WORKS: Das Lied von der Erde
PERFORMER: Iris Vermillion (mezzo-soprano), Keith Lewis (tenor); Dresden Staatskapelle/Giuseppe Sinopoli
CATALOGUE NO: 453 437-2
There have been many Songs of the Earth on disc less accomplished in execution than this, but none that I know so painfully unresponsive to the work’s guiding spirits of frenzy, loneliness and love. Had he laid into his drinking songs with the right kind of driving force behind the text, Keith Lewis might have convinced us that he was in the right line for semi-heroics. As it is, the careful and distinctive vocal production is not enough. Iris Vermillion’s first entry follows imprecise strings and a bland oboe solo with similarly insufficient inwardness – Janet Baker and Jessye Norman set cruel standards here – and although the mezzo’s great final farewell occasionally flickers into life, Vermillion’s mid-phrase breaths break the mood time and time again.
There are a few good things in the orchestral playing, keenly if artfully balanced. The wild rumpus of lads on horseback that interrupts the meditation on beauty is carried with delicious detail by the wind, and Sinopoli’s bold profiling of the crucial funeral march unexpectedly lifts the last movement up to a new level of involvement. Then it’s business as usual for this performance, and for an epilogue like this one, the apparent indifference is almost obscene. David Nice