MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde • Brigitte Fassbaender (mez); Francisco Araiza (ten); Carlo Maria Giulini, cond; Berlin PO • TESTAMENT SBT 1465 (61:22 Text and Translation) Live: Berlin 2/1984
In 1984, Deutsche Grammophon released a recording of Das Lied von der Erde featuring the artists listed above, so I assume that this is a radio transcription originating from concerts that coincided with the session recording (there is also aRead more recording on Orfeo d’Or featuring these artists but with the Vienna Philharmonic, taped at the Salzburg Festival in 1987).
Since Carlo Maria Giulini recorded only three Mahler works, any new recording is a major addition to his Mahler discography. His interpretation elicits a more empathetic and nuanced performance from the Berlin orchestra than the recording, also on DG, conducted by its music director a few years earlier. Unfortunately, Guilini’s own vocalizations are also quite audible, more so on this live recording than on the DG release.
Tenor Francisco Araiza possesses the heroic power of René Kollo in his nearly contemporaneous recordings of this work (with Bernstein and Karajan), but with the fuller, robust quality of Fritz Wunderlich under Klemperer. His German is reasonably idiomatic, and, though the recorded balance favors the orchestra, Araiza manages extremely well in all but the loudest passages of “Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde” (and to be fair, most tenors can’t do any better in a concert setting). Brigitte Fassbaender’s contribution is more problematic. Fanfare’s Benjamin Pernick, reviewing a piano version of Das Lied with Fassbaender (14:1), described the voice thus: “While her middle range is satisfactory, she is, at times, prone to waver in high or loud passages and bottoming out at the low end,” and that aptly describes her limitations on this recording. She doesn’t project the variety of expression or tone that Dame Janet Baker or Christa Ludwig characteristically delivered in this score, and both employ less prominent vibrato.
The sound production is quite good for a concert transcription, though the balance tends to favor the winds and brass against the velvet background of the strings. Despite the few limitations, though, the quality of Giulini’s interpretation and the excellence of the Berlin Philharmonic more than compensate. Though Testament’s price is steep, this recording merits a solid recommendation.
Brigitte Fassbaender (Mezzo Soprano),
Francisco Araiza (Tenor)
Carlo Maria Giulini
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1908-1909; Vienna, Austria