Das himmlische Leben: Liszt • Mahler

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COMPOSERS: Franz Liszt; Gustave Mahler
LABELS: Onyx
ALBUM TITLE: Das himmlische Leben: Liszt • Mahler
WORKS: Das himmlische Leben: Liszt: Die Fischerknabe; Der Hirt; Der Alpenjäger; O quand je dors; Die Lorelei; Mahler: L;ieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit – selection; Des Knaben Wunderhorn – selection
PERFORMER: Anne Schwanewilms (soprano), Charles Spencer (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX4103

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Anne Schwanewilms’s Liszt/Mahler recital covers familiar territory, with Liszt represented by five of his most frequently performed songs and Mahler by nine settings taken from two song collections he made from the folk collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Schwanewilms’s interpretations are regularly imaginative, her singing musicianly, though not all of her vocalism matches her good intentions. There’s sometimes (as in Liszt’s ‘Der Hirt’ from the Three Songs from William Tell) an edge to the tone that combines with a lack of vocal substance higher up to undermine them; there are awkward moments, too, in Mahler’s ‘Rheinlegendchen’, where the top notes feel mildly dislocated from the rest of the voice.

Elsewhere her wide-ranging instrument is used with artistic insight. Mahler’s ‘Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald’ is charmingly realised by both performers. Schwanewilms captures the comic-grotesque mode of Mahler’s ‘Ablösung im Sommer’ and both ‘Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen’ and ‘Nicht wiedersehen!’ are dramatically thought through. Liszt’s tale of ‘Die Lorelei’ is well told, even if consonants are sometimes sacrificed along the way, and she brings depth and command to Mahler’s ‘Das himmlische Leben’, nicely capturing its blend of innocence and sophistication.

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George Hall