Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

The reasons for the lag in the release are not explicitly stated, but the timing coincides with the centenary of the composer’s death. That aside, the recording captures the sense of a live performance in reproducing some spirited moments of the performance along with some unfortunate weaknesses. As much as the score is well known since its premiere almost a century ago, Das Lied von der Erde remains a difficult work to execute for various reasons, including balances between the orchestra and soloists, dynamic extremes, and phrasing. It is not so much a problem with Mahler’s scoring, as it is the demands that exist in the music itself, which requires an intensity that is sometimes best achieved in the studio.
In this recording, Jadwiga RappÈ offers a romantic approach to the songs for lower voice, and in interpreting the work has a dark sound often colored with vibrato. The result is quite personal-sounding, an effect accentuated by the close miking that sometimes allows RappÈ to overbalance the orchestra, which in the recording sounds artificial. Rappe’s coloring detracts, at times, from the aesthetic distance which some performers use in the second of the alto’s songs, “Von der Schlˆnheit” (“Of Beauty”), opening and closing with melismas which set the tone for the text and contrast the extroverted music in the center of this piece. The middle section here is spirited enough, with the orchestra sometimes so involved that cohesiveness seems challenged.
This is not the situation with the orchestra in the opening song for the tenor, “Das Trinklied von Jammer der Erde” (“Drinking Song of the Earth’s Sorrow”). In this piece, the orchestral accompaniment sometimes impinges on Kusiewicz’s solo lines. Kusiewicz’s tenor voice is somewhat darker and lower than some other singers who have recorded the part. At times Kusiewicz offers a more declamatory approach to the music, especially in the penultimate song “Der Trunkene im Fr¸hling” (“The Drunkard in Spring”). As much as the interpretation underscores the text in its expression of purposeful drunkenness, it is occasionally at the expense of the implicit lyricism.
The final song, “Der Abschied” (“Farewell”), which occupies as much time as the other five pieces, is a tour de force for alto, and here RappÈ makes a valiant effort in conveying the complexities that result from Mahler’s motivic approach to the vocal line and the transcendent text he chose to set. Zilm’s interpretation of the piece is sometimes understated, with the opening gesture quieter and less percussive than some choose. The performance sometimes seems at times more atmospheric than accurate, with the whole giving a sense of performers who are nevertheless captivated by the music in their efforts to express it.
James Zychowicz

image_description=Dux 0810
product_title=Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
product_by=Jadwiga RappÈ, alto; Pietr Kusiewicz, tenor. Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Katowicz, Michael Zilm, conductor.
product_id=Dux 0810 [CD]