Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

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WORKS: Das Lied von der Erde
PERFORMER: Agnes Baltsa (alto), Klaus König (tenor) LPO/Klaus Tennstedt
Nobody can tell me why the Tennstedt Das Lied von der Erde (Song of the Earth) has been in hiding since recording was completed in 1984, but it makes an incandescent complement (albeit at full price) to this month’s reissue of his Mahler symphonies cycle. The real revelation for me was the wide-eyed naivety unearthed in the orchestral writing of the third song, the alto’s hymn to beauty (‘Von der Schönheit’). Tennstedt coaxes the London Philharmonic to toughen up the quaint chinoiserie of the young men’s river-ride, looking over his shoulder to the cheeky angels’ music in the Eighth Symphony and the animal magic of the earlier works. Both soloists are surprisingly idiomatic. Forward, even recording balances make Klaus König fight for his Heldentenor rights in the drinking-songs, and he does so without strain, though like most of his kind – and Fritz Wunderlich, for Klemperer, is an exception – he crashes bearlike through the porcelain pavilion of ‘Von der Jugend’. Baltsa was still in her prime in the early Eighties. Whether bowing like a solo stringed instrument or camouflaged among the twilight woodwind solos of ‘Der Abschied’, she is very much one of Tennstedt’s hard-working team, with emotion to spare for Mahler’s lonely hearts. So, yes, the end result does achieve the necessary catharsis. David Nice