson’s warm but never sugary tone.

Some will complain that Vänskä still doesn’t conduct Mahler as we know and love; judging by only the second movement, I would agree. But for the rest, I find his approach perfectly subjective and cinematic. The outstanding recording quality and superb musicians combine with Vänskä’s light touch to make a wonderful addition to this cycle.

– TheClassicReview Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Minnesota Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Beautifully played and recorded! February 21, 2020 By Gail M. (Goleta, CA) See All My Reviews "My impression of this Mahler 4th performance simply is that it is as good or better than those on other recordings, but this sound is superior to any other I have heard. A very fine CD." Report Abuse
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