Mahler: Symphony No. 4; Rückert-Lieder

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: EuroArts
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Rückert-Lieder
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kozená (mezzo-soprano); Lucerne Festival Orchestra/ Claudio Abbado


Claudio Abbado’s fourth recorded Fourth, if you see what I mean – his second on DVD – ought to come with an allergy warning if, like me, you have a big problem with how mezzo Magdalena Kožená looks and sounds. Singing the Rückert-Lieder with wild, staring eyes that make her interpretation seem a little mad, Kožená gets away with the little songs but not with the over-interpretationof the great big ones. And alas, the most wistful of cor anglais solos is followed by a declamation of ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ without line, and with a breath in the middle of the phrase. You’d pardon a promising student this, but not a performer on the world’s greatest concert platform.


Kožená is up to the same tricks at the end of the Fourth. Yet there’s no one – not even Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, whose Barbican performance recently sent me away impressed but less moved – who lifts the phrases so beguilingly (and without a baton) as does Abbado. You’ll never see a first movement done with bigger smiles or more wide-eyed wonder, nor the poco adagio heaven inflected as artistically as here from the master’s goodlooking love-in orchestra, filmed with ingenuity as always by Michael Beyer’s camera team. For the song-finale, maybe leap over to the luminous Juliane Banse on Abbado’s Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra performance (Medici Arts, another essential DVD), but come back for the most joyous curtain calls of the concert-hall world. David Nice