Mahler: Symphony No. 4

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Sarah Fox (soprano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Charles Mackerras

Charles Mackerras’s version with the Philharmonia is physically and intellectually much more engaging, and superbly recorded. Repeatedly things catch the ear and impress with their rightness. The abrupt, non-transition back to the main theme in the first movement comes as the kind of jolt Mahler surely had in mind. The deliciously abrasive solo violin tone in the scherzo also feels just right.
Mackerras’s understanding of the slow movement as a set of variations that keeps losing the plot is conveyed brilliantly, and again thoroughly apt. So too is the recaptured sense of the underlying weirdness of the ‘Heavenly’ song-finale. So often it’s a case of ‘good point, well made’, and yet equally often the emotional frisson doesn’t follow. If a Mahler performance succeeds it should hurt as well as delight. This doesn’t really do either, despite providing plenty of food for thought – and how many of us go to Mahler solely for that? For much of what Mackerras offers, and so much more, go to Iván Fischer on Channel Classics. Stephen Johnson