MAHLER:  Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Sir Adrian Boult, cond); Kindertotenlieder (AndrČ Vandernoot, cond.); Five Lieder (Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, Um Mitternacht, Das irdische Leben, Ich atmet' einen linden Duft, Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen) (Otto Klemperer, cond.); Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano/Philharmonia Orchestra
EMI CLASSICS 74738 (M) (ADD) TT:  68:14
Mussorgsky: song cycles:  The Nursery/Sunless; songs:  Where are you, little star?, Darling Savishna, Lullaby, King Saul, Hopak, The wild winds blow, Mephistopheles' Song of the Flea; Songs and Dances of Death
Boris Christoff, bass; Alexandre Labinsky, piano; French National Radio Orch/Georges Tzipine, cond.
EMI CLASSICS  67997 (M) (ADD) TT: 78:59
EMI's Great Recordings of the Century series has two more winners here.  Christa Ludwig's recording of the five Mahler songs was made at the same time (Feb. 1964) as her recording with Klemperer (and tenor Fritz Wunderlich) of Das Lied von der Erde (also available on Great Recordings - 66944).  Two other conductors lead the two song cycles.  Sir Adrian Boult had already recorded a fine performance of Songs of a Wayfarer for RCA with Blanche Thebom as soloist, and soon would record Mahler's Symphony No. 1 for Everest.  AndrČ Vandernoot might seem an odd choice for Mahler, but provides a sensitive background for Ludwig's touching interpretation of these songs of tragedy.  Limited CD notes and no texts/translations although we do have two pages of listings of other titles in this EMI "encore" series.

Boris Christoff was known for his Mussorgsky and made two recordings of Boris Godunov, of which I prefer the first, from 1951, although I wouldn't want to be without his stereo version recorded in 1962.  Christoff is masterful in his control, and some listeners might find him a bit overly theatrical - but there is no question of his power and control.  He recorded all of Modest Mussorgsky songs from 1955-1957; these were issued in a deluxe multiple-LP set recognized at the time as a "treasure" of the gramophone.  In the late '80s, EMI released the entire set on three CDs in fine transfers, another luxurious production with a thick booklet. This, too, is now out-of-print, so this well-filled (78:59) CD is particularly welcome.  It offers two song cycles for voice and piano (Sunless and The Nursery), the powerful Songs and Dances of Death (with orchestra), and seven other songs.  This is a perfect coupling of performer and music.  This time complete texts are provided, in Russian, French, German and English, as they were in the three-CD set.

R.E.B. (April 2003)