MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde
MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde
Two new issues of Mahler's magnificent "symphony" for voices and orchestra, although one isn't really new; the Horenstein, recorded April 28, 1972, was issued some years ago on Descant and is currently available on Music & Arts (728). Now we have this performance from the best possible source, the BBC master tapes.Sound wasn't a problem on either of the previous issues; however this one is an improvement and a major item in the Mahler discography. Horenstein was one of the pioneering exponents of Mahler's music. Collectors have treasured the Mahler symphonies he recorded commercially (1, 3, 4 and 9), his 1966 live Stockholm performance of No. 6 (available on Music & Arts 785) and, in particular; his 1959 BBC live recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 which is near-definitive. His Das Lied is equally impressive, very expansiveperhaps too much so for some listeners. Horenstein's is one of the longest of all recorded performancesmore than 69 minutes compared with Euard van Beinum's 1956 Concertgebouw recording which clocks in at less than one hour; most perfomances take 62-66 minutes. There is a quiet intensity to Horenstein's performance, a sense of occasion that is compelling. Although the orchestra is not one of England's best-known, it is, aside from a few minor brass burbles, superb. John Mitchinson is totally up to the demanding tenor solos in the odd-numbered songs. Alfreda Hodgson, known for her fine recordings of Bach and Elgar, is firm and sensitive in her solos and has the breath support to sustain Horenstein's leisurely tempi. BBC engineers, recording in Houldsworth Hall, Manchester, have done their work well. Horenstein's brief (3:14) comments on Das Lied are included, as they were on the Descant release (Descant 01).
Prime interest in Sony Classical's release is the participation of Placido Domingo.The Spanish tenor never ceases to amaze. Is there any other tenor who has sung such a wide range of music as well over as long a period of time? Domingo is in top form, singing this taxing music with ease and consistent tonal beauty. Unfortunately the three other songs are sung by baritone Bo Skovhus, who sounds like a parody of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskauwith less vocal control. The final minutes of "Der Abscheid" are too hasty; otherwise Salonen's tempi are sensible, generally quicker than the norm. Domingo recorded his three tracks in February 1999, Skovhus his three in March 1999. If you wish to have Das Lied in the version for tenor and baritone surely the one to have would be Leonard Bernstein's (with James King and Fischer-Dieskau). My favorites among currently available recordings of the standard tenor/contralto version would be EMI's recording with Fritz Wunderlich, Christa Ludwig and Otto Klemperer conducting (66944), or the Nan Merriman/Ernst Haefliger,Van Beinum Philips recording (462 468). There are many remarkable historic performances, in particular those by Bruno Walter (Kirsten Thorborg/Charles Kullman/VPO, 1936 live), Carl Schuricht (Thorborg/Martin Öhmann/Concertgebouw, 1939 live), with a particular nod to Roger Dettmer's choice, Bruno Walter's live New York Philharmonic performance from 1948 with Kathleen Ferrier and Set Svanholm, available only in the NYP's huge Mahler set.
R.E.B. (April 2000)