University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

06/18/2023 1:00 pm
06/18/2023 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) was more famous in his own time as an opera conductor rather than as a composer of symphonies. He composed no operas, but his nine symphonies are largely operatic, with solo singing parts and choral writing, making them into gigantic symphonic cantatas. Also cantata-like is Mahler's orchestrated song cycl,e Das Lied von der Erde (1909), a setting of six Chinese poems in German language translation. Mahler's settings of these lyrics express an inextinguishable hope wrung from his despair over the loss of his young daughter. This song cycle was his last gift to the world. He didn't live long enough to conduct at its premiere.

There are differing versions of Das Lied von der Erde for two different voices. Arnold Schoenberg reorchestrated the entire score. Also, there are many recorded interpretations of the music which I have presented over the years. Today you'll hear a historic recording with the great Bruno Walter (1876-1962) on the podium. He knew Mahler personally and conducted the posthumous premiere of Das Lied von der Erde in Vienna. In 1952, Walter recorded it along with the three orchestrated Rückert-Lieder (1901-02) in monaural sound in Decca's London studios. He leads the Vienna Philharmonic with the English contralto, Kathleen Ferrier, and the native Viennese tenor, Julius Patzak. The Japanese Opus Kura label issued "The Song of the Earth" and the Rückert songs in digitally processed sonics in 2007. The two-CD package offers Decca's vocally focused take, which I have chosen for broadcast over a second studio variant that's orchestrally focused.