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Mahler: Symphonie No. 4

Trevor Pinnock

Mahler: Symphonie No. 4

...reigniting Schoenberg's vision
CKD 438 (Linn Records)
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Tracks: Listen and Download

Format
Track Time Listen
1
Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune

Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune

Composer Claude Debussy
Conductor Trevor Pinnock
Band Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble
Arranger Benno Sachs
10:39 Play $5.10
2
Symphonie No. 4 - I. Bedachtig, nicht eilen

Symphonie No. 4 - I. Bedachtig, nicht eilen

Composer Gustav Mahler
Conductor Trevor Pinnock
Band Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble
Arranger Erwin Stein
15:59 Play $6.85
3
Symphonie No. 4 - II. In gemachlicher Bewegung, ohne Hast

Symphonie No. 4 - II. In gemachlicher Bewegung, ohne Hast

Composer Gustav Mahler
Conductor Trevor Pinnock
Band Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble
Arranger Erwin Stein
08:53 Play $3.40
4
Symphonie No. 4 - III. Ruhevoll, poco adagio

Symphonie No. 4 - III. Ruhevoll, poco adagio

Composer Gustav Mahler
Conductor Trevor Pinnock
Band Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble
Arranger Erwin Stein
19:39 Play $6.85
5
Symphonie No. 4 - IV. Sehr behaglich

Symphonie No. 4 - IV. Sehr behaglich

Composer Gustav Mahler
Conductor Trevor Pinnock
Band Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble
Arranger Erwin Stein
09:12 Play $3.40
Total Running Time 64 minutes Purchase all tracks 
$13.00 
Prices shown in US Dollars

Historical performance pioneer, Trevor Pinnock, conducts the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble in revealing chamber arrangements of Mahler's most frequently performed symphony and Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune, on its debut recording for Linn.

The SACD layer is both 5.1 channel and 2-channel. The Studio Master files are 192kHz / 24 bit.

Download includes - cover art, inlay, booklet
Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler

Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation.
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Royal Academy of Music

Royal Academy of Music

The Royal Academy of Music has been training musicians to the highest professional standards since its foundation in 1822.
profile & recordings >>
Trevor Pinnock

Trevor Pinnock

Trevor Pinnock is recognised worldwide as a harpsichordist and conductor who pioneered performance on historical instruments with his own orchestra, The English Concert.  He is Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Academy's Concert Orchestra in addition to conducting Royal Academy Opera productions.
profile & recordings >>

Arranged for Schoenberg's 1918 Society for Private Musical Performances, these reductions were designed to highlight the fresh perspective a stripped-back orchestration could offer the listener.  With this recording, Trevor and the Academy launch a series of performances and recordings which are retrospectively reigniting Schoenberg's vision of performing chamber reductions of symphonic repertoire, including newly commissioned arrangements for this series.

Erwin Stein's visionary transformation of Mahler's neo-classicist symphony is for fifteen players and soprano (Sonia Grane). A Mahler symphony of more modest proportions, it lends itself perfectly to a chamber arrangement.  Benno Sachs' re-orchestration of Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune retains many of the sounds of Debussy's  original, using the span of the piano to fill out gaps in the texture, and the harmonium to sustain missing parts in the winds, additions which add much interest and afford a new coherence and sensuality to the melodic line. 

Booklet notes

Founded in 1918 by Arnold Schoenberg (with the assistance of Alban Berg), the Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen (Society for Private Musical Performances) was an idealistic exercise, born of a reactionary opposition to the increasingly commodified society of post-war Vienna. Its remit was simple: to provide performances of new music at the highest possible level in an artistic ‘safe haven'. As such, the Verein operated as a subscription concert series, which outlawed critics, proscribed applause, and published no programmes, so as to ensure that only works ready to be performed were presented and that audiences attended evenly.

Presented in the concerts was a mixture of solo, chamber and orchestral works, the last of which were either realised in keyboard arrangements or through a sizeable chamber ensemble, typically comprising a handful of wind instruments, a string quintet, harmonium and piano. The works performed were not, however, restricted to the Second Viennese School; rather, Schoenberg was keen to programme any living composers whom he felt exhibited a distinctive voice. This included music by Ravel, Debussy, Reger, Strauss, Mahler and Bartók, amongst many others. Indeed, Schoenberg forbade the programming of any of his own works until the society's second season.

The idea of a chamber reduction of a large-scale orchestral work was one that fascinated Schoenberg, who argued that stripping away layers offered fresh perspectives on the composer's craft. Reductions, necessarily requiring fewer players, were also more affordable options for the financially squeezed Verein. Nevertheless, the Verein ceased meeting at the very end of 1921, owing to the austerity resulting from Viennese hyperinflation.

Published in 1876, Stéphane Mallarmé's poem, L' après-midi d' un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun), is a sensuous evocation of this mythical half-man, half-goat's libidinous and sultry daydreaming about a passing group of nymphs. As a young man, Debussy had set one of the poet's earlier works and would go on to become more intimately acquainted with Mallarmé's symbolist style through the latter's weekly artistic soirées - a familiarity that eventually led to Debussy's musical complement to this erotic text. Thus, in 1892, Debussy started composing a work intended to be the ‘Prélude, interludes et paraphrase finale pour l'après-midi d'un faune'; yet his project was cut short by the competing completion of his celebrated opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, leaving only the Prélude.

This single movement is an examination of orchestral colour, from the singular delicacy of the opening flute's lingering line, through suggestive swells, to more pungent and reedy pastoralism. Indeed, Saint-Saëns was less than kind about the work, stating that ‘it is as much a piece of music as the palette a painter has worked from is a painting'.

Both Debussy and Ravel made their own keyboard arrangements of the Prélude (1895 and 1910 respectively), Ravel stating that he would like the work performed at his funeral. The chamber arrangement made for the Verein, whilst often attributed to Schoenberg, actually appears to have been made by another member of the society, Benno Sachs, who had been a student of Schoenberg and acted briefly as the Corresponding Secretary for the Verein. Schoenberg offered clear advice about how to approach such arrangements, which Sachs seems to have followed closely. As a re-orchestration it retains many of the sounds of Debussy's original, using the span of the piano to fill out gaps in the texture, and the harmonium to sustain missing parts in the winds, additions which add much interest and afford a new coherence and sensuality to the melodic line. Indeed, because the original eschews trumpets, trombones and percussion (apart from the distinctive antique cymbals), this ‘miniaturisation' does not lose much by way of colour - thanks to inventive substitutions - even if the spectrum of intensity is somewhat diminished. For example, in the opening passage, the clarinet re-enters earlier than in the original, so as to fill in a missing horn line.

A poetic stimulus also underlies Mahler's Symphonie No. 4, this time from his formative discovery of the collection of folksongs, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (‘The Boy's Magic Horn') in the late 1880s. The first four symphonies all include references to Wunderhorn, which led Mahler to suggest that they were a quasi-tetralogy, with the fourth as its ‘tapering, topmost tower'.

Certainly, the symphony's more modest proportions lend themselves to both this description and a chamber arrangement. Omitting both trombones and tuba - even if he had considered their inclusion in the climax of the slow movement - and content with just triple woodwinds (except the flutes), the relatively benign forces confused the audiences who were just becoming accustomed to Mahler's big-boned works and original structures. It was also the first of his symphonies to adopt the traditional four movements (the first symphony having originally comprised five).

Although by the end of his life Mahler had dispensed with explicit musical programmes, this symphony is coloured by references. For example, the violin solo in the second movement, with its deliberately sharpened strings, evokes the sound of a folk fiddler, who is perhaps himself some sort of macabre figure, Mahler having labelled the solo in his sketches with the phrase ‘Brother Hain strikes up.' Similarly, the third movement is a set of variations spelled out through rondo form, the theme of which reminded Mahler of his mother's ‘sad and yet laughing' face.

At the symphony's heart - although not revealed until the final, fourth movement - is a vocal setting of the Wunderhorn poem Das himmlisches Leben (‘The Heavenly Life', although later renamed by Mahler as ‘What the child tells me'), which he had originally intended to be the finale of his third symphony. Its naivety informs each movement, as Mahler tried to capture the ‘undifferentiated blue of the sky', directing the singer to adopt a ‘childlike, cheerful expression, entirely without parody'. It is this heavenly aspiration that also led Mahler to consider calling this symphony a ‘humoresque', as he understood humour to be a key to a ‘higher world'.

Three of Mahler's symphonies were performed at the Verein: the sixth and seventh in keyboard arrangements, and his fourth in the present reduction for fourteen instruments and solo soprano. This arrangement - premièred on 10 January 1921 with the soprano Martha Fuchs - was made by one of Schoenberg's earliest composition pupils, Erwin Stein, who also took over the directorship of performances in the Verein from 1920. The exercise is a revealing one, as both Stein's choices and the nature of such reduction expose more of Mahler's counterpoint through the leaner textures: a logical extension of the original's chamber-like ideals. In the years following the closure of the society the original instrumental parts were lost, only recently to be reconstructed by Alexander Platt from Stein's annotations on a complete score of the symphony.

© Thomas Hancox, 2013

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Spiegel Online
‘Solistenensemble diesen Kosmos an Klang und Stimmungen mit Kammermusik-Mitteln erforscht, zeugt von Selbstbewusstsein. Bitte mehr Experimente dieser Art, Mr. Pinnock!’
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Hi-Fi News
'...the performances are just enjoyable in their own right.'
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Toronto Star
‘Here is a stunning example of less being infinitely more.’
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Audiophile Norway
'An incredibly great recording…I can hardly wait for the next.’
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International Record Review
‘The recording is warm and clear…I’ve certainly enjoyed it.’
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Pulsion Audio
‘Les musiciens sont de premier ordre: la Royal Academy of Music Soloists est dirigée par une main de maître et avec tout le savoir-faire de Trevor Pinnock. Un plaisir assuré!’
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The New Zealand Herald
4 Stars
'Drawing-room Mahler brings new sounds and insights.'
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MusicWeb International
‘Overall however this is a performance to treasure, crowned by a delightfully natural account of the soprano solo in the last movement by Sónia Grané.’
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Infodad
'Sensitively scaled arrangement brings forth elements of Mahler that are always there but that tend to disappear beneath the excellence of his orchestrations.'
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Classical CD Review
‘Performances here are superb as is the audio.’
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BBC Music Magazine
'Trevor Pinnock directs a disciplined and expressive performance...'


The Guardian
4 Stars
'The introduction of the soprano soloist (Sónia Grané here) for the final movement becomes utterly natural, and creates all kinds of unexpected connections, not only with Mahler's own songs but with Schoenberg's works, too. A satisfying, thought-provoking disc.'
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The Herald Scotland
'Simply, this is one of the most beautiful and revealing discs I have heard in years. I am completely hooked.'
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The Herald Scotland
'... something remarkable and completely extraordinary...'
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Financial Times
4 Stars
'Both capture a simplicity of timbre and colouring that goes to the essence of the music...'
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Sinfini Music
4 Stars
'Don't dismiss this stripped-down version of Mahler's symphony, says Philip Clark. Trevor Pinnock and his players have uncovered a gem from the Viennese musical underworld.'
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Gramophone
'Under Pinnock, the Royal Academy of Music's Chamber Ensemble bring to the surface the lithe counterpoint that usually lumbers under thicker string textures, while soprano Sonia Grane succeeds admirably in illuminating the piece's inner folksong.'
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Dagogo.com
'The stripped-back orchestration of both pieces offer the listener a fresh perspective on these popular works.'


BachTrack.com
‘Trevor Pinnock communicated energy, enthusiasm and natural phrasing to the RAM students. He brought a beauty to the Mahler.'