While no one should regard this arrangement as a substitute for the original, Erwin Stein's transcription of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 4 in G major is a fascinating piece of history, as well as a practical performing version for modern chamber groups. The reduction of the symphony was prepared by Stein in 1920 for use in chamber concerts, particularly for Arnold Schoenberg's recitals for the presentation of modern compositions, of which Mahler's music was especially esteemed. Following decades of obscurity, this ingenious arrangement only received its first recording in 1999. Since then, it has become a popular vehicle for small ensembles, thanks to its scoring for soprano vocalist and 12 instrumentalists. This recording by soprano Zoe Nicolaidou and the Orchestre Régional de Basse-Normandie, under the direction of Jean Deroyer, is a bright and clear rendition of the piece, and the close-up recording leaves no doubts to the details of the score or to the larger issues of interpretation. Granted, the playing here is fairly schmaltzy and the vibrato can seem excessively sweet; bearing in mind the Viennese character of the work, these are to be expected and seem prominent because of the exposed parts and the close-up recording. Nicolaidou's singing in the finale is intimate and lighthearted, and Mahler's vision of the heavenly life finds charming expression in this translucent close to the work.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 4|