is one of the great song writers, and this collection of his
earliest songs shows that he found his true gift at an early
age. The Lieder eines fahrenden
Gesellen, performed here in its
voice-and-piano version rather than in Mahler’s better known
orchestration, was composed at the beginning of the 1880s. Some
of its material was used to great effect in the First Symphony,
which was first heard in 1888. The songs have rightly established
their own position at the front of the lieder repertory.
songs work well in either piano or orchestrated versions, but
since he was such a marvelous orchestrator
it is understandable that anyone knowing the more famous orchestral
edition might prefer it to the piano accompaniment. Thomas Hampson
and David Lutz put forward a strong case for the voice-and-piano
version, however, with a sensitive approach to phrasing and
nuance, and a suitably fresh melodic appeal. Likewise the various
early songs, among Mahler’s least known compositions, are treated
to sympathetic performances nicely captured in the warm acoustic
of St Augustine’s in London.
the light of all this it is the more interesting to have the
second half of the programme made
up of the same singer performing Luciano Berio’s orchestral arrangements
of Mahler’s early songs. Clearly any composer undertaking such
a task would only do so as a labour
of love, and the validity of the exercise is enhanced by Berio’s
taking the podium with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the recording
are many felicities of scoring that serve Mahler’s cause well.
It is surprising but true that so many of these songs, composed
when Mahler was just turned twenty, should sound so distinctively
to be the work of the mature composer, and in so many ways too.
The biting attack, the melancholy dreaming, the deeply-felt
emotion, can all be heard. Berio’s
orchestral judgement never lets him down, while Hampson
sounds just as much at home in the repertoire as he did in the
better known Gesellen cycle.
a nicely produced booklet, including full texts and translations,
this reissued CD can be enthusiastically recommended.