Conducting Mahler's 4th symphony

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
John F
Posts: 19979
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Conducting Mahler's 4th symphony

Post by John F » Mon Apr 09, 2018 3:36 pm

“The Art and Alchemy of Conducting” — and Mahler’s Fourth
April 8, 2018
by Joe Horowitz

As all Mahlerites know, the opening of the Fourth Symphony is both magical and mutable. A preamble of chiming sleigh bells and flutes dissipates to a cheerful violin ditty that coyly retards as it ascends to the tonic G. Mahler writes “etwas zuruckhaltend” (“somewhat held back”). But really anything goes.

The champion retarder is Willem Mengelberg, in a famous 1939 recording with his Concertgebouw Orchestra. Since this passage is inherently playful, conductors can get away with that and we gratefully smile. Since Mengelberg was a Mahler disciple whose performances Mahler liked, since Mahler was well-known to change his mind about such details, since Mahler’s other disciples (e.g., Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer) take a much smaller retard, there is no official version.

Mahler himself last conducted the Fourth Symphony in New York – with his New York Philharmonic in 1911. We know two pertinent details about that performance, which came a decade after the symphony was composed. The first – barely believable — is from a member of the orchestra interviewed by William Malloch in 1964. He testified that Mahler had the violins swoop up to the G with a glissando starting perhaps an octave lower.

The second detail is something I just learned from John Mauceri’s recent "Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting." Mauceri – a conductor teeming with ideas about how music should be performed – discovered that Mahler’s New York score bears a notation in the conductor’s hand that insists that the sleigh bells and flutes not retard along with the violins – a startling instruction, because if followed literally it demands that for one and half beats the sleigh bells and flutes are out of synch with the first violins (and also the clarinets, by the way).

Mauceri recounts sharing this discovery with his mentor Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein, it turned out, was aware of it already. Then why didn’t you do it? Mauceri asked. “Because I chickened out,” Bernstein said. And then Bernstein changed his mind. As Mauceri notes, it’s all documented in sound.

Compare Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonicrecording, in which the sleigh bells and flutes don’t slow down. The difference is so subtle you might call it insignificant but it is not. What Mahler is suggesting, in 1911, is that he has composed a kind of musical mosaic in which the two components, rather than blending, are wholly distinct. (Mauceri likens the effect to “a musical cross-fade . . . the aural equivalance of what happens in a movie when one scene dissolves into another.”) And indeed this was a direction Mahler pursued in his later symphonic style.

Personally, I now prefer the passage without the “traditional” retard in the sleigh bells and flutes. It would be interesting to hear it juxtaposed with a Mengelberg retard in the violins.

http://www.artsjournal.com/uq/2018/04/t ... ourth.html

Horowitz continues with a discussion of Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 and "Porgy and Bess."
John Francis

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17757
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: Conducting Mahler's 4th symphony

Post by Lance » Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:06 am

Very interesting article, indeed. For those interested in making comparisons, the Mengelberg recording of the Mahler 4th with soprano Jo Vincent has appeared on CD several times. More recently, there are these:

Philips 426 108
Philips 480 7636 [17 CD set, complete Mengelberg recordings with Concertgebouw\
Lys 282
Membran 223511 [10 CD set, this one I don't have, not sure of sound quality, which are generaly copies of previously issued LPs.]

There are others. The 17-CD set or the single Philips are the best ones to have since they come from the original sources. Only Amazon in the UK seems to be offering the 17-CD set.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

maestrob
Posts: 5720
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Conducting Mahler's 4th symphony

Post by maestrob » Tue Apr 10, 2018 10:06 am

Thanks for posting that article, John. Very interesting. I'll have to check out the Mengelberg. I grew up with George Szell's reading with Cleveland and Judith Raskin, and it remains a favorite (along with Ivan Fischer) to this day.

RebLem
Posts: 9100
Joined: Tue May 17, 2005 1:06 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA 87112, 2 blocks west of the Breaking Bad carwash.
Contact:

Re: Conducting Mahler's 4th symphony

Post by RebLem » Tue Apr 10, 2018 11:55 am

Lance wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:06 am
Very interesting article, indeed. For those interested in making comparisons, the Mengelberg recording of the Mahler 4th with soprano Jo Vincent has appeared on CD several times. More recently, there are these:

Philips 426 108
Philips 480 7636 [17 CD set, complete Mengelberg recordings with Concertgebouw]
Lys 282
Membran 223511 [10 CD set, this one I don't have, not sure of sound quality, which are generaly copies of previously issued LPs.]

There are others. The 17-CD set or the single Philips are the best ones to have since they come from the original sources. Only Amazon in the UK seems to be offering the 17-CD set.
A new set on the DECCA label has been issued containing the Mengelberg Mahler 4 with Jo Vincent as well as a complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies and other goodies. Its going to be at my house this Thursday, Amazon promises! ​https://www.amazon.com/Concertgebouw-Re ... recordings


I so love the Szell Mahler 4 that when I had my left nephrectomy in June, 2003, I had the surgeon, Dr. V Taylor Floyd, play it during the surgery. Another excellent one that I love is one by the Sophia Philharmonic, conducted by Emil Tabakov on the Capriccio label. The soprano Lyudmila Hadzhieva is superb. It used to be on YouTube, but now, only the third movement is. ​https://www.amazon.com/10-Symphonies-Co ... ccio+label
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17757
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: Conducting Mahler's 4th symphony

Post by Lance » Tue Apr 10, 2018 12:26 pm

Lance wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:06 am
Very interesting article, indeed. For those interested in making comparisons, the Mengelberg recording of the Mahler 4th with soprano Jo Vincent has appeared on CD several times. More recently, there are these:

Philips 426 108
Philips 480 7636 [17 CD set, complete Mengelberg recordings with Concertgebouw]
Lys 282
Membran 223511 [10 CD set, this one I don't have, not sure of sound quality, which are generaly copies of previously issued LPs.]

There are others. The 17-CD set or the single Philips are the best ones to have since they come from the original sources. Only Amazon in the UK seems to be offering the 17-CD set.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

John F
Posts: 19979
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Conducting Mahler's 4th symphony

Post by John F » Tue Apr 10, 2018 3:53 pm

I have the original Philips LP which came with a bound-in booklet including a facsimile of the first page of Mengelberg's conducting score. At the bottom he wrote, about the first bars, "Mahler said during the rehearsal, 'Please play the ritenuto as we in Vienna begin a Viennese waltz.'"
John Francis

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 28 guests