Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Fünf Lieder nach Texten von Friedrich Rückert; Rheinlegendchen etc
PERFORMER: Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697567732

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As in earlier discs, such as Melancholie and Abendlieder, Christian Gerhaher once again shows himself as master of programme building, here devising an unfolding drama of Mahler songs. The early Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is framed by illuminating interleavings of earlier and later songs, with the Five Rückert Songs as finale.

All these songs, whether originally conceived for keyboard or orchestral accompaniment, are performed here with the outstandingly imaginative piano playing of Gerold Huber.

He counterpoints voice and piano with the subtext within the settings, often with revelatory results. A lithe ‘Rheinlegendchen’ is the start of their journey, bright with Gerhaher’s characteristic clarity of enunciation, articulation and rhythm: seemingly instinctive, yet deeply thought-through.

Gerhaher has a way of incarnating musical movement and imagery within his baritone: listen to how he embodies vocally Mahler’s rising fanfare of a morning walk in ‘Ich ging mit Lust’. And these piano-accompanied versions give him the chance to share Mahler’s inner creative processes quietly and intimately with the listener.

Both Gerhaher and Huber pace the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen perfectly, balancing the songs’ emotional lights and deep shadows, their sense of wonder and of yearning. A glinting and newly honed knife-blade pierces the soul in the third song, colouring it with an Expressionist angst. Gerhaher then groups together ‘Zu Strassburg auf de Schanz’, ‘Nicht wiedersehen’ and ‘Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen’ as a powerful and poignant set of war-protest songs.

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The late five Rückert settings are often revealing in their piano-accompanied versions: the ‘single pulse of agony’ of ‘Um Mitternacht’, and the intimate simplicity of ‘Urlicht’ assure and reward the listener’s closest attention.This generous 76-minute recital is engineered to perfection in matters of balance and control of resonance, and is complemented by an excellent essay by Gerhaher himself. Overall, then, this disc comes highly recommended. Hilary Finch