A Mahler, Zemlinsky

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: A Mahler,Zemlinsky
WORKS: Songs (complete, orch. Julian Reynolds)
PERFORMER: Charlotte Margiono (soprano); Members of the Brabant Orchestra/Julian Reynolds
The Alma Mahler catalogue grows ever apace and, after the publication of her diaries (one of our book recommendations of 1999), still more interest will doubtless be generated in the songs which carry the racing pulse and embody the impassioned, often frustrated, creative spirit of one of the most remarkable women of fin-de-siècle Vienna.


David and Colin Matthews have already shown (on Decca 455 112-2) just what orchestration can do for some of her songs. And in absorbing the sound-world of Alma’s contemporaries, Zemlinsky, Schoenberg and Berg, Julian Reynolds’s arrangements now release the full palette of colour latent in the melody and harmony of these songs.

For the Fünf Lieder of 1910 and the Fünf Gesänge of 1924, Reynolds selects the impassioned solo voices of the string quintet, the harp, with its Klimt-like splashes of gold, and the string orchestra of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Charlotte Margiono’s soprano, with its brightly focused core and warm sensuous bloom, is perfectly cast to descend through the shifting harmonic shadows of a song like ‘Die stille Stadt’ and thrill to Novalis’s steamy ‘Hymns of Love’.


This important and irresistible disc also contains the world premiere recording of Alma Mahler’s two unpublished Rilke Lieder, with a small ensemble of string quintet, flute, clarinet, piano and harp recreating their clearer light; and, as a bonus, a bloodcurdlingly graphic performance of Eichendorff’s ‘Waldgespräch’ (more familiar as part of Schumann’s Op. 39 Liederkreis) by her teacher and lover, Zemlinsky. Hilary Finch