concerts at his Society for Private
Musical Performances have gone down
in the annals of history for their ground-breaking
programmes. Amongst the many new works
was this arrangement of Mahler's Fourth
Symphony by a Schoenberg pupil, Erwin
Stein. It is heard here in a reconstruction
by Alexander Platt. The original instrumental
parts have disappeared, so Platt used
Stein's annotated full score.
It is a remarkable
exercise, rather like hearing a vivid
dream of Mahler 4 through the prism
of Schoenberg's First Chamber Symphony.
Of course there is the added transparency;
almost guaranteed, you will hear figuration
you will have missed in the full version.
The added emphasis on voice-leading
means that one can appreciate Mahler's
expert skills anew.
There is frequent delicacy
to the textures, a facet emphasised
by the Mancunians' unfailingly musical
response to the arrangement. The surfacing
of a piano from time to time may come
as a surprise. It is used most effectively
to underline pizzicati, as most obviously
in the second movement. Reallocation
of solos may raise the occasional eyebrow;
the horn solo at around 5'35 is taken
over by clarinet, for example.
will have less of an effect, but this
actually highlights a rather fairy-tale
atmosphere. But being Mahler this fairy-tale
has an adult undercurrent; there are
ominous shadows underlying this Wunderhorn
The slow movement almost
certainly poses the greatest challenges
for a chamber group. Sustaining the
intensity over such a period (20'48)
is no easy task. To his credit, Douglas
Boyd does not compromise on tempo -
it is daringly slow initially. As a
result the movement still carries the
emotional weight of the symphony. Some
of the scoring emerges as quite modern
and forward-looking, and there is a
surprising heft to the main climax (around
The famous vocal finale
emerges beautifully and naturally out
of this slow movement. Soprano Kate
Royal has an innocence all of her womanish
own. The slower segments of this movement
are positively luminous here; interesting
that some of the chordal sequences sound
like a harmonium. The line 'Kein Musik
ist ja nicht auf Erden' towards the
close is lovely here, if not as spiritually
uplifting as it can be.
Recommended. The recording
is superb and it is difficult to believe
this is a live performance, given the
overall excellence of instrumental response.
More than a curio, this Fourth has an
appeal and an impact all of its own.