Mahler • Wagner – Live from Salzburg
Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder; Mahler: Rückert-Lieder
Elīna Garanča (soprano); Vienna Philharmonic/Christian Thielemann
DG 486 1929 38:58 mins
Salzburg was luckier than most festivals during the Covid Augusts of 2020 and 2021 in being able to field a pair of magnificent artists, Elīna Garanča and Christian Thielemann performing Wagner and Mahler. This was surely the first live music that many in the audience had heard in months, which makes this recording all the more affecting.
Garanča is utterly dependable in the Wesendonck Lieder. Her ‘Träume’ is silky at the start and the tempos slower than we are accustomed to, but phrase by phrase she weaves a hypnotic spell while Thielemann does something remarkable at the end, fading the music until it seems like smoke drifting across a landscape. Singer and conductor are at one in ‘Schmerzen’, Garanča’s immaculate diction making every word count and Thielemann matching her scrupulous attention to detail – the solo trumpet in the postlude is properly audible.
Yet it’s Mahler who brings out the very best in both singer and conductor. ‘Um Mitternacht’ is transformed into a small-scale symphony with Garanča mapping every movement of the drama and truly anguished when she sings of human suffering in the fourth verse. Thielemann refuses to soften the angularity of its orchestration, turning the trumpets in the final verse into a blazing chorale. The last of these Rückert songs, ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’, played as if it were chamber music, hints at the final movement of Das Lied von der Erde: those tremulous strings and the solo horn are just as bleak as ‘Der Abschied’.