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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Das klagende Lied (I. Waldmarchen (Forest Tale): Langsam und traumerisch [30:25]; II. Der Spielmann (Minstrel): Sehr gehalten [16:55]; III. Hochzeitsstuck (Wedding Tale): Heftig bewegt [19:39]) (1878-80) [67:12]
Marina Shaguch (soprano); Michelle DeYoung (mezzo); Thomas Moser (tenor); Sergei Leiferkus (baritone)
San Francisco Symphony Chorus
San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas
rec. live, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, 29-31 May, 2 June 1996; remastered 2007. DDD
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY 821936-0017-2 [67:12]
Experience Classicsonline

This is a beautifully performed and recorded performance of a relatively little-heard early work by Mahler. The distinctive shimmery sound of the San Francisco Symphony is captured to perfection on this SACD. The re-mastering of a 1996 RCA Red Seal recording, released last year, creates a big, clean, dynamic sound. Even with ordinary CD playing equipment, the quality is excellent. Michael Tilson Thomas, their chief conductor, is marking himself out as a Mahlerian who is simply going from strength to strength. This disc is taken from a series of the composer's work which the MTT and the SFSO are recording together, three of which have been Grammy award-winners. Further details are available at the SFS website.
Das klagende Lied (Song of Lament) sets a myth - partly derived from the stories of the Brothers Grimm - in a large-scale work in three sections for orchestra, choir and four vocal soloists. This piece, completed when Mahler was only twenty years of age, is arguably the first in which his distinctive style became fully apparent. This in itself gives it importance. However, it is still an early work and Mahler's talents have not yet been honed.
The music is very firmly in the romantic tradition, untempered by other influences or approaches. At times Mahler's wanderings come close to losing their way; the listener's interest would be more easily maintained by more change of pace and dynamics. Some might consider the piece over-long and under-edited. No doubt it will be a draw for those with a serious interest in Mahler's music, but it could not be argued to be the easiest or the best introduction to this composer's considerable talents.
There are other good recordings available too: in particular, I would pick out Chailly, with the Berlin Philharmonic (2003) - which has the very considerable attraction of Brigitte Fassbaender's singing; and Simon Rattle with the CBSO (1997) - always an enjoyable combination and especially so in Mahler.
This disc is probably unnecessary as an addition to the existing editions of this work, apart from to complete a collection of the very commendable San Francisco Edition of Mahler's works. Otherwise, it has in its favour excellent playing and recording with good modern sound. MTT is in my opinion an excellent Mahlerian, but so is Rattle! The choice is yours.
Julie Williams

see also Tony Duggan’s survey of Mahler song cycles


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