Mahler • Strauss
The idea for this programme is more seductive than its execution. A group of six songs by Strauss and two by Mahler are flanked by youthful Piano Quartets by each composer. Mahler’s was written at the end of his conservatory years; unfinished and barely recognisable as his work, it was lost until the 1960s. Strauss’s is even more obviously Brahmsian in its influence, but it’s complete, and shows signs of Strauss’s work to come. They are both played with enthusiasm by the Fauré Quartet.
It’s the songs in between that are the problem. Simone Kermes, the self-styled Lady Gaga of classical song, sings them with little sense of style or idiom, almost crooning her way through slower pieces such as ‘Die Nacht’ and ‘Morgen!’, and hurling her voice at ‘Zueignung’. These songs appear in arrangements for the Fauré Quartet by Dietrich Zöllner, and it’s a pity we’re told nothing about him, nor about the thinking behind his work. A little internet research reveals that he is a tuba and bass player in The Blue Unicorn band which performs, among other things, Roma and Klezmer music. Mahler might well have approved. And certainly Zöllner’s arrangement of ‘Wo die schönen trompeten blasen’ is haunting in its bare string textures, with their minimal vibrato, its dissonances and eloquent solo writing.