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Friday, June 23, 2017

Gustav Mahler - Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Thomas Quasthoff; Anne Sofie von Otter; Claudio Abbado)


Composer: Gustav Mahler
  1. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Revelge
  2. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Rheinlegendchen
  3. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Trost im Unglück
  4. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Verlor'ne Müh'
  5. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Der Schildwache Nachtlied
  6. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Das irdische Leben
  7. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Lied des Verfolgten im Turm
  8. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?
  9. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt
  10. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Lob des hohen Verstandes
  11. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen
  12. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Der Tamboursg'sell
  13. Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Urlicht

Thomas Quasthoff, baritone (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12)
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano (2, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Date: 1998
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****

Even without the enticement of two of the world’s most perceptive Lieder singers and the razor-sharp support of Abbado, there would be one very compelling reason for choosing this collection of songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn) even above the intriguingly matched team of Norman, Shirley-Quirk and Haitink. Mahler selected texts from the polished-up folk anthology which mostly deal with the here-and-now tragicomedies of soldiers and country girls, reserving the collection’s rare moments of religious balm to light the way in the Second, Third and Fourth Symphonies. By ending with ‘Urlicht’ out of the context of the Resurrection Symphony, Abbado’s sequence suggests that something lies beyond the temporary consolations of soldier-spectres and the terror of death. And this is, after all, Anne Sofie von Otter at her most hallowed, following Quasthoff in burnished tragic-heroic mode, sounding for all the world like a young Norman Bailey in the focused despair he shares so well with Abbado. From the first, rhythmically crisp trumpet fanfares, so skilfully imitated by Berlin woodwind later on, you know you are in the most vivid of hands. Abbado is right to trust the varied tone colours of his two singers to carry the many boy-girl dialogues single-handedly in each song, as Mahler always intended (and contrary to the practice of most other contenders). Von Otter plays the wench with just a hint of Strauss’s Octavian disguised as Mariandel, and none of the archness of a Schwarzkopf, while the desperation of ‘Das irdische Leben’ is carefully graded. And Quasthoff is as quietly witty in pointing up the rhythms and phrases of the fables as he is harrowing in the military doom-songs. Unsurpassable.

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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.


Anne Sofie von Otter (born 9 May 1955 in Stockholm) is a Swedish mezzo-soprano. She made her professional operatic début in 1983. Her repertoire encompasses lieder, operas, oratorios and also rock and pop songs. She has made numerous recordings and received many rewards. Her recording of Grieg songs won the 1993 Gramophone Record of the Year, the first time in the award's history that it had gone to a song recording. She is a regular recital and recording partner with Swedish pianist Bengt Forsberg.


Thomas Quasthoff (born November 9, 1959 in Hildesheim, West Germany) is a German bass-baritone. Quasthoff has a range of musical interest from the Baroque cantatas of Bach, to Romantic lieder, and solo jazz improvisations. Born with severe birth defects, Quasthoff is 1.34 m tall, and has phocomelia. He has won several awards, including 2 Grammies for his recordings with Anne Sofie von Otter and Claudio Abbado. In January 2012, Quasthoff announced his retirement from public performance.


Claudio Abbado (26 June 1933 – 20 January 2014) was an Italian conductor. One of the most celebrated and respected conductors of the 20th century, he served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Abbado performed a wide range of Romantic works and recorded extensively for a variety of labels.


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