MAHLER Symphony No 4 (Gimeno)
Setting this new studio recording of Mahler’s teenage piano quartet movement, as elaborated by Colin Matthews, against a more congested live account on the Concertgebouw’s label, it’s clear that the Luxembourg Philharmonic (especially its supple, fine-spun string section) yields little to ensembles with a more distinguished history of Mahler performance except in the matter of weight, which isn’t such an issue with the most Classically scored chapter of the composer’s symphonic roman-à-clef.
What emerges from Matthews’s orchestral tapestry (contra the booklet note writer) is no abortive Brahmsian essay but the blueprint of a Mahlerian voice well on the way to its first fully distinctive utterance in Das klagende Lied. The quartet texture is now laced with anticipations (or is it recollections?) of the early symphonies and the second-act Dream-Pantomime of Hansel and Gretel, which would be one of Mahler’s early successes as music director of the Hamburg Opera.
As a former assistant to Claudio Abbado and Bernard Haitink, Gustavo Gimeno has learnt his Mahler at the feet of the two pre eminent Mahler conductors of their generation. He teases out every thematic correspondence of the Fourth’s first movement, as a cousin to the Rondo-Burleske of the Ninth for its economy of thought and motivic ingenuity. The inner movements flow with understated charm, coming as quite a relief after recent, more fretful and blatant interpretations by Marc Albrecht and Valery Gergiev respectively.
The soprano of Miah Persson has gained a little weight and vibrancy since recording the symphony’s finale with Iván Fischer almost a decade ago but she now makes even more of the words than before. However, it isn’t Abbado or Fischer who offer the most pertinent historical comparisons but Bruno Walter back in 1949, for a fresh and precipitate relish of Mahler’s orchestral word-painting, while Persson falls more gratefully on the ear than the querulous Desi Halban. She and Gimeno between them convey a wide-eyed, prelapsarian freshness that goes to the heart of the piece.