Gustav MAHLER (1860 – 1911)
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
1. Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht [3:43]
2. Ging heut’ Morgen übers Feld [4:20]
3. Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer [3:21]
4. Die zwei blauen Augen [5:27]
Des Knaben Wunderhorn
5. Rheinlegendchen [2:58]
6. Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? [2:58]
Lieder nach Gedichten von Friedrich Rückert
7. Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft [2:15]
8. Liebst du um Schönheit [2:26]
9. Um Mitternacht [6:05]
10. Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder [1:35]
11. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen [6:12]
Frederica von Stade (mezzo)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Davis
rec. 8, 15-16 December 1978, EMI Studios, London, England. No song texts provided

‘Flicka’, as she is known among friends, has garnered the opera houses and concert halls around the world for four decades and her agenda is still well-filled. As a recording artist she has been prolific and appeared in opera, art-song, sacred music, operetta, Broadway musical and cross-over albums – always with glorious results. The present disc, recorded in 1978 and reissued by Arkiv with the original cover picture and Lionel Salter’s liner notes, was one of the few records with her I never bought on LP – God knows why! Now that I finally have it in my collection I feel satisfied. Mahler songs and Frederica von Stade’s voice have always seemed the ideal combination.

Her clean, slim voice is especially well suited to Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. One of her specialities in opera was the trouser role: Cherubino and Octavian. The opening lines of Wenn mein Schatz are sung with innocent, boyish tone and in Ging heut’ Morgen she is wonderfully fresh and youthful, singing the final lines touchingly with ‘naked’ tone. She can also be strong and dramatic: Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer has all the necessary intensity with desperation almost visible. Then Die zwei blauen Augen is simplicity itself. I have heard few recordings of this cycle that sound so right – and this in spite of a woman singing what is, after all, a man’s words.

The two Wunderhorn songs are just as affecting. In Rheinlegendchen she adopts that boyish tone again and sings, so to speak, with wide open eyes – a spontaneous story-teller. Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?, famously recorded in the 1930s by Elisabeth Schumann, definitely has an open-air atmosphere. Schumann was a charmer, ‘Flicka’ with rounder tone is no less charming.

The five Rückert songs are, for me, indelibly connected with Janet Baker and her late 1960s recording with Barbirolli. Baker could, like no-one else, combine simplicity and deep emotions. But Frederica von Stade’s leaner voice is equally well suited to these songs. Her sophisticated artlessness – sounds like a contradiction but is exactly what I hear; artfulness disguised as simplicity – makes Liebst du um Schönheit so achingly beautiful. She applies the same light touch on Um Mitternacht, and this doesn’t exclude interpretative depth. She has the required power for the big emotional moments, most importantly the final pages of this great song.

The final song, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, has for forty years been one of the family’s great favourites – always in Janet Baker’s reading. Other recordings have popped up and we have admired them, listened closely and in the last analysis returned to Ms Baker. I still find it the deepest-probing but Frederica von Stade’s ethereal rendering of Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel (Rückert actually wrote Weltgewimmel) has also etched itself into my store of unforgettable musical moments. A wonderful end to a memorable recording.

The recording is first class and the LPO play like gods under Andrew Davis’s watchful direction. There are no song texts in the booklet, which is a pity, but they are easily available on the internet.

Göran Forsling

Artfulness disguised as simplicity – achingly beautiful.

see also review of Sony release by Tony Duggan

Masterwork Index: Rückert Lieder