Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (CD review)

Adrian Leaper, Orquesta Filarmonica de Gran Canaria. Arte Nova 74321-46506-2.

What do you mean you've never heard of the Gran Canaria Philharmonic before? Gran Canaria is the principal island in the Canary Island group, and its orchestra has been in existence since 1845. The remarkable thing about this little-known ensemble is how very good they are. They may not sound as lush or opulent as the Berlin Philharmonic or the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, but they play with a polish and precision that puts a lot of other famous ensembles to shame. Their rendition of the Mahler Fourth under conductor Adrian Leaper is quite almost as good as any on the market and comes at a budget price to boot.

Adrian Leaper
Leaper's interpretation is fairly direct, reminding me slightly of Haitink's performances. There is little room in the bucolic Fourth for too much flamboyance, anyway, and Leaper directs his group on a properly straightforward, if not particularly imaginative, course. The first and third movements are appropriately idyllic, but I admit I would have liked a little more sinister excitement in the second movement and perhaps a touch more childlike purity from soprano Hellen Kwon in the finale. Otherwise, the reading nicely conveys Mahler's quasi-religious moral intentions in an honest manner.

Arte Nova recorded the work in 1996, two years before David Zinman and his Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich would put Arte Nova on the map with their outstanding Beethoven cycle. The sound of the Mahler is ultra clean and fairly clear, its only drawback being a certain lack of resonant hall ambiance to give the production some extra degree of realism. Still, it outclasses a lot of its more costly competitors, even though one must consider that the Szell recording on Sony (and remastered splendidly by HDTT) is only a couple of dollars more and far more affecting.

As of this writing I had also heard Leaper's fine recordings of Mahler's Third, Fifth, and Seventh Symphonies, and I understand Arte Nova have made most of the rest available, too. It is a series at least to consider.


To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

Mission Statement

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.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa