Monday, April 24, 2006

Renee's Mahler

I bought Abbado's new Mahler 4, as it was only 14.99$ at the Barnes and Noble in Lafayette. David Hurwitz panned it, as he is wont to do.

Abbado does a good job. His quiet, somewhat reserved (and, in some cases, resigned) Mahler isn't for everyone. I like it because he strikes the balance between Boulez and Bernstein. His chamber textures do for Mahler what Herbert von Karajan's approach (similar, but not quite identical) in Der Ring des Nibelungen did for Wagner. Abbado opens up the music, and he lets it breathe on its own terms. You love it or you don't.

Renee Fleming, though, is the selling point for this disc. Why else include Alban Berg's lieder? The fourth movement of the 4th is supposed to be a child's view of Heaven. Lisa della Casa affected this nicely for Fritz Reiner on RCA. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf did too, but her tinny, shallow tone doesn't do it for me. Renee sounds like a forty-year-old dramatic soprano. Mahler would be furious. Renee needs to stay away from Mahler, and that's about all there is to it. She seems to shine in the stuff like the mainline operatic repertoire. She is not a lyric soprano, and that's what this score requires.

Buy it for Abbado, but remember that Fritz Reiner will be waiting for you, with an annoyed Teutonic scowl, when you want a superlative 4th movement.


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