Symphony No. 4
Carolyn Sampson (soprano); Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
BIS BIS-2356 (hybrid CD/SACD) 59:25 mins
This latest in the on-going Mahler symphony cycle from Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra has all the virtues of their much-praised previous releases of Symphonies Nos 1, 2, 5 and 6: brilliant playing from the Minnesota principals, spacious and crystal-clear recording from BIS enabling one to hear every detail of Mahler’s contrapuntal textures and exceptional care for matters of balance, dynamics and pacing of rests from Vänskä himself. Do these add up to a compelling reading?
Vänskä’s tempos are relatively laid back; as so often, he seems to aim more for long-term continuity than for the sensational detail – though he is quite capable of clinching a dramatic moment, as when the jubilant climax of Mahler’s first movement suddenly turns into a frightening snarl before, equally suddenly, dropping back into gemütlichkeit. Early audiences were puzzled by Mahler’s seemingly disparate mix of jolly neo-classicism, macabre scherzo music and serene Beethovenian variations, rounded off with a sophisticatedly naïve child vision of Heaven. By the time Carolyn Sampson’s touching delivery of the song-finale has reached its lullaby-like conclusion, all the work’s shocks and contrasts have resolved in this reading into a satisfying whole.