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Mahler: Lieder (Erinnerung)

Christiane Karg (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Erinnerung: Dan Knaben Wunderhorn – excerpt; Rückert-Lieder; Lieder und Gesange aus der Jugendzeit, etc
Christiane Karg (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM905338   68:37 mins

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This recital interleaves songs from Das Knaben Wunderhorn, the collection of folk-poem settings which occupied Mahler for years, along with a selection of others, with the five Rückert-Lieder at the core. Given Mahler’s modest song oeuvre, there are no rarities here, but the sequence is thoughtful.

And the performance of this recital is magnificent, painting each miniature landscape in generous, vivid detail. Christiane Karg brings ebullience to the upbeat songs, gravitas to the tearjerkers, innocence to ‘Ablösung im Sommer’; sensuality to ‘Scheiden und Meiden’, sinuousness to ‘Rheinlegendchen’; heft to ‘Das irdische Leben’; and vulnerability to ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’. The voice sounds fresh and brilliant, each word charged with meaning. Malcolm Martineau is at his imaginative best, his boundless colouristic range matching or counterpointing Karg’s voice in endlessly interesting ways. The opening of the mock-bitter story of St Anthony preaching to the indifferent fish, ‘Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt’, sent watery chills down my spine, then intensified by the swirling ‘Das irdische Leben’, the heartbreaking tale of a starving child. The opening arpeggio of ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’ sparkles magically. With playing like this, no orchestra is needed.

The closing two songs are recorded to the Welte-Mignon piano rolls of Mahler’s own playing. The remastering is technically astounding, and philosophically thought-provoking; the idea of reviewing Mahler’s own playing is baffling, but the playing is elegant, soft-touched and fluid, the end of ‘Das himmlische Leben’ perfectly evoking that fantasy world in which no one suffers hunger. A treat from start to finish.

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Natasha Loges