MAHLER Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Das Lied von der Erde
Recordings of Schoenberg’s chamber arrangements of Mahler have proliferated of late and this latest version from the Virginia Arts Festival consequently forms part of an already substantial discography. You may find yourself in two minds about it. First, there are the arrangements themselves. While some would argue that Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen gains intimacy from the reduction, scaling down Das Lied von der Erde all but undermines a work that deals with isolation by pitting solo performers, vocal and instrumental, against the collective weight of a sizeable orchestra.
Secondly, the singing here is variable in quality. Roderick Williams is, as one might expect, superb in Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, his tone easily produced, his attention to textual detail immaculate, even in the most high-lying passages. The chamber version of Das Lied von der Erde offers opportunities for singers who might find the original taxing, to offer new interpretative insights, though Falletta’s casting is in many ways conventional. Contralto Susan Platts sings with hieratic dignity throughout, and does exquisite things at ‘Die müden Menschen geh’n heimwerts’ in the ‘Abschied’. Charles Reid, however, is very much the full-throttle Heldentenor, and can be ungainly. You may prefer Douglas Boyd’s Manchester Camerata recording, which is sung with far greater detail and consistency.
Falletta conducts with admirable refinement and passion, though, and as on her Virginia recording of Stravinsky’s Soldiers Tale (Naxos, 5/16), the playing is extremely fine, with a real sense of give and take between the instrumentalists. Solo strings make ‘Der Einsame im Herbst’ more wintry than autumnal, though the Attacca Quartet sound creepily effective here. The woodwind are particularly beautiful and poised.