Mahler – Das Lied von der Erde (Double Review)

Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Robert Dean Smith (tenor), et al (Pentatone and Channel Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
PTC 5186 760_Mahler

Mahler
Das Lied von der Erde
Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Robert Dean Smith (tenor); Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Pentatone PTC 5186 760   62:43 mins

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Mahler
Das Lied von der Erde
Gerhild Romberger (alto), Robert Dean Smith (tenor); Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
Channel Classics CCS SA 40020   61:24 mins

Two superb Mahler interpreters and masters of orchestral detail give their deep thoughts on the work Shostakovich thought the greatest of the 20th century. Both take compelling ownership of some brisk speeds – Iván Fischer at the very start, Vladimir Jurowski in the serenade-like easings of the tension in the great ‘Farewell’, both in the cavalcade that charges through the middle of the ‘Ode to Beauty’ – but prepare the emotional climaxes supernaturally well, too. You can learn a lot from each recording, and be deeply moved, as you should be.

Preference comes down to the choice of soloists. Robert Dean Smith is a strong heroic-tenor for both; the awkward middle-to-upper-range writing seems no problem or strain for him, though he’s not the most expressive of interpreters – marginally more so, perhaps, for Jurowski. Fischer’s mezzo, Gerhild Romberger, is possessed of a world-class instrument, and makes a luminous, disembodied sound in her many meditative moments, slightly at the cost of articulating her native language. Capping that is the personality of Sarah Connolly, who’s already on CD in Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s live LPO performance, and who created such an impact in the chamber version featured in the second of Antonio Pappano’s Royal Opera lockdown livestreams (in a fearless comeback from cancer treatment). She makes the perfect case for pulling the lustrous stops out at each death-transcending release in the ‘Farewell’; Mahler may mark the dynamics at a lower level, but the emotion is irresistible. Above all it’s her perfect fusion with the many vocal woodwind solos – every trill and turn strikingly vivid – that places Jurowski’s ‘Song of the Earth’ amongst the greatest.

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David Nice

CCS SA 40020_Mahler