Mahler as you've never heard him before

Mahler as you've never heard him before


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2010

Today’s exclusive free classical download on Slipped Disc is an extract from a future release on Somm Records – the Erwin Stein reduction of Mahler’s fourth symphony for solo voice and 12 players. The record will not be available until February but, in the spirit of the season, we thought you’d like an early taster.

Stein, a Viennese editor who later became Benjamin Britten’s publisher, made the edition for Arnold Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances – a members-only group from which professional critics and conservative spirits were sternly excluded.
It has been recorded before, but not very convincingly. This performance, by members of the Orchestra of the Swan, gives a much clearer picture of the essence that Stein (with Schoenberg’s blessing) was trying to extract from the hectic first movement.
Click here for the full experience, and enjoy.

(Picture of Schoenberg, Klemperer, Scherchen, Webern; Stein’s the little fellow on the right) 


  • Marie Lamb says:

    And enjoy it I certainly did! While I certainly would never want to give up Mahler’s own version, this transcription is interesting because the lighter scoring makes it easier to hear things that are going on in the inner voices. Over the years I’ve spent in classical music radio, I’ve heard a lot of transcriptions of famous orchestral works and operas for band and various chamber ensembles, and many have worked well. However, this one is especially interesting because it gives such a fresh and respectful take on what Mahler was doing. It’s like holding a diamond up to the light in a different way and seeing it with all new colors and light. Thank you again, Norman!

  • Steven says:

    To my knowledge there have been four recordings of this (fascinating) arrangement, not including the one offered above:
    1) Taschenphilharmonie; Peter Stangel, Preiser Records 2004
    2) Oxalys; Laure Delcampe; Fuga Libera 2009
    3) Manchester Camerata; Douglas Boyd; Avie 2005
    4) Smithsonian Chamber Players; Kenneth Slowik; Dorian Recordings 2003
    I have only the latter recording, which to my ears is very good. Before the sessions Mr Slowik did extensive research on Mengleberg’s performing traditions with this piece (the original, of course), then attempts to recreate them — a dubious interpretive endeavor, perhaps, but sometimes the musical results are just delicious. There is also some really fantastic playing on the disc.
    I look forward to hearing this new recording – thank you for the sneak-peek!

  • Mark says:

    Hi, Late comment here, but last Friday (Jan-14-2011), this reduced version of Mahler’s 4th was performed in Spokane by the Spokane Symphony, with soloist Dawn Wolski, who is as beautiful as her voice is charming (that’s NOT an insult!). I can say that it was a wonderful experience and brought many things forward which I had never heard on any of the recorded versions. It may also allow singers with less volume to perform the last movement with balance more easily maintained between singer and orchestra.
    Antipathy towards Mahler continues, however, even there at the theatre, where the people immediately behind me left at intermission because, as the man said, “Oh, no! Not Mahler! I hate Mahler!” (I suppose they didn’t really read the program beforehand…)