Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Jurowski
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186760
Classical - Orchestral
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Dame Sarah Connolly, mezzo
Robert Dean Smith, tenor
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
CELEBRATING THE IMMORTAL NATURE OF LIFE
Vladimir Jurowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin continue their exploration of Mahler with a new recording of Das Lied von der Erde, on which Dame Sarah Connolly and Robert Dean Smith provide the vocal contributions. Residing somewhere between symphony and song cycle, Das Lied is one of Mahler’s most profound and loved works, marking an important step in the composer’s career, as well as in his private life. Jurowski approaches the piece as Mahler’s deliberate move from a “heroic” Beethovenian model towards a more “lyrical”, Schubertian attitude. Throughout Das Lied, and particularly in the contemplative last movement, “Der Abschied (The Goodbye)”, Mahler seems to come to terms with the mortality of man while celebrating the immortal nature of Life.
The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin has a vast PENTATONE discography. Together with their chief conductor and artistic director Vladimir Jurowski, they have recorded symphonic works from Mahler and Strauss (2017), violin concertos by Britten and Hindemith together with Arabella Steinbacher (2017), and Schnittke’s Third Symphony (2015). Robert Dean Smith featured on PENTATONE recordings of Tannhäuser (title role, 2013), Die Walküre (Siegmund, 2013), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Stolzing, 2011), and Der Fliegende Holländer (Erik, 2011). Dame Sarah Connolly makes her PENTATONE debut.
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Review by Graham Williams - August 18, 2020
The PENTATONE label already has a very fine recording of Mahler’s penultimate completed work ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ in their catalogue from Marc Albrecht and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - Albrecht , so it seems reasonable to ask why another? One could speculate that the opportunity to record the work again with their recently signed star conductor Vladimir Jurowski was an opportunity not to be missed and in the event it certainly proves to have been a wise decision. This new release is taken from a live recording made in the Berlin Philharmonie on 14 October 2018, a co-production with Deutschlandfunk Kultur and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, Berlin.
In the liner notes Jurowski contributes an essay entitled ‘A song on the mortality of man and the mortal nature of Life’ in which he expresses his belief that “Mahler consciously juxtaposed here the mortality of humans and the immortal nature of Life itself, and in this sense, he seems closer to the teachings of Buddha or Lao Tse than to the maxims of Christianity or Judaism.” How much this conductor’s spiritual philosophy influences the performance is for others to speculate, but there is no doubt that he inspires the players of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, Berlin (the orchestra of which he is currently the chief conductor and artistic director) to give of their best and deliver what, judged by any yardstick, is a most impressive account of this work. Janowski’s well considered pacing and subtle use of portamento at various points in the score also allows appreciation of the many beautifully shaped individual solo passages from the RSB players that abound throughout this score.
Robert Dean Smith is the tenor soloist (as he is for Ivan Fischer’s new studio account of Das Lied von der Erde recorded a year earlier in 2017). As an outstanding Heldentenor who has performed all the main Wagner roles (Tannhäuser, Lohengrin Meistersinger, Tristan etc.) he is fully up to the taxing opening song ‘Das Trinklied von Jammer der Erde’. It is, however, also apparent that at 62 (when this performance took place) his voice had, understandably, lost some of its freshness from earlier years; nevertheless his secure singing and clear delivery of the texts in all three songs is not to be underestimated.
Without doubt what makes this recording very special is the sublime singing of Sarah Connolly in the three alto songs. Her exquisitely nuanced performances of each illustrate her deep identification with this music. In ‘Der Einsame in Herbst’, she perfectly conveys the introspective character of the poem through her clear enunciation of the text and the warmth of her delivery while also remaining meticulous in her attention to Mahler’s directions. Her delicately poised ‘Von der Schönheit’ is lustrous in the outer sections and she articulates the challenging wild percussive central section with ease. The full gamut of Connolly’s miraculous vocal artistry is displayed in her achingly beautiful account of ‘Der Abschied’ that, without doubt, matches those from the finest interpreters of the past.
The multi-channel SACD was recorded in Hi-Res PCM by Florian B Schmidt (producer and post- production) and Henri Thaon (recording engineer). The sound has all the requisite clarity and definition one could wish for, spacious yet detailed, and with a fine balance achieved between orchestra and soloists. Audience noise is virtually absent and there is no applause after the work’s conclusion.
The presentation of this issue does, however, leave much to be desired. Careless proofing of the booklet notes – for example, Kath-leen (sic) Ferrier – and though the German/ English texts are provided, the whole of the final verse of ‘Der Abschied’ has, unforgivably, been omitted. The timings for each of the work’s six movements printed on the digipak are also suspect, failing to match those shown on my player or PC. In fact Jurowski’s performance lasts 60.30 not 62.43 as stated.
These irritations aside, I have no hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending this recording, not only for the sensitivity of Jurowski’s insightful conducting but especially for the unmissable eloquence and searching musicality of Sarah Connolly’s wonderfully moving performance, one that no Mahler devotee will wish to be without.
Copyright © 2020 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net