Trevor Pinnock / Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble

Mahler: Symphonie No. 4

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Known primarily as a harpsichordist and conductor of Baroque and Classical repertoire, usually with the world's leading chamber orchestras, Trevor Pinnock is one of the last names one would connect to the massive post-Romantic symphonies of Gustav Mahler. Yet if Pinnock had to choose one, it would be the Symphony No. 4 in G major, the lightest and most Classically oriented of Mahler's works, and decidedly the best suited to his gifts. Even better would be the chamber ensemble version of the work by Erwin Stein, which offers the opportunity to engage the players close at hand. This performance with the Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble is the first time Pinnock has recorded Mahler, and the reduced version undoubtedly makes sense, given his aptitude for directing small ensembles. The music is bright and cheerful, with only a few passing moods of sorrow or angst, so Pinnock doesn't have to make grand interpretive gestures that go beyond the Classical ideals of poise and restraint. Indeed, this version overflows with humor and gracefulness, and the musicians give it a charming run-through. Perhaps even more unexpected than the Mahler is the chamber version by Benno Sachs of Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, which, like the Stein transcription, was arranged for Arnold Schoenberg's Society for Private Musical Performances, and appears as filler on this album. Pinnock is sympathetic to the music, and its lushness is handled with great sensitivity and attention to detail. Another advantage of choosing chamber versions of these pieces is that the instruments are heard with absolute clarity and immediacy in the hybrid multichannel format, so both the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and the Symphony No. 4 have clear details and warm presence. While newcomers should definitely experience the full orchestral versions first, these alternative chamber arrangements are well worth hearing. Highly recommended.

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