Semyon Bychkov, Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic and Soprano Chen Reiss shine in this splendid PENTATONE (PTC 5186972) recording of Mahler’s Symphony no. 4 in G major.

By the time Mahler began work on his Symphony no. 4 in G major, he had been writing and conducting since his early twenties. By then his conducting career was so demanding that he could only give time to composing during the summers, when the music scene in Vienna and in the other major European musical centers was in hiatus. Mahler never became satisfied with his symphony, revising it until the time of its premiere in 1901 and beyond.

The audience response and the critical reception were appallingly negative, fueled by the inability of the music press and the concert-going public to accept Mahler’s free-wheeling approach to composition, his disregard of traditional musical structure, and his use of folk-inspired vocal music in his symphonies. In addition to all that Mahler was never embraced by the Viennese: he was not one of them, having been born in Bohemia – what today is the Czech Republic – and by birth a Jew, even though much later in life he became a convert to Catholicism.

The resulting creation, one of Mahler’s most beloved works, is wrought with a lively first movement, a rowdy second movement, and a calm third and fourth movements, in the last of which soprano Chen Reiss achieves perfect delivery with her purity of tone and ethereal control in the Pentatone recording.

Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic in a compelling performance rich in subtlety, impressive in its architectural cohesion, utterly flexible, and elegantly supple. This is the auspicious start of a series that will include all nine of Mahler’s symphonies. Listeners cannot wait.

Rafael de Acha (c) 2022

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