Nono/Mahler

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Nono/Mahler
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Il canto sospeso; Kindertotenlieder; Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
PERFORMER: Barbara Bonney (soprano), Susanne Otto (mezzo-soprano), Marek Torzewski (tenor); Marjana Lipovsek (mezzo-soprano); Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: SK 53360 DDD
This on the surface bizarre and entirely non-commercial coupling is a ‘protest’ album, with which members of the Berlin Philharmonic and their chief conductor hope to raise their voices against the rising spectre of fascism and incidents of violence against foreigners living in Germany.

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As such, it may be regarded as a private, German affair, but worth acquiring on musical grounds for a very beautiful performance of the Mahler songs (by the Yugoslav-born Lipovsek, whose appearance is also meant to be symbolic) and for the Nono cantata, The Song Suspended or In Suspense, which sets a series of texts written by condemned European resistance fighters before their execution at the hands of the Nazis. The recording having been taken at a ‘live’ concert, the texts are also spoken in German – eloquently by Susanne Lothar and Bruno Ganz – and interspersed among the musical sections of Nono’s piece, which is serial in technique, but imbued with a songful and soulful lyricism in the vocal sections that reveal the composer’s Italian background. Nono may have been an avant-gardist – unfashionable word today – but he wrote important music about important matters. Abbado, a long-standing advocate, conducts a superbly disciplined, deeply felt account of this music. Hugh Canning