One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews



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


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1


Cantatas and Organ Works

Complete Songs

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Simone Dinnerstein piano



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 4 in G major (arr. Erwin Stein) [51:17]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Nuits d’Été
(arr. David Matthews) [28:34]
Heather Shipp (mezzo)
Orchestra of The Swan/David Curtis
rec. live, 25 March 2009, Birmingham Town Hall. DDD
Original texts and English translations included

Experience Classicsonline

In 1919 Arnold Schoenberg and a group of like-minded individuals, including Alban Berg and Anton Webern, established The Society for Private Musical Performance in Vienna. As Christopher Morley puts it in his useful booklet note, this was “in the nature of a concert-giving commune”. The aim was to put on good performances of modern works and, in the case of substantial orchestral scores, to present the music in arrangements for piano or chamber ensemble. This was at a time when access to large-scale pieces was particularly limited since the public of the day didn’t enjoy the access to music through broadcasts or recordings that we now take for granted. So the arrangements of orchestral pieces made for the Society performed the same function as piano arrangements of, say, the Beethoven symphonies had been doing for decades in terms of making music more widely available. The Society existed until 1921 and in those three years or so it put on 117 concerts, encompassing 154 works.
One of the arrangements was Erwin Stein’s reduction of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. Stein’s scoring requires flute, oboe, clarinet (all with the usual doublings), piano (four hands), percussion, string quartet, double bass and harmonium. It will be noted that among the instruments missing are bassoon, harp and timpani. The piano and harmonium fill in a lot of the harmonies.
I was pretty sure that I‘d heard this arrangement before and it transpired that I’d reviewed its first-ever recording, an Australian production, back in 2003. Looking back at that review - but only after I’d completed my listening to this SOMM release - I see that I wrote the following: 
“I must admit to some ambivalence about this recording. I find the reduced scoring by turns enlightening and frustrating….[the liner note] argues that this version imparts a unique transparency to Mahler’s lines, allowing many details to come through with far greater clarity than is possible in the full scoring. To some extent I’d agree….I’ll admit there’s a certain piquant fascination in spotting where familiar lines have been reallocated (and, on first hearing, in trying to guess which of the instruments will get a particular solo, normally played by an absent instrument.) However, the reduced scoring robs us of Mahler’s complicated but very finely calculated orchestral palette. Consequently, I’m bound to say that I found more instances of frustration than of enlightenment when listening.  

For much of the time the re-scoring is surprisingly effective, no doubt because this symphony has the lightest orchestration of all the nine. However, to make perhaps the most obvious point of all, it’s the climaxes that really suffer. Worst of all is the great moment of fulfilment at the climax of the third movement. Here, above all, I felt short-changed. The sun just doesn’t burst through the skies here - how one misses the pounding timpani and pealing horns!” 

My listening notes for this Somm performance show that I haven’t really changed my mind. The first movement, which David Curtis takes at a lively pace, sounds somewhat brittle - and I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense - and the more grotesque aspects of Mahler’s writing come out well. There’s also a good rustic feel to the second movement, especially from the use of the clarinet. Overall, however, for my taste there’s too much unrelenting perkiness in the sound of these two movements. The heavenly third movement features a lovely cello line at the beginning - beautifully played here - but although there are passages of real felicity there’s no escaping the fact that the climax sounds puny. Mahler’s rapt conclusion comes off well. However, there’s a certain frisson when one hears a full orchestra playing as softly as they can at the end of this movement - and in other places - and a chamber ensemble can’t quite replicate that. The reduced scoring perhaps works best in the finale. Heather Shipp is a mezzo and her voice is quite rich. Her timbre prevents her from conveying the light, innocent naivety that the best sopranos bring to this music. In fact her voice is somewhat out of scale with the instrumental scoring.
The playing by the members of the Orchestra of The Swan is very fine indeed; there’s no hiding place in a score like this and under David Curtis’ leadership they make the best possible case for this arrangement. To my mind, however, Stein’s version is now just a curiosity. Though it fulfilled a useful purpose at the time it’s now of its time and no substitute for the real thing, which can be accessed so easily these days. In fairness, however, I ought to say that others have been more enthusiastic about the Stein arrangement than me. Readers are referred to a review of a rival recording by Colin Clarke. His verdict was: “More than a curio, this Fourth has an appeal and an impact all of its own.”
Rather to my surprise I felt that the arrangement by David Matthews of Nuits d’Été was more successful. The reduction was made in 2005 for an ensemble called Sinfonia VIVA. Matthews re-scores the work for wind quintet, string quintet and harp. On reflection, after listening, I came to the conclusion that perhaps the Matthews arrangement works better than Stein’s because, unlike Stein, he doesn’t actually omit any instruments that Berlioz used. The original scoring calls for double wind and three horns besides strings. So although some of Berlioz’s notes may be missing we hear, in a reduced form, the timbres to which we’re used. It’s worth saying also that Matthews has expanded the role of one instrument. In Berlioz’s original the harp is only involved in the second song but Matthews has written a part for it in three more.
I think that Heather Shipp’s voice is more suited to these songs than to the Mahler. She may not have at her disposal the range of vocal colours that the greatest interpreters have brought to Nuits d’Été and her words are not always ideally clear but I enjoyed her performance - for instance she brings fine feeling to ‘Absence’. I think Matthews’ scoring brings a nice degree of intimacy to much of the music. However, something of the oppressive quality of ‘Sur les lagunes’ is lost and ‘L’Île inconnue’ - the only song in which Berlioz deploys all three horns, incidentally - sounds a bit thin and misses something of the excitement of Berlioz’s writing. As in the Mahler, the instrumentalists play splendidly.
The performances were recorded in concert. The audience is commendably silent though there is applause after both works, which I know bothers some collectors.
In the end I think this is a specialist release. However, if you’re more attracted by hearing ‘Mahler lite’ than I am then this disc is well worth investigating.
John Quinn 

Masterwork Index: Mahler 4
















































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

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.