Markus Stenz / Christiane Oelze / Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne

Gustav Mahler: Symphonie Nr. 4

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Easily the most ingratiating and charming of Gustav Mahler's symphonies, the Symphony No. 4 in G major is also the shortest, with most performances and recordings averaging around 55 minutes. Markus Stenz's rendition with the Gürzenich Orchester Köln comes in just under that timing by a minute, and even though this feels in many ways a bit slower than the typical performance, due primarily to the leisurely opening, many long-breathed passages, and a highly lyrical treatment throughout, tempos are not drastically changed from the norm. The elasticity of pacing and long-range planning for rubato have a point beyond mere emoting, for Stenz clearly means to make his interpretation feel gemütlich and naturally flowing, to emphasize the work's pleasant moods, and to give the performance an organic quality, as if the tempo simply arises from a melody's need to express itself. Creating this illusion is high art, and Stenz has mastered the effect so well that one hardly notices that the music is skillfully manipulated, but that it just moves as it must. Add to this the graceful and heartwarming singing of soprano Christiane Oelze in the finale, the marvelous colors of the orchestra, and the spacious and highly detailed reproduction of this hybrid SACD, and this 2010 Oehms release is sure to win many admirers.

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