Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (CD review)

Plus introductory comments. Juliane Banse, soprano; Giuseppe Sinopoli, Dresden Staatskapelle. Profil PH07047.

This doesn't sound like a recording.  It sounds for the most part like real music. Unfortunately, as with any live music, you have to take it warts and all.  The Profil engineers made this disc from a live, 1999 radio broadcast. While the sound has a wonderfully spacious quality, with plenty of dynamic contrast, stage breadth, and orchestral depth, it also has its fair share of audience noises, including the inevitable applause at the end. Still, it might be worth it for the remarkable liveness of the experience.

The late Dr. Sinopoli generally gave his listeners their money's worth, namely length, and it works in Mahler's Fourth. The Fourth Symphony wears its heart on its sleeve, so to speak, and conductors as varied as Klemperer, Haitink, Szell, Abbado, and Reiner have given us their own very special and very different interpretations. Sinopoli offers up every repeat, elongates every phrase, and plays up every pause in the work, yet it never sounds odd or contorted as, say, Klemperer's reading does in part. In fact, Sinopoli's performance is exceptionally moving and always involving.

I was not quite as taken, though, with the integration of soprano Juliane Banse's voice with the orchestra in the final movement. I could never quite locate her exact position on stage, her voice seeming oddly out of place, slightly too big for the occasion. Nor did I find her voice as angelic or childlike as I prefer for the role. Nevertheless, she makes a touching contribution to the work's close.

In addition to the Fourth Symphony, Dr. Sinopoli offers up about seventeen minutes of comments (with musical excerpts) on the Symphony, comments which, according to the booklet note, originally prefaced his performance of the piece. However, the commentary is in German, so unless you speak the language you'll have to read some of the booklet-note translations to know what's going on.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa