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Mahler: Lieder / Otter, Quasthoff, Urmana, Boulez, Vienna PO

Release Date: 01/11/2005 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 000389402   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Thomas QuasthoffVioleta UrmanaAnne Sofie von Otter
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Without question, this is the best disc of Mahler songs to come along in many a moon. All three singers have a lot to offer the music, and Boulez conducts with typical clarity, leading the orchestra with great discipline as well as an usually high level of what sounds suspiciously like emotional commitment. You can hear this immediately in the Songs of a Wayfarer, where "Ich hab ein glühend Messer" has real Sturm und Drang angst, with Thomas Quasthoff typically marvelous in his ability to put across the sense of the text without stooping to tasteless histrionics. His world-weariness in the final song, coupled with his innate beauty of tone, makes the cycle's conclusion exceptionally moving. In the orchestral department, note Read more how effectively Boulez touches in all of those marvelous orchestral details--the harp in the second song, for instance.

Violeta Urmana's lighter soprano (compared to Otter) suits the chamber-music delicacy of the Rückert songs well, and it's good to hear her in excellent form after her disappointing contribution to Boulez's dullest-in-history Das Lied von der Erde. The three shortest songs come first, followed by "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen", and finally "Um Mitternacht". Urmana catches the inward quality of the former extremely well, if perhaps not quite with Janet Baker's or Christa Ludwig's almost supernatural purity of timbre and intonation, and she's just terrific in the final song, with Boulez giving the piano and harp plenty of exposure and controlling the brass as effectively as anyone ever has. It's a stunning piece of conducting in a song that usually winds up defeating the singer.

Anne Sofie von Otter's contribution to the Kindertotenlieder finds her on the same high level as her colleagues. Temperamentally, she seems ideally suited to the suffocating sorrow of the opening song, and she understands the need to avoid any trace of preciosity in "Wenn dein Mütterlein". Both she and Boulez really but loose in the final song: this has to be one of its finest performances on disc, not just for Otter's barely controlled fury in the opening verses and her exquisite legato in the final lullaby, but also for Boulez's ability to bring out the violence of the writing at all dynamic levels. The Vienna winds really do themselves proud here, and this isn't a group about which that can be said very often. This is also one of the very few recordings that permits you to hear the low, marimba-like tones of the celesta at the very end--and how important they are to Mahler's sound palette!

The recording, as you may have gleaned from the above commentary, captures a great deal of orchestral detail very faithfully. I also like the natural balances, with the voices not too close but rather cushioned in the orchestral fabric as they would be in live performance. At times this means that the orchestra necessarily dominates, but then this is Mahler after all, and if you want to hear voice, and nothing but voice, there's always Bellini. My only quibble is a slight lack of body to the instrumental textures at the lowest dynamic levels, but otherwise this is first class. God knows how many recordings I have of this music, but when I feel like listing to any of these songs, it will be difficult not to reach for this disc first. [2/14/2005]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Thomas Quasthoff (Baritone)
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883-1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/2003 
Venue:  Gorsser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 16 Minutes 51 Secs. 
Language: German 
Rückert Lieder (5) by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Violeta Urmana (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2003 
Venue:  Gorsser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 19 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Language: German 
Kindertotenlieder by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1904; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/2003 
Venue:  Gorsser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna 
Length: 24 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Language: German 

Sound Samples

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Ging heut' morgen übers Feld
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Ich hab' ein glühend Messer
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz
Rückert-Lieder: Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
Rückert-Lieder: Ich atmet' einen linden Duft
Rückert-Lieder: Liebst du um Schönheit
Rückert-Lieder: Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
Rückert-Lieder: Um Mitternacht
Kindertotenlieder: Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n
Kindertotenlieder: Nun seh' ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen
Kindertotenlieder: Wenn dein Mütterlein
Kindertotenlieder: Oft denk' ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen
Kindertotenlieder: In diesem Wetter

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