Mahler: Symphony No. 4 - Tilson Thomas
San Francisco Symphony 821936-0004-2
Classical - Orchestral
Mahler: Symphony No. 4
Laura Claycomb (soprano)
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor)
The SFS and MTT present Mahler's Symphony No. 4, recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall in the concerts of September 24-28, 2003. Mahler's Fourth is the most tuneful and upbeat of his symphonies. Its gloriously expansive slow movement offers a picture of heavenly terrain and its vocal finale, with soprano Laura Claycomb, is as freshly innocent as a folk tune.
Review by John Broggio - January 22, 2009
A frustrating release.
Tilson Thomas is absolutely fantastic at getting the San Francisco Symphony to realise individual details when he so desires. The problem here is that he doesn't always seem to request them (far too many pp or quieter markings are seemingly ignored for fear of sacrificing rich tone) or balancing them appropriately against the melodies or within the context of the phrase as a whole. There is no excuse for Tilson Thomas to ignore these aspects as Mahler is meticulous in notating his scores, concert performance or not - he knew what he wanted to hear and how to mark the parts appropriately to get the sound. Thus points meant to colour or accompany a melody suddenly become the object of focus which seriously distorts the musical line.
The San Francisco Symphony always play neatly with a full, rich tone, although the second point is not always a good thing. Sadly, Laura Claycomb sounds older than her years with such a wide vibrato that really is not pretty. Tilson Thomas is also one of the slowest on disc, taking a full 5 minutes longer than Haitink in the slow movement and there is not enough tension to sustain such a tempo - I suspect it works far better in concert than on disc.
The sound is good and the audience is largely very well behaved (there are the odd audible suppressed coughs although applause is not retained) but there are far better accounts from Haitink or Nott.
In summary, there is much detail to be heard here but little other than glimpses at the "bigger picture" - this approach might work better in the 7th symphony where there are more details than epic visions.
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