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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Urlicht - Lieder
Christianne Stotijn (mezzo)
Julius Drake (piano)
rec. 2006, The Menuhin Hall, Menuhin School, Stoke D'Abernon, Surrey, U.K.
Full German texts with English translations
ONYX 4014 [71:54]

Dutch mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn has become one of the finest Lieder performers on the international stage and I felt I ought to comment on this album, released on Onyx back in 2006. In this collection of fifteen Mahler Lieder Christianne Stotijn has the valued accompaniment Julius Drake.

Mahler’s association with Lieder is different to that of the best known Lieder composers such as Schubert, Schumann, Wolf. He composed only a small number of works in the genre; which were the Drei Lieder for tenor and piano (1880), the Lieder und Gesänge the collection of fourteen songs in three volumes with piano accompaniment (1880/89) and the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Travelling Journeyman) for voice with piano (1883/85), often translated as Songs of a Wayfarer. Mahler’s other compositions for the voice were generally written directly for orchestral accompaniment rather than for the piano: Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn) a collection of settings of anonymous German folk-poetry (1888-1901), Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) (1901-04), 5 orchestral songs Rückert-Lieder (1901-02) and the song cycle-symphony Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth).

The first two songs chosen by Stotijn Frühlingsmorgen (Spring Morning) and Erinnerung (Memory) are also the first two songs from the first volume of Lieder und Gesänge. These songs are settings of texts by the German poet Richard von Volkmann under his pen name of Richard Leander. The next eleven appear to be taken ad hoc from the various volumes of the Des Knaben Wunderhorn collection. The final two songs Um Mitternacht (At midnight) and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I have lost touch with the world) form part of the five songs of the Rückert-Lieder - settings of the German poet Friedrich Rückert.

The first song on the release Frühlingsmorgen (Spring Morning) sounds like a gentle lullaby with Stotijn’s calm and restrained singing. Erinnerung (Memory) is a love-song and it is clear that the liaison is not running smoothly as there is an unsettling and agitated undercurrent here. I was disappointed with Stotijn’s uncomfortable screeching through the high notes between points 1:21-1:26; which came as quite a shock. Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz (On the ramparts of Strasburg) is a marching song complete with bugle-like effects from Drake’s piano. Here it seems a young soldier is pleading to be spared the bullet for deserting his post which Stotijn interprets with poignancy and rapt concentration. The Der Schildwache Nachtlied (The Sentinel’s Night Song) sounds like another marching-song with a soldier on duty at midnight. Here Stotijn sings sturdily and expressively. I was impressed with her gentle and tender interpretation of the boy’s love for an Innkeeper's daughter in Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (Where the shining trumpets blow). The hurt of separation and bidding farewell is impressively portrayed in Scheiden und Meiden (Parting is sorrow). Her mid-register is displayed here to great effect. She is buoyant and jolly in the Rheinlegendchen (Rhine Legend) and in Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? (Who thought up this little song?) we hear an excitable and brisk interpretation.

Stotijn provides an outstanding and enthralling performance of the rather gloomy character of Ich ging mit lust durch einen grünen Wald (I walked with joy through a green forest). The song Nicht Wiedersehen! (Never to meet again!) is about death before its time and the mezzo beautifully communicates the sorrowful mood through her impeccably mellow mid-register. In Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt (St. Anthony of Padua’s sermon to the fish) one is struck by the magnificence of the extended theme from the Wunderhorn setting that Mahler also employed in the Symphony No. 2Resurrection’. In awesome voice here Stotijn brings the score to life with jaunty, light-hearted singing. The title song, the memorable and highly moving Urlicht (Primeval light), is another Wunderhorn setting used in the ‘ResurrectionSymphony. Stotijn imparts in this dark and reflective score just the right amount of sadness and poignancy. In Das Irdische Leben (Earthly life) she easily convinces you of anguish contained in the bitterness and misfortune of this setting. The heart-felt sadness of the Rückert setting Um Mitternacht (At midnight), a true masterwork of the genre, is performed with grave beauty and genuine sensitivity. The final work of the album is the sorrowful and shimmering Rückert setting Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen - another Mahler masterpiece with Stotijn conveying an abundance of emotion and regret.

Throughout one cannot help but be impressed by Stotijn’s engagingly natural warmth and mellow timbre. Helped by crystal clear diction her personality and expressiveness makes a vivid impression. This stunning Lieder recital has only one ineffectual episode of control with the song Erinnerung (Memory) that rather soured the setting.

Naturally the singer takes centre-stage in this Lieder recital but the piano accompaniment from Julius Drake is peerless. The sound team have provided vividly clear and well balanced sonics. It is good to see Onyx providing full German texts with English translations in the booklet.

Michael Cookson

1. Frühlingsmorgen (Spring Morning) (c.1880) [2.03]
2. Erinnerung (Memory) (c. 1880) [2.49]
3. Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz (On the ramparts of Strasburg) (c.1890) [4.15]
4. Der Schildwache Nachtlied (The Sentinel’s Night Song) (1892) [6.25]
5. Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (Where the shining trumpets blow) (1895) [7.21]
6. Scheiden und Meiden (Parting is sorrow) (c.1890) [2.42]
7. Rheinlegendchen (Rhine Legend) (1893) [3.14]
8. Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? (Who thought up this little song?) (1892) [2.11]
9. Ich ging mit lust durch einen grünen Wald (I walked with joy through a green forest) (c.1889) [4.18]
10. Nicht Wiedersehen! (Never to meet again!) (c.1891) [4.59]
11. Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt (St. Anthony of Padua’s sermon to the fish) (1893) [4.33]
12. Urlicht (Primeval light) (1892-94) [5.20]
13. Das Irdische Leben (Earthly life) (1893) [2.49]
14. Um Mitternacht (At midnight) (1901) [6.20]
15. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I have lost touch with the world) (1901) [6.34]

Previous review: Göran Forsling


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