Classic Library - Mahler: Symphony No 4 / Levine, Et Al

Release Date: 4/20/2004
Label: Sony
Catalog Number: 82876594132
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: Judith Blegen
Conductor: James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1

Physical Format:

CD
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


MAHLER Symphony No. 4 James Levine, cond; Judith Blegen (sop); Chicago SO RCA 59413 (57:58)


Gustav Mahler’s symphonies can work with so many different approaches (unlike the symphonies of most composers) that to pick any one recording of any of the symphonies and call it a “classic” is inviting argument and trouble, yet this specific recording of this particular symphony certainly qualifies in my book. Made in 1976, it has withstood not only the challenges of virtually every recording that came after it but has superceded most of its predecessors.


It took me several decades to realize that James Levine took his inspiration for this performance from the very odd recording of this symphony by Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Mengelberg slows down certain passages, especially in the first movement, so much that the motor rhythm practically stops, and this has been heavily criticized over the years, but he also imbued the music with an almost demonic intensity that took it away from the placid overview of the symphony as “a child’s view of heaven” and placed it into another realm. Levine borrowed the intense aspects of Mengelberg’s vision, but played the symphony in tempos much closer to those prescribed by Mahler, with the result being this classic of the phonograph.


Judith Blegen, though a fine and very musical soprano, does not have the finest voice for this music (that honor goes to Kathleen Battle, in her CBS recording with Lorin Maazel), yet she is quite good, and the overall impact of this recording is such that all subsequent interpretations are compared to it. That, in itself, qualifies this recording as Hall of Fame material.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
1. Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Performer: Judith Blegen (Soprano)
Conductor: James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1892-1900 ; Vienna, Austria
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