ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Des Knaben Wunderhorn – selection; Rückert-Lieder – selection; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen – selection
PERFORMER: Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Michael Gees (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.256
Strict though Mahler may have been about the ideal vocal range or colour and, especially in the case of the Knaben Wunderhorn songs, an orchestral rather than a piano accompaniment, he was nonetheless happy to make exceptions in special circumstances. It’s difficult to say what he would think of the admirable but not totally distinctive tenor Christoph Prégardien, but he would certainly commend the range of tones and especially the distant voices of Michael Gees’s hypersensitive playing. Prégardien certainly gives an interesting programme his best shot, prepared to toughen up for a surface rudeness in his folksy opening numbers. Beauty and sophistication first surface in the elegies and ghostly bugling of ‘Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen’, where Prégardien and Gees make a superb case for the intimacy of this combination, and resume in the two deepest Rückert settings (though ideally you need a heldentenor glint for the stentorian end of ‘Um mitternacht’). ‘Urlicht’, too, uniquely detached from its context in the Second Symphony, has the appropriate gravitas.
Prégardien sings the ‘Wayfarer’ songs at their original pitch, which is helpful because he has the baritonal colour at the bottom of the register and reaches for the heights without strain. ‘Ging heut’ morgen’ is rather restrained, phantasmal on Gees’ part and never rapturous from the tenor, though that may be deliberate; but again, both go eloquently to the heart of the matter as the traveller lays down to rest beneath the linden-tree. David Nice