Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble & Trevor Pinnock - Mahler: Symphony No. 4 - Toronto Star

Mahler's symphony here is performed with just 13 instruments, to beautiful results.

Forget the Romantic obsession with the notion of bigger being better. The chamber-music-sized interpretations of two iconic pieces of music on this new British album by conductor Trevor Pinnock and the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble is a stunning example of less being infinitely more.

The CD opens with Claude Debussy's 'Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune', resplendent in a de-cluttered arrangement for just 13 instruments. The charm of this arrangement by Benno Sachs, a student of Arnold Schoenberg's in early 20th-century Vienna, is in how he carefully replaced some orchestral parts with piano and harmonium.

Even more impressive is a similarly slimmed-down Symphony No. 4 by Gustav Mahler, arranged right after World War I by another Schoenberg pupil, Erwin Stein.

This Mahler symphony, which includes luminous soprano Sónia Grané in the final movement, lends itself beautifully to a newfound transparency and lightness. All of Mahler's gorgeous musical themes are laid out with particular clarity as well as grace, thanks to Pinnock's inspired leadership.

This interpretation is so compelling that it could make believers out of the many people still intimidated by the music of Gustav Mahler. And believers will be seduced by the newfound clarity in the music's architecture.

Toronto Star
17 October 2013