Rückert-Lieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen etc
Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano)
Signum Classics SIGCD741 61:12 mins
What evidence there is suggests that the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer) were orchestrated some time after they first appeared, while the other two song series were conceived instrumentally. So while we’d be grateful to hear them in any form live, is there room for a recording like this? Well, just as Mahler intended most of his songs for a male voice, but stated that there were special exceptions where the interpreter came first, Sarah Connolly is too fine a Mahler singer not to let us relish this collection. Better stlll, her rapport with top Lieder pianist Joseph Middleton allows for some very special interchanges, and his playing of what has to be ‘the most beautiful song in the world’, ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ (‘I have become lost to the world’) is up there for top artistry.
Connolly recording Mahler at this stage in her career brings gains and losses. I love the operatic nature of the Kindertotenlieder, where the chest voice is especially impressive. On the other hand transpositions downwards don’t always work: the Wayfarer’s meadow jaunt sound wrong, too heavy, at a lower pitch than the D major with which it shares its role in the First Symphony. And why not run the earliest songs first? Then you can juxtapose two very different experiences of the ubiquitous linden tree if you go straight on to the Ruckert Lieder? Otherwise, well worth having if you love this mezzo – and who doesn’t?