MAHLER Symphony No. 4. Blumine • Hartmut Haenchen, cond; Alexandra Coku (sop); Netherlands PO • BRILLIANT 93277 (63:04)
Hartmut Haenchen was the conductor at the formation of this orchestra in 1985, and I recall a couple of live Mahler recordings (the Sixth and Seventh) by these forces that were briefly available during the 1990s on the budget LaserLight label; there is currently a Mahler Fifth to be found as a full-price SACD on PentaTone. Given the dearth of production informationRead more available from Brilliant, I would place the date of this (digital) recording circa 1990.
The performance of the Fourth begins with a touch of textual fidelity: the rhythms of the bells and the entrance of the violins are independent of each other, a gesture ignored by many conductors (Zander is one of the few who observes it). The rest of the movement proceeds in like fashion, with a care for the rhythmic, dynamic, and thematic changes in Mahler’s scheme. Only the sound balance is a concern: generally full and vivid, the front-desk strings and winds are right up front, while the horns and trumpets are often too distanced, and some inner-voice detail is lost. The solo violin in the second movement is too timid and doesn’t insinuate so much as seem to be excusing its awkward character, and it is often overpowered by the winds. The performance, though, is on a par with the first movement, with shapely phrases and a lilting gait.
The slow movement is more expansive in comparison to the other three, but its deceptively peaceful character is well established; the climax at heaven’s gates is very impressively captured. Alexandra Coku is a skillful narrator for the child’s heavenly tour, her light-toned soprano the right blend of naiveté and authority. Blumine is a surprising encore, but an oddly appropriate one; detached from its erstwhile home in the First Symphony, it is a beguiling and welcome visit to another of Mahler’s dreamscapes. The cover painting for this CD, by Gustav Klimt, is another gesture of authenticity. Particularly at the Brilliant price, this is a worthy addition to any Mahlerite’s record shelf.