Notes and Editorial Reviews
The first thing to be said is that this piano accompanied version of what Bruno Walter considered the most Mahlerian of all Mahler is neither a first draft nor a second best. "What one writes," declared Mahler, "has always seemed to me more important than what it is scored for"; and this recording is a persuasive advocate for his words.
The autograph score of the piano version (now published in the Kritische Gesamtausgabe) includes the instrumental interludes, and detailed indications for keyboard performance. Its editor, Stephen Hefling, feels that evidence points to Mahler's working at both piano and orchestral scores simultaneously, and revising the former even as he was polishing the latter. Certainly
the small verbal and musical discrepancies show no consistent pattern of 'improvement' from one to the other: it could be argued that the flattening of the third in "ist der Tod" in the orchestral version of the first song has expressive significance: but the use of "See" for "Strom", "Abend" for "Lebens" in the piano version suggest perhaps more of tailor-made appropriation than emotional upgrading.
This performance bears the mark of as much meticulous preparation on the part of the performers as that of the composer himself. Thomas Moser, at times a little more strained than Fassbaender's partner, Francisco Araiza, on her orchestral version of 1984 with Giulini on DG (CD 413 459-2GH, 10/84), realizes that the singer's imagination must work overtime: and he does so. In "Das Trinklied" for instance, the dichotomy between the glint of gold and the darkness of death is no longer orchestrally stage-managed: Moser responds by darkening his voice movingly for "Dunkel ist das Leben", just as Fassbaender in "Die Einsame in Herbst" carries the sweeping bass strings of autumn in her own heart and vocal chords.
There are times, of course, when piano accompaniment does work less well. One does miss the detail of the wind band's Chinoiserie for the Pavilion scene: the piano here simply does not give the voice a live enough texture to bounce off. In "Am Ufer", too (as Mahler calls the "Von der SchOnheit" we know and love), Fassbaender is less relaxed without the foil of Mahler's minute gildings of horn and flute for the dark legato of the voice.
Cyprien Katsaris does an extraordinary job, from the first, long reverberating bass note to the great interlude where he seeks out every breath, pulse and vibration within the piano to realize Mahler's imaginative landscape. The knotty chromatics in the piano part of "Der Einsame" sound independently thought through, creating their own stark mouldings of melody and harmony. In "Der Abschied" the rhythmic element inevitably becomes over-emphasized as resonance finds a narrower range; but the simplicity of a single line accompaniment at the song's centre concentrates all its anguished tension and questioning within the voice itself, and Fassbaender is more than equal to the task.
-- H.F., Gramophone [6/1990]
Reviewing original release, Teldec 246276-4
Works on This Recording
Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler
Thomas Moser (Tenor),
Brigitte Fassbaender (Mezzo Soprano),
Cyprien Katsaris (Piano)
Written: 1908-1909; Vienna, Austria
Length: 59 Minutes 54 Secs.
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