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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 4 (1892-1895) [53.29]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 -1949)
Burleske (1885-1886) [20.09]
Lisa della Casa (soprano)
Byron Janis (piano)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner
recorded in 1958
RCA RED SEAL 09026 64002 2 [73.38]


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Fritz Reiner was a close associate of both Strauss and Bartók in both of whose music he excelled. He controlled his Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1953 to 1962 with a despotic rod of iron. He was genuinely feared in a way in which he would not have got away with today. He came to Chicago after spells in Pittsburgh and at the New York Met.

His Chicago players shine in this recording of Mahler's Fourth. There are some splendid solo spots among the winds and brass for example. Reiner brings a subtle sense of detail to his interpretation, always maintaining a grip on its architectural structure and the progress of its ideas. The colourful scoring in this last of the three so-called Wunderhorn symphonies is no better exemplified than in the development section of the first movement. The forward sound of the recording highlights all solos regardless of orchestral placement. It really is an impressive technological transfer using RCA's 24-bit/96kHz Sound Dimension to enhance the brilliance. The Swiss soprano Lisa della Casa enjoyed a massively successful career as an exponent of Mozart and Strauss. She does not always sound at her best here, some soft floating top notes hinting at unsupported tremolo (to describe it as a 'wobble' would be unfair). Occasional adjustment of the focus of her pitch is clearly audible - maybe modern technology has done her no favours here. But this is a recording worth its weight in gold for the stylish Reiner and the exemplary playing of the CSO.

The single-movement Strauss Burleske is not a work one hears too often, and that is a matter of regret for it is a sparklingly attractive piece. In his early twenties, and here predating the tone poems, Strauss is at his most colourful and witty in music which anticipates his Till Eulenspiegel. The Burleske was written for the pianist Hans von Bülow, but dedicated to its first performer Eugen d'Albert after Bülow found the piano part unmanageable. No such problems for Janis, who plays it with suitable panache and effortless control. Listen out for a hint of 'Somewhere' from Bernstein's West Side Story, among all the Brahms and Liszt that is.

Christopher Fifield



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