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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gustav Mahler - Das klagende Lied (Michael Tilson Thomas)


Composer: Gustav Mahler
  1. Das klagende Lied: I. Waldmärchen
  2. Das klagende Lied: II. Der Spielmann
  3. Das klagende Lied: III. Hochzeitsstück

Marina Shaguch, soprano
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Thomas Moser, tenor
Sergei Leiferkus, baritone
San Francisco Symphony Chorus & Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor

Date: 1996
Label: SFS Media (licensed from RCA)



A thrilling performance of startling early Mahler that heralded so much.

What a glorious prospect Mahler’s first major work opens up for us – and how beautifully it is realised here. The original three-part version of this ambitious folkloric cantata is like a musical manifesto of pretty well all Mahler to come. Horn calls in the prelude to “Waldmärchen” (“Forest Tale”) awaken his unique nature-world; elfin woodwind fanfares intimate martial music as far as the Seventh and Eighth symphonies; the First Symphony (third movement) is germinating at the close of part 1, the opening of the Second is already in place with the first bars of “Der Spielmann” (“The Wandering Musician”); and with “Hochzeitsstück” (“Wedding Feast”) Mahler seems to find himself in Act 2 of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung contemplating the opera he never wrote. But more startling than anything in Das Klagende Lied is Mahler’s feeling for, and command of, the orchestra – and this from a composer who’d never heard a note of his own orchestration.

Recorded in 1996, the reissue of this superbly engineered and vividly executed reading almost suggests that Tilson Thomas wants to give us the benefit of hindsight in evaluating it. With all the completed symphonies in his Mahler cycle now recorded (only the Eighth awaits release) the subtle detailing and nuancing of this performance indicates painstaking preparation but arrives in our living rooms sounding as if the ink is still wet on the page. Each repetition of that madrigal-like choral ritornello intensifies the lamentation of the title (the spell cast by that single phrase is something akin to the transcendency of the “Alleluias” in Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms) until release is found in the anguish of the wronged queen and soprano Marina Shaguch hurls out her leaping vocal line to bring down the walls of the castle. That’s Mahler’s innate theatricality for you. Quite a piece, and quite a performance.

-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: *** / SOUND: ****


Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austrian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. In his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, but his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of neglect. After 1945, Mahler became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers. Mahler's œuvre is relatively small. Aside from early works, most of his are very large-scale works, designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists.


Michael Tilson Thomas (born December 21, 1944) is an American conductor, pianist and composer. He studied piano with John Crown, composition and conducting under Ingolf Dahl. As a student of Friedelind Wagner, Tilson Thomas was a Musical Assistant and Assistant Conductor at the Bayreuth Festival. He is currently music director of the San Francisco Symphony (since 1995), and artistic director of the New World Symphony Orchestra (which he founded in 1987). He was also the principal conductor of the London Symphony from 1988 to 1995, and since 1995, held the title of principal guest conductor.


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