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Mahler: Das Lied Von Der Erde / Albrecht, Rubens, Schafer, Morloc, Eiche

Mahler / Rubens / Morloc / Mbo / Albrecht
Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 792   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Renée MorlocMarkus SchäferSibylla RubensMarkus Eiche
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde (arr. Schoenberg/Riehn/Albrecht) Sibylla Rubens (sop); Renée Morloc (alt); Markus Schäfer (ten); Markus Eiche (bar); Hansjörg Albrecht, cond; Munich Bach O OEHMS OC 792 (62:25 Text, no Translations)

As one might suspect from the headnote, this really is something (almost) completely different. The booklet cover pronounces this a “New Version—First Recording,” and both phrases are true in the narrowest Read more sense; whether many (or any) additional recordings will follow remains to be seen.

Conductor Hansjörg Albrecht had grown dissatisfied with the Schoenberg-Riehn reduction of Das Lied , and decided to augment the original 14 instruments with 10 additional ones, adding weight to the string and brass sections, restoring the timpani and harp, and eliminating the piano. To my way of thinking, all of this is to the good. His decisions about the singers, on the other hand, are on shakier ground. Noting that Mahler equivocated about the voices up to the moment of publication, he has chosen to give “Von der Jugend” to the soprano and “Der Abschied” to the baritone; the remainder of the songs retain the voices most often employed.

Tenor Markus Schäfer is accorded admirable clarity due to the reduced forces, and he is able to project the angst needed to characterize “Das Trinklied” without straining against Mahler’s original orchestration. The nearly impossible balance between the lyrical and heroic therefore becomes manageable. In fact, Schäfer’s performance is one of the most convincing that I’ve heard on recent recordings. He is no less effective as the happy tippler of the fifth song.

Renée Morloc brings the deeper, ripe-sounding tones of the alto voice to her contributions, and her slightly nasal delivery isn’t as congenial to my ears as a mezzo such as Birgit Remmert on the Harmonia Mundi recording conducted by Philippe Herreweghe. The shock of hearing the soprano voice in “Von der Jugend” isn’t quite offset by Sibylla Rubens’s sparkling, animated performance, and I can’t help thinking that Mahler wouldn’t have approved of the almost stridently cheerful quality of this narrator; a more constrained tenor such as Hans Peter Blochwitz (Herreweghe) is a more neutral-sounding observer, though one possessed of a certain wistfulness.

In assigning “Der Abschied” to baritone Markus Eiche, Albrecht enters into competition with the likes of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Thomas Hampson. In the event, Eiche acquits himself splendidly, and the darker, heavier orchestra of Albrecht’s version is much more dramatic than the anemic orchestration of the Schoenberg-Riehn version.

The positive attributes of this new recording include the augmented orchestra, which provides the salutary effect of more closely approximating Mahler’s own, rendering a truer chamber-orchestra sound. The audio production is closely miked, providing plenty of power and definition for both instrumentalists and vocalists. The negatives are mostly a matter of personal preference; the soprano voice for “Von der Jugend” just doesn’t work for me, and the alto’s voice isn’t as appealing as Birgit Remmert for Herreweghe or Jane Irwin for Douglas Boyd (Avie). On balance, though, since my objections are mostly a matter of taste, I would suggest that this disc is definitely worth exploring.

FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Renée Morloc (Alto), Markus Schäfer (Tenor), Sibylla Rubens (Soprano),
Markus Eiche (Baritone)
Conductor:  Hansjörg Albrecht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Bach Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Vienna, Austria 

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