Mahler: Song Cycles - Coote, Albrecht

Mahler: Song Cycles - Coote, Albrecht

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186576

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, Kindertotenlieder

Alice Coote (soprano)
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra]
Marc Albrecht (conductor)

Marc Albrecht conducts the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra with the acclaimed mezzo-soprano Alice Coote in a persuasive new recording of Mahler’s incomparable orchestral song cycles Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Kindertotenlieder and the Rückert-Lieder.

Richly lyrical, poignant and soul searching, Mahler’s orchestral songs deal with the familiar themes of love, life, resignation and loss, exquisitely realised on an orchestral canvas which combines haunting and compelling sonorities with strident, unsettling dissonances. While not as ambitious as his symphonies, they are as deeply-felt and often regarded as the key to the larger-scale works.

The eloquent sadness of the Kindertotenlieder is expressed though the rather bare orchestration and the entrancing use of solo instruments, culminating in a blissfully serene conclusion. With Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, the restless mood swings are matched with fluctuating, vividly textured orchestral colours. And for the most lyrical song cycle, the Rückert-Lieder, the delicately woven orchestral textures are ravishing in their effect, especially in the incomparable Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, a song of which Mahler said “It is truly me”.

“What makes Albrecht’s Mahler so unique? His approach has integrity, is intelligent and sensitive … Albrecht leads the Mahler that makes you love Mahler.” (NRC Handelsblad).

Marc Albrecht is Music Director of the Netherlands Philharmonic, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and the Dutch National Opera. Acclaimed for his interpretations of Wagner, Strauss and Mahler, as well as for his commitment to contemporary music, Albrecht is a regular guest at Europe’s most prestigious opera houses and orchestras.

The world renowned mezzo-soprano Alice Coote is acclaimed for her performances of Strauss, Mahler, Berlioz, Mozart, Handel and Bach; she performs throughout the UK, Europe and the US and has a busy recital schedule.

The Guardian noted “Alice Coote's many admirers will be grateful to have her performance in Mahler’s great song-symphony documented in a carefully made studio recording [for PENTATONE], for she has emerged over the past few years as one of the finest mezzo interpreters of Das Lied von der Erde around … exquisitely coloured; every word matters, and the sadness that pervades the mezzo songs in particular is conveyed without it ever becoming self-conscious or sentimental.”

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DSD recording
Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - February 19, 2019

Alice Coote is well established as one of the finest mezzo-sopranos of her generation and her performances in both opera and in the concert hall have garnered considerable acclaim over a number of years. On this beautifully recorded SACD she follows up her ineffably moving performance of Mahler’s ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Coote, Fritz, Albrecht with equally compelling accounts of the composer’s three other major song collections – the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Kindertotenlieder and the five Rückert-Lieder.

Coote’s singing in all three of these collections displays a depth of emotional intensity combined with an understanding of the texts that is matched by very few singers around today and just a handful of distinguished artists from the past who have committed these works to disc. The latter, amongst female interpreters, naturally include Christa Ludwig, Janet Baker and Brigitte Fassbaender. What though makes these performances so special is the way in which Coote inhabits every verse of these poems and unfailingly communicates her complete empathy with them. In vocal terms her ability to pare her voice down to a whisper without losing any lack of control or steadiness and the sheer beauty of tone of which she is capable is something to be marvelled at.

In the Rückert-Lieder she has chosen to reverse the usual order of the first two songs – an unusual but perfectly valid decision – and in each of the five her nuanced vocal colouring is remarkable, whether using her rich and powerful chest register as in ‘Um Mitternacht’ or delivering one of the most beautiful and intimate accounts of ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ that I have ever heard. The same expressive qualities permeate the ‘Kindertotenlieder’ in which her deep response to the heart-rending sadness of these song is imparted most movingly.

Given singing and interpretations as individual as these, opinions are bound to be divided, but for Mahler aficionados Coote’s enthralling readings of the composer’s deeply personal song-cycles should on no account be missed. In the face of such poignant and occasional rawness in her vocalisation some might prefer the immaculately sung but less emotionally searing performances by Katarina Karnéus on BIS while to others the latter might seem almost bland in comparison with Coote.

In Marc Albrecht and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra she has found ideally sympathetic partners, and they accompany Coote with the utmost sensitivity. In all three cycles, in terms of both tempi and control of dynamics, the singer and orchestra are in complete accord whilst Albrecht has elicited playing of great refinement, delicacy and where appropriate – as in the third of the Wayfarer songs – considerable dynamism from his orchestra.

The recording team have achieved a most lovely luminous orchestral sound in the sympathetic acoustic of the NedPhO-Koepel, Amsterdam where the recordings took place (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen in November 2015 the remainder in June 2016). The beautifully turned wind solos, harp and timpani are a delight to the ear and are captured with breathtaking fidelity typical of the excellent Polyhymnia recording team in their finest DSD productions.

Rather than a double page photograph of the orchestra and a list of its personnel in the liner notes I would have preferred to have the text and translations of the songs; fortunately though these are available on-line from many sources, so this regrettable omission should not deter anyone from investigating this superb release.

Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2019 Graham Williams and


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Comments (1)

Comment by breydon_music - August 19, 2017 (1 of 1)

This is a marvellous disc - stunning recording of deeply moving performances by soloist and orchestra. Very surprising, though, especially from a company like Pentatone in a full price issue, that neither texts nor translations of the songs are included in the booklet. I hope that this is not the shape of things to come on vocal recordings from this source.