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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Gustav Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde (Otto Klemperer)


Composer: Gustav Mahler
  1. Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of Earth): I. Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde (The Drinking Song of Earth's Misery)
  2. Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of Earth): II. Der Einsame im Herbst (The Lonely One in Autumn)
  3. Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of Earth): III. Von der Jugend (Of Youth)
  4. Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of Earth): IV. Von der Schönheit (Of Beauty)
  5. Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of Earth): V. Der Trunkene im Frühling (The Drunken Man in Spring)
  6. Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of Earth): VI. Der Abschied (The Farewell)

Fritz Wunderlich. tenor
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Philharmonia Orchestra
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer, conductor

Date: 1964-1966
Label: EMI




Here we have a difficulty. Which to choose between three recommendable, yet very different interpretations? I certainly agree with RO's outright enthusiasm for the Walter/Decca transfer. Though in some quarters criticized for its sound quality, it has an emotional thrill, an immediacy about it that no other version has yet equalled, or is likely to. All the participants were absolutely dedicated to Walter's tense and urgent direction. But I mustn't succumb to the temptation of re-reviewing that version; it is simply that beside it, the Klemperer—as a reading—seems curiously detached. In his famous BBC TV interview Klemperer declared that he was the objective one, Walter the Romantic, and he knew what he was talking about. Klemperer lays the music before you, even lays bare its soul by his simple method of steady tempos (too slow in the third song, I feel) and absolute textural clarity—where else are the wind parts in the finale so searing because they are so clearly exposed?—but he doesn't quite demand your emotional capitulation as does Walter. Ludwig does that (not quite so potently as the vocally much more fallible Fassbaender on DG), her glorious voice unequalled in this music even by Ferrier, though, with Walter at her side, she is just as moving, more so maybe—but here we are choosing between two highly personal and equally valid readings. In the tenor songs, Wunderlich, and certainly Araiza, cannot match Patzak, simply because of the older singer's way with the text; ''fest steh'n'' in the opening song, ''Mir ist als wie im Traum'', the line plaintive and the tone poignant, are simply unsurpassable. By any other yardstick, Wunderlich is a prized paragon, musical and vocally free.

So truthful and natural is the sound on the revived EMI that it easily beats not only the mono Decca but also the too-recessed DG. With voice and orchestra in perfect relationship and everything sharply defined, the old methods of the 1960s have nothing to fear here from today's competition. I still admire the Giulini for his flexible and deeply-considered reading, and for Fassbaender. But the two older rivals will never be thrust aside; the Walter for its authority and intensity, the feeling of being present on an historic occasion, the Klemperer for its insistent strength and beautiful singing, now even more evident on CD. Both have to be in any self-respecting collection of Mahler.

-- Alan BlythGramophone

More reviews:

Tony Duggan's survey


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.


Otto Klemperer (14 May 1885 – 6 July 1973) was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century. Klemperer met Gustav Mahler while conducting the off-stage brass at a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, and later assisted Mahler in the premiere of Mahler's Symphony No. 8. He became the first principal conductor of the Philharmonia in 1959, subsequently made many recordings for EMI that have become classics. While adopting slower tempi as he aged, Klemperer's performances often maintain great intensity, and are richly detailed.


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