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Clytus Gottwald - Alma and Gustav Mahler - Transcriptionen für Chor a cappella
Gustav MAHLER (1860 -1911)
Erinnerung (1880/83) [3:25]; Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (1898) [6:00]; Um Mitternacht (1901) [6:07]; Die zwei blauen Augen (1883/85) [6:05]; Urlicht (1892) [6:18]; Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (1884/85) [7:25]; Scheiden und Meiden (1888/89) [2:49]; Es sungen drei Engel (1895) [4:27]; Im Abendrot [10:44]
Alma MAHLER (1879-1964)
Drei Frühe Lieder: Die stille Stadt [3:30]; Laue Sommernacht [2:30]; Bei dir ist es traut [3:49]
SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart/Marcus Creed
rec. 28 March-5 April 2012 SWR, Stuttgart Funkstudio, Stuttgart, Germany.
Full German texts with English translations
CARUS 83.370 [63:41]

In May 2011 at the Philharmonie, Munich I attended a concert of Mahler’s Resurrection symphony played by the Symphonieorchester und Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by Mariss Jansons. Before this came Mahler’s much loved Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen performed by the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and directed by Michael Gläser in an a cappella arrangement by Clytus Gottwald. That was my first association with any of Gottwald’s work. Despite some initial scepticism I found the overall effect quite stunning.
A few months ago a choral disc on the BR Klassik label arrived for review. It comprised a cappella arrangements of mainly lieder by Mahler, Strauss and Wagner and was performed by the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Peter Dijkstra. Gottwald provided five of the arrangements. I was delighted by the general quality of the performances and the re-writing worked exceptionally well in each case.
For the German Carus label the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart under their English artistic director Marcus Creed offers us nine lieder by Gustav Mahler and three by Alma Mahler. Again Gottwald’s re-workings are used throughout. The Stuttgart choir founded in 1946 for studio productions of SWR radio, has earned an excellent reputation, seem enthusiastic and are highly suited to this repertoire.
Clytus Gottwald, born in 1925 at Lower Silesia, Poland, is an experienced arranger of songs and orchestral works for choir. Nine of the twelve including all of Alma Mahler’s lieder are receiving their world première recordings here. Although I thoroughly enjoy the whole of Marcus Creed’s high quality programme there are three standout works - all of them from Gustav Mahler’s pen.
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world) is from Gustav’s set of five Rückert-Lieder and uses text by Friedrich Rückert. It is arranged here for a sixteen voice choir. I love the gently rocking motion with its exhilarating excursions into stormier waters. A true masterpiece of the repertoire, I believe this is his greatest lied. Urlicht (Primeval light) arranged for eight part choir takes its text from the set of German folk poems Des Knaben Wunderhorn. It was used by Gustav in his Resurrection Symphony. The music is generous in understated passion and unfolds tenderly. The world famous and esteemed Adagietto from the Symphony No. 5 (1901/02) was possibly written as an impassioned declaration of love for Alma Schindler, his future wife. The arrangement uses an astutely chosen text Im Abendrot (At sunset) by Joseph von Eichendorff. A study in concentration and preparation the Stuttgart choir’s rendition sounds quite heavenly in its gloriously expansive lyricism.
Alma Schindler was a composition pupil of the composer Alexander Zemlinsky for a time and had strong links with Arnold Schoenberg’s circle. Fewer than twenty of her output of lieder have survived and her music is rarely heard or performed although there are now a number of recordings available. Presented here is Alma’s Drei frühe Lieder part of a set of Fünf frühe Lieder published in 1910. Gottwald arranged them in 2005 for six to ten voice choir. In an interview in the booklet notes Gottwald felt that Alma’s music was more progressive than Gustav’s and as a composer “was truly very talented”. All three works are attractive and well crafted but not especially memorable. I particularly enjoy the setting of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Bei dir ist es traut (With you it is lovely). Despite the limitations of Alma’s lieder I was pleased to hear them and have the opportunity to compare them with those by Gustav.
Eminently suited to this repertoire the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart display consistent unison producing a sound that often feels blissful. Meticulous preparation combined with subtlety of dynamic shading and unerring accuracy make for highly satisfying listening. Gratifyingly the booklet notes include full German texts with English translations. The Carus sound engineers can be justly proud of their achievement. This is an impressively performed and recorded disc of highly agreeable repertoire that will provide many delights.
Michael Cookson