MAHLER Symphonie No. 4 Fleming Abbado 4775574

Claudio Abbado's second Mahler cycle for Deutsche Grammophon is making a strong case to be the definitive digital series to own . . . [Fleming]: the extra richness that she brings to this music is most fulfilling, Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic superbly characterising the accompaniment . . . The playing throughout is outstanding, strings as one and woodwind sharply defined, clean yet characterised, and with plenty of humour in evidence. The slow movement is best, Abbado completely unhurried with the timeless serenity of the strings' first section and yet bringing a mighty surge to the opening of heaven's gates towards the end, a truly euphoric moment as the orchestra is let loose . . . Fleming's notation is spot on, her word emphasis also ideal, and the nature of the juxtaposition of the composers brings out Berg's natural advancement of Mahler's already forward-thinking harmonies . . . no need to hesitate here, for this is a disc that not only gives a wonderful performance of the Fourth but serves to emphasise Mahler's links with the Second Viennese School and particularly Berg. Not to mention Renée Fleming's wonderful voice!

These two performances were taped live in Berlin earlier this year during a series of highly praised concerts. The hype, for once, seems justified. By adopting an unsentimental approach, Claudio Abbado offers radical new insights into Mahler's Fourth Symphony, opening up hitherto unnoticed layers of violence and nihilism in a work all too often seen as reflective and pacific. Renée Fleming is the soprano soloist, savagely beautiful in the final evocation of a child's vision of paradise. The Berg songs are equally spellbinding: Fleming sings them with knowing sensuality, and Abbado links them to the nerve-ridden, erotic expressionism of Lulu, rather than anchoring them in post-Romantic languor.

Claudio Abbado's current Mahler series for DG is producing some exceptional performances, and . . . this live Fourth Symphony . . . is another. Here is an account of great affection, but also of unsentimental lucidity, beautifully played by the Berlin Philharmonic. . . . this new Berlin performance is a very strong contender. Abbado is clear-sighted but never cool, dramatically engaging, and much more alert to Mahler's orchestral colouring than in many of his earlier performances of the composer's music . . . The live recording is detailed and realistic, and the booklet has a fascinating essay by Donald Mitchell.

Here is a treasurable chance to find the Berlin Philharmonic playing with its once customary delicacy for Claudio Abbado . . . the chamber-musical miracle of players listening to each other reaches its apogee in the coda of the scherzo's finely-woven phantasmagoria. DG's sensible balances certainly help . . . we can be in no doubt that the hour of the wolf has struck between so much sweetness and light.

. . . Abbado and the Berlin Phil are on top form . . .

. . . that creamy tone and knowing style transform Berg's fledgling efforts at Mahler worship into an inspiringly beautiful orchestral song cycle.

Dass er nicht gerade zu den großen Theatralikern gehört, sondern eher mit klarem Kopf, kontrollierter Emotion und aus einer gewissen intellektuellen Distanz Mahlers sinfonische Dramen und Weltentwürfe auszuleuchten pflegt, hat Claudio Abbado in den letzten drei Jahrzenten . . . mit unbestechlicher Konsequenz durchgeführt.

. . . Verwicklungen, Verdüsterungen und Überraschungseffekte bringt Abbado denkbar plastisch und dennoch ganz undemonstrativ zur Geltung. Seine Aufführung überzeugt umso mehr, als die Berliner Philharmoniker eine makellose, ebenso klangsatte wie transparente Orchesterleistung erbringen.

. . . dans cette ¿uvre, la virtuosité d'Abbado est avant tout celle de la souplesse . . . Abbado le magicien affûte les contrastes dans la continuité [Scherzo] . . . Lecture ludique de la symphonie, fourmillante de couleurs, fidèle à la « pièce de fantaisie » voulue par Mahler; lecture mystique, aussi, par la simplicité faussement naïve de ses élans infinis . . . la façon unique, féline, qu'a le chef italien de rayonner dans l'orchestre, en nourrissant la grande ligne de détails inouïs, en stimulant à la fois l'indépendance des groupes instrumentaux et leur cohésion symphonique.

Le jeu des bois est chambriste à souhait (quelle flûte solo!), le travail sur les voix au centre de l'orchestre (quels altos!) est tout simplement admirable. La musique nocturne du second mouvement est bien dans le ton de la danse morbide, si mystérieuse et délicate à rendre. La théâtralité sans excès de cette page raffinée est une leçon d'intelligence et de sensibilitè . . . En complément, les sept mélodies de jeunesse de Berg sont servies par un orchestre magnifique de délicatesse . . .

Orchestre léger, bois affûtés, cordes arachnéennes, gestes subtilement moulés dans les rubatos et les portamentos voulus par le compositeur: dès les premières mesures du Bedächtig portées par le magnétisme légendaire d'Abbado, on respire l'air pastoral qui fait de la Symphonie no. 4 une promesse de félicité. Puis l'oreille se souvient des timbres ronds ou piquants, des violons soyeux, du soleil plus chaleureux qui envahissaient la gravure du chef milanais avec les Wiener Philharmoniker, voici presque trente ans . . . Pour ce cycle, restez fidèles à Abbado, mais avec Vienne et Von Otter (DG).

El dírector recrea una versión en la que sin dejar de ser apacible, también se recrea en el lado salvaje de la naturaleza.

Abbado vuelve a la carga . . . magnífica toma sonora.

Se, per uno scarto temporale magico, quella sera MahIer fosse stato seduto in platea e Abbado in piedi sul podio . . . azzardiamo? Forse avrebbe pianto di soddisfazione. Perché in questo CD (strepitosamente registrato live . . .) sta una delle letture più magiche -- è ancora magia il primo termine che viene in mente -- della Quarta . . . La scossa di bellezza estetica ed emotiva è tale che si fatica a trovare qualcosa di sensato da dire: si ha più voglia di tacere, come capita per fortuna, ma di rado, con qualche registrazione straordinaria. Mahler sarebbe andato in estasi per la lucentezza perfetta, rivisitata da una prospettiva un po' sghemba, di quella sorta di citazione della forma sonata nel primo movimento. E, nel secondo, per il violino di Guy Braunstein, sogghignante come in una danza evocata da E.T.A. Hoffmann. Chissà che avrebbe provato nel terzo tempo, là dove Abbado ci immerge in un paradiso perduto e insieme possibile, dipinto da fraseggi morbidissimi e portamenti generosi degli archi, con un dire non melenso né rarefatto, che assomiglia piuttosto a una contemplazione assorta in profondità vertiginose. L'ultimo movimento conclude con l'entrata in scena di una Renée Fleming che anticipa la bellezza sensuale e un po' metafisica di quanto andrà a cantare subito dopo. E i "Sieben Frühe Lieder" di Berg ci catturano, complice un Abbado in stato di grazia, ipnotici e sanguigni insieme.