Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Alma Mahler,Gustav Mahler
ALBUM TITLE: Gustav & Alma Mahler: Lieder
WORKS: Gustav Mahler: Rückert-Lieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Urlicht; Alma Mahler: Five Songs
PERFORMER: Karen Cargill (mezzo-soprano); Simon Lepper (piano)


Once again, Alma is outnumbered by Gustav. But the five songs offered here show exactly why Mahler saw his wife as a real rival, stopped her composing, then used publication of these very works to lure her back from her affair with Walter Gropius.

The opening chords of ‘Die stille Stadt’ immediately display exploratory, unsettling harmonic and emotional territory which Alma was hungry to explore. And Karen Cargill’s beautifully integrated, smoky mezzo reveals the full stature of these songs, just as Simon Lepper relishes their fearless piano writing. ‘In meines Vaters Garten’ glitters like a Klimt dream of spring – and into its blossom intrudes that shadowy and prophetic presence of a world at war – as so often in Mahler’s own songs.

For them, Cargill’s and Lepper’s performances are painstaking if, sometimes, a little less courageous. In the song they place first of the Rückert Songs, Lepper is a bee with wings somewhat overladen with pollen – and throughout I’d have preferred a piano presence a little more delicately engineered. Cargill, on the other hand, could dare a fiercer ardour at the midnight hour.

The Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen welcome the bright flare at the top of Cargill’s mezzo; and here both she and Lepper really do grab the music by the throat, to more rewarding effect.


Hilary Finch