Mahler: Symphony No. 4

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Laura Claycomb (soprano); London SO/Valery Gergiev


Gergiev’s Mahler cycle received mixed reviews in the concert hall, the main complaint being a brashness and a tendency to emphasise the sensational at the expense of the contemplative. The Fourth Symphony is often a gentle creature, and the opening bodes well, with a tempo which is nicely gauged and relaxed.

Alas, much of the rest of the movement is driven too hard, and sometimes threatens to fall over itself. Phrases don’t always join up, and rubato is often laid on from outside rather than emerging naturally, as it does in Iván Fischer’s recent Budapest recording.

In contrast, the second movement is often too cautious, with the sometimes grotesque instrumental effects played down – the abrupt high wind interjections and the solo violin phrases are polite rather than startling, and it doesn’t really dance. The Adagio could almost be from a different performance: pacing is almost always emotionally precise, and sonorities rounded and well-judged, though the inevitable dryness of the Barbican acoustic robs the sound of the ultimate in richness.


There are some fine wind solos here, as there are in the finale, which, after a sluggish start, clicks into place. The child’s view of Heaven is delivered slightly too heavily by Laura Claycomb, and not always impeccably in tune: for Fischer, Miah Persson is ideal, and, with superb sound, that recording is the one to have. Martin Cotton