MAHLER Wunderhorn Lieder (Volle). Symphony No 10 (Thielemann)
It may be appropriate that a concert given on the centenary of Mahler’s death should contain his last completed symphonic movement. And on this Munich Philharmonic release the Adagio from the Tenth provides a substantial – if slightly unusual – coupling for eight ‘Wunderhorn’ Songs performed at the same concert, which formed the basis for this recording.
It represents an intriguing prospect, not least because Christian Thielemann the Mahler conductor is not exactly over-represented in the catalogue. One immediately notices the care he lavishes on the songs: there’s real élan in ‘Der Schildwache Nachtlied’; a rare, almost tangible urgency in ‘Das irdische Leben’; and a lilt and tenderness in ‘Rheinlegendchen’ that serves as an encouraging sign for his assignment conducting the Vienna Philharmonic’s 2019 New Year’s Concert.
Michael Volle’s singing is often very fine, too, always dramatically pointed and naturally communicative. The words come across clearly but unfussily, and there’s a moving sincerity and integrity to his performances. He offers real drama in ‘Lied des Verfolgten im Turm’ and is moving in ‘Der Tamboursg’sell.’ Elsewhere, though, there’s a slight unsteadiness and a lack of long legato lines in ‘Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen’ and, especially, in an ‘Urlicht’ where one senses Thielemann is forced to choose a tempo faster than he’d like.
There’s certainly no shortage of long lines in the Tenth’s Adagio, though, given in a performance that breathes in grand paragraphs and builds up inexorably to its shattering climax. Thielemann’s Mahler can feel a little too well balanced – a steady hand apparently also means for him arguably too level a head – but this is still a wonderful performance, whose soaring intensity is underpinned by terrific playing from the orchestra. The violins wring all the feeling out of Mahler’s lines and the brass are generous and incisive. The engineering in both works captures the orchestra in vivid, warm close-up.