WORKS: Kindertotenlieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Rückert- Lieder
PERFORMER: Katarina Karnéus (mezzo-soprano); Gothenburg SO/Susanna Mälkki
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-SACD-1600 (hybrid CD/SACD)
It’s a tempting proposition: Mahler from Sweden’s mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus, and from Finland’s conductor Susanna Mälkki. But for two-thirds of this disc, they seem to be not quite in tune with each other. The Kindertotenlieder is just too slow for comfort: Karneus and Mälkki never really seem to find their rhythm, and in ‘Wenn dein Mütterlein’ the voice does need more sense of impetus and momentum to prevent it becoming over-syllabic.
Karnéus sings with intensity and impassioned vibrato rather than with warmth and tenderness – which will be to the taste of some, and not of others. Occasionally the voice sounds a little strained and raw at the very top of its register. This is so, as well, in the Rückert Lieder, though here tempos are more comfortable: Karnéus is delightfully taut of rhythm in ‘Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder’, which she places first. And the orchestral accompaniment here is painstaking.
The Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, recorded separately three years earlier, fare better – both in recording balance and in the state of Karnéus’s voice. It sounds less edgy, more luminous, and voice and orchestra seem to relate to each other more happily here. Even so, Mälkki is not a natural Mahlerian. She misses the spirit of bucolic song and dance essential to an understanding of these songs, and indeed of all Mahler’s music. Hilary Finch