MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G Major
Rosa Mannion, soprano; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch/Gerard Schwarz, cond.
CLASSICO 1601 (F) (DDD) TT: 58:12

This is the second volume, released in the UK last year, of all the Mahler symphonies on the Royal Liverpool’s own label, conducted by Gerard Schwarz (of late, as this is written, under attack by 2/3rds of the “voting members” of the RLPO – a situation still to be resolved by the Board as this is written). Meanwhile, although yet to be received, Schwarz and the RLPO have completed their 2004 installment, the Symphony No. 6.

The heart of this performance is the “Ruhevoll” slow movement, not that the rest is deficient or underplayed by any means. It is very much in the interpretive tradition of the piano roll excerpt that Mahler himself made – a painstaking reproduction of the composer’s myriad of markings that nonetheless sound spontaneous. In fact, it is a very beautiful performance with, however, a single caveat – the soprano soloist, one Rosa Mannion, whenever she sings out in the final movement. The lady’s soft tone is satisfactory, but her sound shrills under pressure and she has some recurring pitch problems on C2, E2, and G-sharp1. Ms. Mannion is not unlistenable, but one does wish another soprano had been recruited from outside Liverpool.

Elsewhere the recording as well as the playing is outstanding, with first and second violins divided, and with a flow that reaches its climax in the great E-major outburst near the end of the slow movement. There Schwarz’s timing is just one second short of 22 minutes, compared for example with Fritz Reiner’s 19:07 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance overall 4:31 faster than Schwarz’s 58:12, which strikes me as just about ideal.

There are literally two to three dozen versions available, not counting the recent San Francisco Symphony in Tilson Thomas’ sämtlich series likewise in progress (which R.E.B. reported lasts 62 minutes!). Mahlerites are likely to have at least one, perhaps more given the range of conductors and orchestras over a 50-year period, but should not overlook at least an audition of this one. Even though the solo oboe has a flat, virtually vibrato-less sound I cannot get used to, I plan to keep this version along with Reiner (which will give detectives an idea wherefrom I come, Mahler-Fourth-wise).

R.D. (May 2004)

R.D. (April 2004)