DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 cond. by Chailly, Blu-ray (2013)

An excellent performance with great surround and interesting extras, including the playing of Mahler's own Welte roll of a movement from the Fourth.

Published on June 13, 2013

MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 cond. by Chailly, Blu-ray (2013)

Performers: Gewandhausorchester of Leipzig; Conductor: Riccardo Chailly; Soprano: Christina Landshamer
Studio: Accentus Music ACC10257 (Distr. by Naxos) [4/22/13]
Video: 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English, German
Length: 61:14 (88 minutes with extras)
Rating: Audio: ****       Video ****      Performance: *****

The Mahler 4th Symphony was written in 1899-90 and is sometimes referred to as “A child’s vision of heaven.” The first three movements are symphonic, the last features the song “Das himmlissche Leben” which is performed by soprano Christina Landshamer.

Like all Mahler symphonies, the 4th is dynamic yet subtle, and the 3rd movement was described by Mahler himself as the “Greatest mix of colors that ever existed”. If you listen you’ll likely be inclined to agree. Mahler symphonies are very well suited for the  high resolution medium and the recording on this Blu-ray is first rate. It’s not a close-up Telarc style recording, but very natural, with the surrounds getting room ambiance and applause from the live audience. The video is crisp and the recording is well lit in the performing venue in Leipzig.

Riccardo Chailly is one of the finest living Mahler interpreters, and has done especially fine performances on Blu-ray of the Mahler 2nd and 8th Symphonies.

This disc contains some excellent bonus features, including Chailly talking about interpreting the 4th Symphony. It’s an extensive talk, and it is subtitled in English and German. There is also a short piece on the Welte-Mignon piano player device, a sort of very sophisticated piano roll device. Mahler actually sat down at the Welte-Migon and performed a movement of the 4th, which is reproduced here. The device is quite a complicated contraption, but the playback is surprisingly musical. [Mahler’s own roll can be heard on other CD releases, but it is really interesting to see the mechanism (the “vorsetzer”) pushed up to a grand piano and actually playing it on the screen...Ed.]

There just aren’t any faults with the production or the performance. I can’t think of a better way to appreciate the seductive Mahler 4th than this, and the unusual bonus features make it even a more worthwhile purchase.

—Mel Martin




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