SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

MAHLER: Das Klagende Lied (1899 version); Blumine; Adagio from Sym. No. 10 – Manuela Uhl, sop./ Lioba Braun, alto/ Werner Güra, tenor/ Czech Philharmonic Chorus Brno/ Beethoven Orch. Bonn/ Stefan Blunier – MD+G

A Mahlerian catch-all.

Published on May 18, 2013

MAHLER: Das Klagende Lied (1899 version); Blumine; Adagio from Symphony No. 10 in F-sharp – Manuela Uhl, sop./ Lioba Braun, alto/ Werner Güra, tenor/ Czech Philharmonic Chorus Brno/ Beethoven Orch. Bonn/ Stefan Blunier – MD+G Gold multichannel SACD MDG 937 1804-6 (2+2+2), 68:40 (5/21/13) [Distr. by E1] ****:

This disc could fill a few holes for the so inclined. Mahler’s gory adolescent fairy tale cantata The Song of Complaint is taken from the title poem by Ludwig Bechstein and compounded with The Singing Bone by the Brothers Grimm. Grim it is too, a disgusting story on almost any level where one brother finds a flower in order to win the hand of a queen, whereas the other, jealous of course, kills him. A minstrel finds his bones, carves a flute out of one of them (what kind of minstrel is this?!?) and the flute immediately begins to complain about being murdered, right at the wedding of brother No. 1 and the queen! This cute story was considered by Mahler to be good enough to be listed as his Opus 1 but all was not well. The original (and the recording by Boulez on Sony is as good as you will find) is a full 70 minutes, and believe me, this music is not good enough to sustain this sort of attention. Mahler realized this as well, eliminating completely the first of three movements, and heavily revamped Nos. 2 and 3, reducing the listening burden to a mere 36 minutes, tolerable for everyone but the most virulent Mahler haters. It is very well sung here by the superb trio and chorus, and surround sound adds to the excitement, such as it is.

Blumine is of course an original part of the tone poem that would become the First Symphony, and it has never worked well there, sticking out like a sore thumb. Again, Mahler realized this and excised it before the final version, even though on its own the work is quite charming. The full score was thought to be lost, and was found in 1959, premiered at a concert in New Haven in 1968 while Benjamin Britten played it at the Aldeburgh festival in 1967 as a separate movement. It is rarely included in full recordings of the symphony any longer except as a possible appendage.

Finally, for those who deny the utter possibility of hearing the Symphony No. 10 in full form, the supremely beautiful Adagio or first movement from that incomplete opus is given. This music in my opinion is the most gorgeous and intensely profound he ever wrote, those high strings straining to break the strangulation of tonality while the nine-note chord boldly challenges music as we know it. This is an excellent performance, though anyone who loves it will also have to have the Bernstein Sony recording and Boulez on Blu-ray.

MD+G uses only slightly ambient sound in its back speakers for this recording except for some louder passages, so practically it sounds a lot like SACD stereo to me. But it is still very fine, and as I said, might fill some gaps.

—Steven Ritter




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