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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Fünf Lieder nach Rückert (1901-2) [18:02]
Des Knaben Wunderhorn - Drei Lieder (1892-1901): Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt [3:37]; Das irdische Leben [2:33]; Urlicht [4:45]
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (1883-5, orch. 1893) [15:20]
Kindertotenlieder (1901-4) [25:47]
Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Ricardo Chailly
rec. February 1988, January and March 1989, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Dahlem, Berlin. DDD
DECCA PRESTO CD 425790-2 [70:44]

I doubt whether Brigitte Fassbaender ever made a bad recording. While not everyone may respond to her forceful style and the insistent timbre of her mezzo-soprano with its occasional heavy vibrato, for me she remains one of the supreme exponents of the Lied as an art form. Her voice has always been highly distinctive: rich, vibrant, with exemplary diction and a facility for dramatising text without undue exaggeration. The sheer weight, intensity and volume of her tone colouring makes her especially suited to the darker, more sorrowful songs in this collection. She can conjure up a peculiarly poignant kind of plangency, close to tears, yet I find her to be equally successful in the lighter songs, exuding the kind of bucolic insouciance they demand.

Her voice is recorded quite forwardly here, such that orchestral detail is just occasionally slightly obscured, but by and large the sound is first rate. As always with this singer, there is a slight spread at the top of the voice at high volume but not distractingly so. It remains secure over a wide tessitura, from a ringing top to its thrilling excursions into the resonant lower register. She can be quiet and restrained when necessary. You may hear the subtlety and steadiness of her vocalisation in the piano passages of that talismanic song “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”, where she deliberately drains her voice of its natural vibrancy to mesmeric effect.

While I have never in general been a fan of Chailly’s Mahler recordings, which to my ears have been too cool and forensic, I salute his work here; the orchestral playing is exquisite.

German texts and English translations are provided in the booklet.

Ralph Moore



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