Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Totenfeier (1888) [22:32]
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) (1884-85) [15:44]
Sarah Connolly (mezzo)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Vladimir Jurowski
rec. live, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 21 January 2011
Texts and English translations included
This disc is something of an oddity with only 38 minutes of Mahler performed by period instruments! Michael Cookson has also reviewed it for this website and in general my impressions pretty well match his. I was rather wary of what the performance of Totenfeier would sound like, but needn’t have worried. For the most part, the orchestra does a splendid job and even, with fewer instruments than what one is used to in Mahler, creates quite an impact in the climactic moments. Only the low brass in a few places sounds insecure. Totenfeier is more of a rough draft of the Second Symphony’s first movement, but stands well enough on its own. Jurowski seems very much at home in Mahler, too, and the results here are exciting and also poignant during the quiet portions. I recall Jurowski’s recording of the symphony, itself, getting very positive reviews. Based on his performance here, I look forward to hearing that recording with the London Philharmonic on the LPO label. The engineers have captured the sound well both in terms of clarity and warmth.
There is much greater competition in the Wayfarer Songs. While Sarah Connolly sings them very well and enunciates the texts really clearly, I’m not sure she has the right sort of voice for them. I find her just a little too bright, too soprano-ish. My yardstick for these songs has always been Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, either with Furtwängler (EMI) or later with Kubelik (DG). To me, the songs suit the baritone voice better than the mezzo. If you want them sung by a female, then my preference is Janet Baker with Barbirolli (EMI), whose darker voice is particularly suited to the Kindertotenlieder and Rückertlieder on the same disc. That said, Connolly should please those who prefer her type of voice, and Jurowski’s accompaniment is fine.
Stephen Johnson provides very good notes on the works and the booklet lists all the orchestra members. If only the disc contained more music, I could have welcomed it. It would have been useful also to include the Blumine movement that Mahler discarded from his First Symphony and one of the other song cycles, for example.
Leslie Wright 

A Mahler oddity on period instruments with desperately short playing time. 

see also review by Michael Cookson

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