Hrůša’s New Mahler Fourth

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532 X

MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 / Anna Lucia Richter, sop; Bamberger Symphoniker; Jakub Hrůša, cond / Accentus Music ACC30532

Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša, the son of architect Petr Hrůša, is described by Gramophone as being “on the verge of greatness.” Here he presents us with his Mahler Fourth.

With all the versions of this symphony out there, including an excellent recent one by Vladimir Jurowski, I approached this recording with a certain amount of trepidation. And well I should. Although Hrůša plays everything “right” insofar as the tempo shifts and phrasing are concerned, there’s something wrong with his interpretation in the first movement. Everything sounds artificial, as if he had listened to a handful of great Mahler Fourths and decided he wanted to do this and that and the other thing, but somehow much of it sounds as if it is oddly juxtaposed and not natural. In other words, his performance has no real “flow.” It sounds more like a herky-jerky taffy pull. Yes, there is energy in the playing of the Bamberg Symphony, but the oddness of the phrasing bothered me.

In the second movement, he over-accents certain notes too much, à la Bernstein, most of whose Mahler I dislike for that very reason. And yet again, every little slow-down or speed-up sounds artificial and a little jerky. Yet there were one or two moments of interest, not many.

In the third movement he finally settles down and draws out some really exquisite phrasing and playing from his orchestra. I also liked the way he went right into the fourth movement without a pause, and soprano Anna Lucia Richter did her best to sound like a child, coming at least halfway close. This movement, too, was phrased very well—although, when he brought in the fast passage which is a recapitulation from the first movement, this too had a herky-jerky rhythm about it.

I wouldn’t so far as to say that Hrůša is on the verge of greatness as that he is trying hard to be great and falling a bit short. There are some excellent moments in this performance, but to my ears he has a way yet to go.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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