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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
CD 1
Symphony No.4 in G (1900) [54.19]
Symphony No.8 in E flat 'Symphony of a Thousand' (1907) Part One [24:37]
CD 2
Symphony No.8 in E flat 'Symphony of a Thousand' (1907) Part Two [57:57]
Lucia Popp (soprano) (Symphony 4); Elizabeth Connell, Edith Wiens, Felicity Lott (sopranos); Trudeliese Schmidt, Nadine Denize (altos), Richard Versalle (tenor), Jorma Hynninen (baritone), Hans Sotin (bass), David Hill (organ)
London Philharmonic Choir; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
rec. 20-24 April 1986, Walthamstow Town Hall; 8-10 October 1986, Westminster Cathedral.
Experience Classicsonline

These most fascinating, if rather uneven, recordings of Mahler’s Fourth and Eighth Symphonies. Tennstedt captures a wonderful delicacy and dancing quality at opening of the Fourth. Although he lingers lovingly on the pauses and tenutos, it is nonetheless an impulsive first movement overall. He brings the second movement In gemachlicher Bewegung - Ohne Hast to life with some very vivid bird and woodland noises. He follows this with an extremely intense, sombre, and serious Ruhevoll, full of yearning, where he contrast the dark and brooding solemnity with occasional light romantic touches. Lucia Popp is the excellent soloist for Sehr behaglich, and Tennstedt obtains a translucent sound from the London Philharmonic.
Having taken Fourth at a decent enough pace, Tennstedt now launches into a Veni, creator spiritus that is just too fast, losing the majesty of that wonderful opening. It is good to have a sense of momentum in this piece, but this is just too rushed, too garbled. This is compounded by the soloists … and also by the rather hard and harsh sound, which rather lacks warmth. Although the soloists are good singers, they come across here as wail-y and wild, and the sense is that of an impending lack of control, as if the horses are running away with the cart. Although some may find this exhilarating, to my ear it was too brash – to the extent that the fourth movement Accende lumen sensibus is almost cacophonous – a wall of wild sound rather lacking in beauty. And yet, by the time we reach the fifth movement, we are caught up in it and the exhilaration finally ensnares one. In Gloria, Patri Domino – with its histrionic Wagnerian soprano and mighty organ, we have the incredibly un-English scenario of an English choir and orchestra singing and playing as if these were the last notes they were ever going to sing on earth. Taken still at a dashing pace, Tennstedt leads this raucous, fervent, fervid, manic music-making to a staggering climax.
After this driven – almost to the extent of being uncontrolled - first part, Part Two arrives with a great shock for the listener as Tennstedt creates a tremendous atmosphere of spaciousness and desolation at start of Waldung, sie schwankt heran. Curiously enough, despite this appropriate air of bleakness, Tennstedt fails to plumb the depths of despair something that other conductors do achieve in this movement. At its very best, this movement can feel as though your heart is going to drop out of your ribcage, but Tennstedt doesn’t really make it work and the movement doesn’t, alas, hang together. The remainder of Part Two is just rather unfocused – strange.
Although this is not a version I would unhesitatingly recommend, it is most certainly one that contains some incredible, and intriguing, effects, and is worth a hearing at the very least, for curiosity value if nothing else!
Em Marshall
EMI Great Recordings of the Century reviews


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