Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt

Mahler: Symphony No. 4

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Who's conducting this Mahler's Fourth? Arlecchino -- one of those fabulous pirate labels from Italy where the words copyright, intellectual property, and ownership take on oxymoronic meanings -- released this Fourth as part of the Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt legacy and Schmidt-Isserstedt's photograph is all over the cover and the exterior of the program book. But on the inside of the booklet is the grinning face of Robert Mitchum lookalike Sergiu Celibidache. Perhaps this is simply a mistake or perhaps one of Arlecchino's little jests, because this is a rigid, inflexible, and lifeless performance of the Fourth. Who did Schmidt-Isserstedt -- or whoever this is -- think he's conducting, a brain-dead Richard Strauss soundalike? In this performance, the climaxes of the first and third movements sound like the climaxes of Aus Italien or Macbeth. In this performance, the ironic little Ländler is uncomprehendingly straightfaced like the bourgeois in Till Eulenspiegels. In this performance, the unironic song-finale isn't merely ironic, it's as sarcastic as Till Eulenspiegels himself. But to mention any of this is to make the performance sound more interesting than it actually sounds. And this performance, whether it's by Schmidt-Isserstedt or Celibidache or the man in the moon, is not at all interesting.

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