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Reviews: Mahler: Symphony No. 4 - Fischer

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Reviews: 6

Site review by Castor March 10, 2009
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by hiredfox March 12, 2009 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
There is no shortage of recordings of this most accessible and popular symphony of Mahler's on compact disc; even a growing list of excellent SACD recordings, the most recent and successful presented by Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam on RCO Live. An impressive list of award winning perormances has been joined now by Ivan Fischer and his Budapest Festival players with this eagerly awaited release.

My personal stand-out versions over the years have been Lorin Maazel's 1984 version with the Wiener Philharmoniker (CBS MK39072) and the even more impressive 1965 Severance Hall recording by the Cleveland Orchestra and George Szell (Sony SBK 46535) in which any listener not moved to tears by their languid interpretation of "Ruhevoll" would be stony-hearted indeed or already at peace. Mahler intended this symphony to be gentle and peaceful, did he not?

Ivan Fischer is certainly not that, every recording he makes is precise, measured and dramatic and this is precisely how his work with the Budapest Festival comes across in concert. His concerts are not mere performances they are major events and it is becoming that way for his recordings as well. So far he has recorded highly acclaimed versions of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony and No 6 for Channel Classics and there surely must be a momentum developing for Ivan Fisher to cover the whole set - certainly from me!

So what to make of this latest offering? From first to last I was utterly and totally transported to another place - the valleys of Austria I suppose - by the sheer beauty of the music making. Not a note out of place and as others have conceded a one-ness about the playing that is uncanny and erie. Do they ever make a mistake? Yet this is not merely technically perfect playing devoid of character or emotion. As each passage unfolded I was constantly swept by those waves of emotion that catch your breath and raise the hairs on your neck. At the end I was drained mentally and physically. This is an incredible performance, a triumph for Ivan Fischer and his Orchestra and a surefire best-seller and top recommendation.

The recording is a GEM, (in my opinion) probably the very best Hybrid-SACD to have been released yet and although I listen in Stereo rather than MCH, this was one of those very rare occasions when I would actually claim that this sounds exactly as one would ear it sitting at a live performance in the Place of Arts. What a triumph for Channel Classics and what vindication for DSD recording and the SACD replay format.

If you miss this disc, you will regret it for the rest of your life, believe me and if you don't know Mahler this is the nicest possible way of finding out... and yes, I will be playing it again today and tomorrow and...

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Review by JJ March 27, 2009 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
When Gustav Mahler first performed his fourth symphony in G major in Munich in 1901, the musical world was also abuzz from the first performances of Debussy's Three Nocturnes, Dvorak's Roussalka, Rachmaninov's Concerto N° 2 for Piano and Orchestra, and Enesco's Romanian Rhapsodies. With this third volume devoted to Mahler's symphonies, Ivan Fischer offers us an overwhelming vision of the fourth, making it his own. For, as he points out, "Mahler's Fourth Symphony has an incomparable purity and transparency. The beautiful sleigh bells take us to the inner world of his childhood, with his dreams of angels, his fairy tales, his anguish and pure love of god. For this naive symphony, a different orchestra is needed. Without basse tuba, powerful trombones or an arsenal of hefty brass, it is in fact a chamber orchestra in which the clarinets play like ironic trumpets, the solo violin is accorded one tone higher in order to frighten us, and the lightness of the entire orchestra lifts us to a charming and childlike vision of paradise." After listening to this invaluable recording, the effect is quite simply miraculous. Soloists' balance, perfectly natural phrasing, details of the musical discourse lifted up as never before, as if suspended in space: its all there, and the impression of purity and transparency transforms the tones heard into veritable sonic poetry. The soprano Miah Persson participates in this feast of the senses with a voice that is both soft and fragile. Insofar as the sound, despite a somewhat low-level recording, it is first-class DSD, allowing the acoustics of the venue to blossom and breathe naturally. A great, a truly great Mahlerian. Bravo!

Jean-Jacques Millo
Translation Lawrence Schulman

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Review by krisjan April 16, 2009 (10 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by Chris August 2, 2009 (4 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Anybody here wants a return ticket to HEAVEN?

Here is probably one of the best offers you could ever expect to get!

I am absolutely up in the clouds over this disc!

Here is why!

Ok ,first of all, I must admit that I too raised an eybrow or two at the first playing during those first bars .
But ”FOR HEAVENS SAKE!” don´t let that hold you back!

After that initial slight surprise , I just let go of any resistance and surrendered to the incomparable flow of the playing ,and let my myself be completely and unreservedly immersed in this wonderful music.

Every time I play it now I am in absolute BLISS.

The accentuated phrasing there , is now the wave that I ride into Mahler´s wonderfully childlike Heaven!!

Listening to the BFO playing Mahler on this disc is like a really relaxing, fruitful meditation to me.

This is really about catching the true spirit of a piece!

This recording does so in more ways than any other I have heard.

It transports me, everytime I hear it , effortlessly into that truly innocent, transcendental realm that Mahler´s Fourth symphony can reach when played with this kind of dedication.

This ”little” symphony is simply heavenly beautiful , and here it is played absolutely heavenly too.

Where some others here , hear and are apparently disturbed by what they refer to as ”micromanagment” and ”lack of spontanaety”,
I hear a World Class Orchestra on absolute PEAK FORM performing Mahler´s 4th with complete FLOW ,with a conductor who has obviously also taken the piece to his heart and performs it from there!

It leaves me REALLY GRATEFUL that a mere recording can deliver such a BLISSFUL experience.

The BFO really play as if they absolutely love this music.

It is really quite an intoxicating experience to hear music-making on a level as high as here!

This is an orchestra and a conductor too , who can really be compared with Karajan and his Berliners at their best in the 60s and 70s Anyday ! IMHO.

BFO´s and Ivan Fisher´s recordings of both Mahler´s 2nd and 6th are also very good and have given me lots of joy too.

What THIS recording of Mahler´s 4th does more than any other recording and live performance too for that matter,I have heard of this music, is to truly rise to and reveal its transcendental qualities.

Mahler at his best, had that unique capacity to make time itself ”stand still”, to transport you into an ever present HERE AND NOW.

Those qualities are very much at hand in this recording and by Mahler himself, taken to even further heights and depths in later symphonies as the 9th and above all in his maybe most sublimely transcendental, existentiell work of all.

”Das Lied von der Erde”.

Those , absolutely eternal cosmic ”Aum” vibrations of Das Lied are already hinted at here, in this version of Mahler´s 4th.

While I am at it,may I also ”pray” for a recording of Das Lied.. from Channel and Fisher and the BFO?

I know we have already got at least three or four different recordings of that work on SACD?

But if this latest offering from this ”Channel”, is anything to go by, and I really think it is, that could turn out to become the truly cosmic version Mahlerites like me have been waiting for.

And may I also add that there is to my knowledge no fully satisfying Mahler 9th on SACD IMHO.
Chailly leaves me rather cold .

I much prefer listening to Karajan´s first analogue version on LP.

A sublime set which also reaches truly transcendental heights musically.
I am almost ready to leave my physical body behind everytime I hear it.

The last movement of Mahler´s 9th or Der Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde would definitely be music I would like to hear before closing my eyes forever on this earthly existence!
Or Maybe, now that I have heard it, Miah Persson in the last movement of the 4th!

I know that we have got at least one good version from Reiner in Das Lied von der Erde, on SACD, and like his 4th I praised its arrival on SACD.

But with the Gates of Mahler´s wonderfully naive ”4th Heaven” now fully open,
I really ”have to eat my hat” regarding my own review here of Reiner´s version of the 4th .

Reiner now seems both rushed and even a bit superficial in the first two movements, Brecht´s ”Verfremdungseffekt” almost leaps to mind now!
Reiner really only ”peeps” into Mahler´s children´s Heaven in the last two movements in comparison.

Reiner belonged to the old VERY dictatorial , school of conductors who simply enforced HIS view of a piece on his players and compared to the BFO the Chicago symphony under Reiner ,sound note perfect as ever ,yes, but a bit lacking in soul and pure joy!

The BFO sound as if they are making music with Fisher, not under him!

But Lisa de la Casa still sounds very dedicated to me.

And of course , the late fifties sound is a bit congested and frankly a bit dated in comparison to the State of the Art sound offered by Channel Classics.

The latest ”Channelings” if I may be so bold as to call them so,from Jared Sacks and the BFO and Ivan Fischer seem to provide us music lovers not only with new levels of musical transcendence, but also absolutely stunningly realistic recordings.

Remember those absolutely erronous words from Gramophone when CDs were launched of ”a veil being lifted” and all that nonsense ?

FINALLY with SACD and THIS recording IN PARTICULAR : ”Hier wird´s Ereignis!”

This is probably as close as we can expect to get to the real thing in a recording with today´s technology.

I have to admit in retrospect, that in the early years of SACD, I was perhaps one of those here ,who was a bit too forgiving about the recording quality of some of the early Living Stereos .

They are still very good indeed by the standards of the late 50s´ and early 60s.

And musically some of them are still, what I would count as landmark recordings.

But I honestly think THIS record maybe even sets a new standard for recording quality in commercial digital recordings.


Via my system, I hear a completely open and totally unrestrained, seemingly equally unmanipulated , very clear, timbrally, tonally and dynamically absolutely truthful and wonderfully realistic rendering of a symphony orchestra playing in a VERY good hall.

And what an orchestra it is!!

What level of execution!

I doubt many other orchestras performing and recording today could match, or in many cases even get close to this level of perfection!

I am sure Mahler is smiling up there in his Heaven, HIS time has finally come!

Sound quality –wise, everything from the faintest ppp to the few fff passages is as natural and as resolved as I have ever heard in any recording, in memory.

I can as most of you must have noticed by now, be a bit ”hyper critical”, in my evaluation of the technical aspect of recordings when posting here.

But then again this is and we are talking SACDs so I think I have a right to demand the very best in those respects.

And believe me, I have tried to find something to fault here too !!!

But the fact is, I simply can´t find anything to fault!

Not musically!
Musically I´m definitely in Heaven with Mahler here, and certainly not recording-wise!

There is not even the faintest hint of colouration, congestion, distortion or digititis here that I can hear on my system at least.

There is not a single moment when I am made conscious of that anything has been unduly spotmiked or any other of all the ”cheap tricks” that I hear on too many other recordings.
This is one of the most transparent and truthful recordings of an orchestra ever made IMO.

Here I can simply ,forget about the sound and recording as such, and just spend blissful time in a timeless realm!

Sorry, I just happened to slip into Zen mood again there.

THE GREATEST GLORY OF ALL, MUSICALLY, the final movement, is graced by what IMHO must be one of the greatest sopranos of our days!

MIAH PERSSON´s heavenly voice is recorded and balanced with absolute perfection.

A truly angelic voice indeed.

And yes, I have heard her live.

I know her voice quite well.

She used to sing at the Stockholm Royal Opera House.

She will also sing in Mahler´s 2nd symphony in Stockholm in March 2010 under Kaplan.
If I am not wrongly informed.

I sure hope someone who really cares , will be there to record that performance !

Maybe not so much for what Kaplan might do ,but for Miah!

Her live voice really sounds exactly as pure, clean and sweet as recorded here!!

And not only is it incredibly pure ,clean and beautiful .

The way she actually sings Mahler here gives all the competition I have heard at least,a very real challenge indeed.

Lisa de la Casa was undoubtedly very good under Reiner and Edith Mathis under both Karajan and Bernstein was also good.

Less mannered under Bernstein than Karajan IMO.

Under Karajan I guess very often ,one also simply did exactly what one was told to do!
And if he wanted her to sing Mahler as if she was singing an opera aria he got it.
But Miah Persson is IMO in a class of her own , simply a cut above any competition I have heard live or recorded.

Did I mention Angelic ??

A couple of years ago she sang Pamina at the Stockholm Opera.

Unfortunately in one of those absolutely ridiculous , modern settings where she had been turned into a red haired punk girl!

I didn´t even recognize her until she started singing!

And that glorious voice soared effortlessly as ever, upwards towards me!

She is really a natural Swedish blonde!

And when Pamino stood there looking at her portrait and then at her referring to Pamina´s blonde hair as stated in the libretto ,I think even he had to stop himself from laughing out loud at the short- haired red-haired punk in front of him.

Mind you, the Prince was a bit of a punk himself, but Papageno was wearing a top hat!

But I guess , that is what you have to be prepared for, more often than not, if you go to the opera these days.

But when I closed my eyes and just listened to her voice as Pamina it was absolutely heavenly !!!!!!!!!

And so it is in this recording!!!!!!!

I can hardly wait to hear her in Haydn´s Creation which I have on order.

Who knows,maybe she will even de-throne Gundula Janowitz?

So once again , if you want to spend time with Mahler in Heaven ?

You´d be be hard pressed to find better company than Miah.

I at least , know of very few,or better ways than to listen to the SACD layer of this wonderful disc!

Both musically and as a recording ,I honestly think this record sets a new reference standard for this work.

And I heartily recommend it as one of the VERY BEST RELEASES ON SACD SO FAR!

One of my absolute ”DESERT ISLAND SACDs”
ps If I could I would add several more stars for both performance and sound!

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Review by Luukas January 15, 2015 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Gustav Mahler's Fourth Symphony is different work in many ways. His previous Symphony, number three in D minor, was spectacular composition: it contains six movements, and very large orchestra.
Symphony No. 4 in G major is the last work in Mahler's "Wunderhorn season". Its last movement - which is written for soprano and orchestra - uses texts from "Der Knaben Wunderhorn" [The Boy's Magic Horn] collection. It tells how the little boy sees heaven: St. Ursula laughs and St. Peter fishing.
Anyway, Ivan Fischer's Mahler cycle for Channel is very good. Budapest Festival Orchestra is one of the best ensembles in Hungary, and they plays Mahler as they breathes it. 5.0 surround sound is impressive, it captures Palace of Arts acoustic naturally.
Fischer knows this score very well. He uses rubatos, and he bring his own interesting ideas to it. For example second movements sarcastic solo violin is amazing listening experience. The beautiful third movement is peaceful. Swedish soprano Miah Persson shines in the finale: her voice is clear and sweet.
Excellent purchase for all Mahlerians! Outstanding.

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