One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger



AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No.4 in G (1892-1900) [53.39]
Lisa Della Casa (soprano)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner
Recorded in 1958
RCA RED SEAL 82876 67901 2 SACD [53.39]

For an example of superlative recording and immaculate orchestral playing you could do an awful lot worse than turn to this 1958 recording.

However for an example of penetrating Mahler conducting you could do an awful lot better. There’s something Reiner says in his part of the booklet notes that perhaps gives an inkling as to why this may be so. It’s not simply that he never heard Mahler conduct, as did some of his slightly older contemporaries, or that he came rather later to his music than others. That may be important or it may not. But when speaking of Strauss, whom Reiner of course knew well, he describes him as the extrovert master of concentration and Mahler as the introvert, pregnant with premonitions and misgivings. Reiner, to be fair, was not a misgivings conductor, he was built in Strauss’s mould, in conductorial terms a route that derived from Nikisch - intense concentration, very small beat, no extraneous gesture. His Strauss was glorious but his Mahler circumscribed by his tastes and personality.

So, to be sure, this is a reading of great virtuoso competence; bass counter-themes in the first movement are perfectly weighted – and perfectly judged. The balancing of the string choirs is meticulous and the winds have been well drilled. Their solos are characterful, the first flute especially so, the percussion is marvellously clear, the strings lissom without effusion, without over much expressive gesture; certainly without any special emotional pleading. There’s a delicious rhythmic lilt enshrined in the second movement and once more superfine string playing. There’s a certain objective distance in the slow movement – not, it has to be said, detachment, but a sense of remove. He has Lisa Della Casa as an impressive soloist though she’s not one to challenge the leading exponents in this repertoire.

Ultimately the great gift of his clarity sometimes obscures ambiguity and duality in Reiner’s Mahler and this is, I think, a classic case of that weakness. That and an ambivalence that he so plainly harboured for a work he considered, even as he was recording it, "uneven." Even without his written comments one could judge from the performance that he sought to align its unevenness, to smooth out its latent diablerie, that, in the end, maybe inevitably, he failed to find what he defined as the symphony’s searching power.

Jonathan Woolf



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.