Mahler: Songs of a Wayfarer / Des Knaben Wunderhorn / Riisager

MAHLER: Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen. Rückert-Lieder. Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Hampson, baritone; San Francisco Symphony Orch/Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.
SFO 821936-0036 TT: 64:37

MAHLER: Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Christiane Oelze, soprano; Michael Volle, baritone; Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Markus Stenz, cond.
OEHMS SACD 657 TT: 61:28

RIISAGER: Slaraffenland Suites 1 and 2, Op. 33. Tolv med posten, Op. 37. Concertino for Trumpet and Strings, Op. 29. Darduse, Op. 32
Hakan Hardenberger, trumpet; Helsingborg Symphony Orch/Thomas Dausgaard, cond.
DA CAPO SACD 6220584

With this issue, the twelfth and final disk in the series, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony conclude their Mahler project. Actually it is not "complete." For whatever reason, it was decided to include only five of the fourteen songs of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, all sung by baritone Thomas Hampson includingUrlight which usually is sung by a mezzo. Susan Graham's rich sound is appropriate for the Rückert songs, but Hampson's voice has not aged gracefully, with rough edges not heard in his Vienna recording of this music with Leonard Bernstein made more than two decades ago. Tilson's Mahler series is generally commendable ; many of these were mentioned on this site when originally issued. The SFSO has announced a special limited edition of the entire series on 22 LPs, with extensive program notes and deluxe packaging, all remastered for stereo at 98k/24 bit. The price is hefty: $749, and the first 250 sets are signed by MTT. For more information about this, check the SFS WEBSITE.

There are over two dozen recordings of the complete Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and this new one from Cologne is among the finest, the only version available in surround sound. Both singers are exemplary, particularly Michael Volle, a leading baritone of our time who had the misfortune of being cast as Jokanaan in David McVicar's Royal Opera production of Salome (REVIEW). His voice is thrilling throughout the entire range. Audio is exemplary, although both singers are recorded rather close-up. It seems odd that texts are provided only in German.

Knudage Riisager (1897-1974) was a respected Danish composer who composed primarily for the ballet. His music is brilliant, imaginative and often shows the French influence of his studies in Paris with Roussel. This well-filled disk features much of Riisager's music for the stage in definitive performances beautifully played by the Danish forces. This is not a new recording; it originally was issued in 1998 on regular CD—now we have it in this SACD reprocessing which adds little to the previous sonic picture. This is a delightful release!

R.E.B. (November 2010)