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Gustav MAHLER (1860 Ė 1911)
Kindertotenlieder (1905)
Adagio from Symphony No. 10 in F sharp major (1911)
Anton WEBERN (1883 Ė 1945)

Passacaglia for orchestra, Op. 1. (1908)
Im Sommerwind (1904)
Cornelia Kallisch (mezzo soprano)
SWR Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden and Freiberg/Michael Gielen.
recorded in the Hans Rosbaud-Studio Baden-Baden (Mahler and Passacaglia) on 25-26/6/98 Kindertotenlieder; 16-17/11/89 Symphony No 10; 12-14/11/92 (Passacaglia); 3/9/98 Konzerthaus Freiberg, Im Sommerwind. DDD



On this well filled disc we have some early 20th century major works, conducted by one of Europeís least well known experts in the field. Michael Gielen, who composes as well as conducts has an extensive knowledge and experience of this repertoire. More than that, he is able to pass on his intentions to the musicians of his well trained radio orchestra.

The recordings are all in perfectly acceptable radio quality sound. Normal orchestral balances are set well back in the hall, with clear unadulterated sound; just what these works need and get. Recorded by SWR in their admirable studios we get a good perspective of the orchestra in a very believable acoustic without any instrumental spotlighting to spoil the performances. They could not be described as Hi-Fi recordings, but in this repertoire that is not a bad thing. What we do get here is a series of highly musical performances with no distortion of tempo or of dynamic levels.

The disc opens with the Kindertotenlieder, ably sung by Cornelia Kallisch, a young highly experienced German singer who has appeared throughout Europe in both opera and song recitals. In the Kindertotenlieder she displays a fine technique; I enjoyed this performance immensely. There is a level of emotion in her singing which conjures up for us the right amount of both compassion and horror with Mahlerís texts. She sings with a clear tone, some but not excessive vibrato, and handles Mahlerís complex writing very ably. The only complaint (slight) is when she sings a run of notes up and down: here there are some ugly sounds which should have been corrected before final edit. In addition, the last song in the cycle, In diesem wetter, the tempo is distressingly slow, and I am not sure whether this is due to conductor or soloist. You should try this before purchase.

The first of the two Webern items, early compositions in the composerís oeuvre, is played delectably, with the conductorís sharp ear for detail clearly evident. The orchestra handle this score with confidence and the recording delivers this level of playing to the listener with clarity and power Ė very impressive.

On reaching the last work on this disc, the early student work Im Sommerwind, Gielen is up against stiff competition from Chailly and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra on Decca. This is a more technicolour recording, but I didnít find the new one suffering by comparison.

For most of us Gielenís reputation rests primarily on his disc-based repertoire. That reputation is secure. I was very impressed by this disc, apart from a slight reservation about the Kindertotenlieder.

John Phillips



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