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Gustav MAHLER (1860–1911)
Frühlingsmorgen (c.1880) [2:01];
Erinnerung (c.1880) [2:49];
Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz (c.1890) [4:15];
Der Schildwache Nachtlied (1892) [6:25];
Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (1895) [7:21];
Scheiden und Meiden (c.1890) [2:42];
Rheinlegendchen (1893) [3:14];
Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? (1892) [2:11];
Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald (c.1889) [4:18];
Nicht Wiedersehen! (c.1891) [4:59];
Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt (1893) [4:33];
Urlicht (1892-4) [5:20];
Das Irdische Leben (1893) [2:49];
Um Mitternacht (1901) [6:20];
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (1901) [6:34]
Christianne Stotijn (mezzo), Julius Drake (piano)
rec. The Menuhin Hall, Stoke d’Abernon, England, 10-13 April 2006
ONYX 4014 [66:05]

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The booklet for this issue offers no information about the singer. Not so long ago I reviewed the Loewe’s Passion Oratorio (see review) on Naxos where Christianne Stotijn was one of the soloists. There I found a short bio, unfortunately with her name misspelt, from which I learn that she was born in 1977 in the Netherlands, studied violin at the Amsterdam Conservatorium, “where she was awarded the Prix d’Excellence in 2000”. She also studied singing with Udo Reinemann from 1997 and has appeared in Europe and the US, singing oratorios, lieder and operatic roles. In my Loewe review I wrote: “Contralto Christianne Stotjin is equipped with a big vibrant voice; at first I thought it was a size too large and unwieldy with a vibrato one expects from a well-versed Wagnerian mezzo but it turned out after a while that the voice was under control and once she had settled she sang her part with feeling.”

This verdict could also be applied to her singing on the present disc. However there are caveats. It is a big voice and in the more dramatic outbursts in these Mahler songs it can be almost overwhelming. At these points it takes on a shrill metallic quality that is thrilling but somewhat unsubtle. It turns out however, as Mahlerians already know, that a large proportion of these songs are quiet and lyrical. Here she scales down her instrument accordingly and sings with sincerity and warmth; much of her soft singing is truly beautiful. Ich ging mit Lust (tr. 9), an old favourite of mine, is exquisitely done, some discolouring of the voice near the end apart. Urlicht (tr. 12) is also inward and concentrated. In Ich bin der Welt (tr. 15) she comes close to a whisper at “Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel” – not far behind the famous Janet Baker recording in feeling.

Generally speaking she is good at characterising, making a dramatic scene of Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt (tr. 11). Um Mitternacht (tr. 14) is involved and deeply felt. The intensity with which she delivers “O Menschheit, deiner Leiden” goes directly to the heart. The final lines “Herr! über Tod und Leben/Du hältst die Wacht/Um Mitternacht” are sung with a power and pain to challenge even Brigitte Fassbaender’s unique reading. Not everything here is on the same exalted level but there’s quite enough to make this a worthy addition to one’s collection.

A very important factor contributing to the success of this disc is the quality of Julius Drake’s accompaniment. He is at all times pliable and observant. On his own he makes little masterpieces of the introductions or interludes. The opening to Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (tr. 5) finds him grading the dynamics to perfection with a delicate touch. His more dramatic talent can also be savoured, for instance in Des Antonius von Padua (tr. 11) and maybe even more so in the ominous accompaniment to Das Irdische Leben (tr. 13).

The programme is largely presented chronologically. The first two songs are to texts by Richard Leander and the last two are well-known Rückert settings written more than twenty years after the Leander songs. Between these poles are eleven songs using texts from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the anthology of German folk songs. This was published by Clemens von Brentano and Achim von Arnim at the dawn of the Romantic era in the beginning of the 19th century.

The sound on this disc is well balanced, rightly giving the pianist, more prominence than in many recordings that highlight the singer. The acoustics of The Menuhin Hall are agreeable. This is in fact the first recording to be made in this venue. The booklet has an essay by the Director of the Dutch Mahler Society, Eveline Nikkels. The song texts, with English translations, are printed.

There are some vocally uneasy moments here and it is to be hoped that Ms Stotijn will be able to polish her impressive instrument further. On this hearing she is already a highly accomplished lieder interpreter who has obviously thought herself into these songs. She is accompanied by one of the very best in ‘the trade’.

Göran Forsling

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