MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde (Pecková, Samek)
Reiner Riehn’s completion of Arnold Schoenberg’s chamber arrangement of Das Lied von der Erde has made several appearances on disc, with half a dozen or so versions currently available. The very reasons Schoenberg embarked upon his arrangement no doubt play a role, but there are good grounds for performing this version beyond the merely practical (and financial). The intimacy of these remarkable songs is underlined, and though one of course misses the luxuriousness of the full-orchestral sound at key moments – and the soundscape of ‘Der Abschied’ inevitably loses some of its desolate vastness – there’s a heightened sense of the sinewy modernity of the music.
The ingeniousness and effectiveness of the arrangement certainly come across in the playing of the Schoenberg Chamber Orchestra under the expert, swift direction of Petr Altrichter in this new recording. First violin Jakub Fišer leads from the front with solo work that is full of wit and tenderness. Supraphon’s booklet charts some of the history of Das Lied in the Bohemian lands and this idiomatic playing certainly taps into that long tradition.
Unfortunately it’s more difficult to be enthusiastic about the singing, with both tenor and mezzo captured unnaturally in engineering that surrounds the voices with hazy reverb. Richard Samek is solid and reliable in his songs but both his German and, especially, that of Dagmar Pecková is accented. The mezzo conjures up some soulfulness and grandeur in her contributions and still manages to be moving in ‘Der Abschied’ but the voice is cloudy and short-breathed, the words indistinct and swallowed.
I’d recommend sticking with such alternatives as Osmo Vänskä’s 1994 outstanding BIS account.