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BFO - Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 4 in G major - Guardian


13 March 2009
Guardian
Tim Ashley

The sleeve notes for Ivan Fischer's new recording of Mahler's Fourth contain a statement by Fischer that initially makes one's heart sink.  Culminating in a "lovely vision of paradise", the symphony, Fischer argues, shows Mahler taking us "to his own inner child, to his dreams of angels, fairytales, angst and pure divine love".  Concerns that we're in for an hour of unremitting sentimentality are mercifully unfounded.  Childhood, in Mahler, is viewed as both an idealised lost Eden and a place of primal  trauma - and Fischer is as interested in the abysses that threaten to open round this music as he is in its surface calm.  The combination of naive excitement and indefinable menace is strikingly sustained throughout, while the final vision of paradise, coolly voiced by Miah Persson, is at once funny, savage and unbearably sad. Fischer's insistence that the symphony should be treated as chamber music means this won't appeal to those who like a high-decibel count in Mahler, but the Budapest Festival Orchestra's playing is exceptional in its dark-hued subtlety.  It's a provocative, iconoclastic performance, and highly recommended.
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