Alma Mahler’s songs are no longer rare birds, either on the recital
platform or on disc. That is good since they are certainly worth anyone’s
attention. The five songs on this disc were published in 1910; a further
nine were also published during her lifetime and in 2000 another two.
Die stille Stadt
is a song that grows every time I hear it and
is also highly evocative. The Rilke setting
Bei dir ist es traut
and the brief Heine setting Ich wandle
are also worth a listen but it is In meines Vaters
by Otto Erich Hartleben that is the masterpiece with thrilling
chromatics and a beautiful piano part. Whether Gustav had a finger in the
pie when the songs were published is hard to know but he regarded them
highly and regretted that he had forbidden her to compose after they got
Karen Cargill is an excellent advocate for Alma’s songs. Her voice has
youthful freshness and her affection for the songs is obvious.
When we move over to Gustav’s songs we encounter a different sound-world,
more distinctly personal but we must remember that Alma’s songs were written
before 1901 when she was hardly more than twenty.
The Rückert Lieder
are commonly heard in the orchestral version
but they were originally conceived for voice and piano. These are searching
readings of the group. Not least Liebst du um Schönheit
marvellously sensitively sung. Um Mitternacht
is very inward but
the darker outbursts are truly intense and the final bars are
Herr! Herr über Tod und Leben
Du hälst die Wacht
(Lord! Ruler of life and death.
You have the watch,
The magical opening of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
me think of Janet Baker’s two recordings with Barbirolli. No praise could be
higher. Karen Cargill keeps the tension all through the song.
Her youthful timbre suits Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen to
perfection. A springy and incisive Ging heut’ morgen
and inward final lines signals a reading of the whole cycle that is a match
for many other recordings of this oft-heard set ... and I wasn’t
disappointed. The intense and dramatic Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer
is perhaps the highlight.
from the Second Symphony isn’t exactly a song I have been
longing to hear with piano accompaniment but to my surprise it worked
excellently and it is a deeply felt reading.
Simon Lepper is a reliable accompanist and the whole disc should be an
attractive buy, not least for those who haven’t as yet found the way to Alma
Masterwork Index: Rückert Lieder