COMPOSERS: Gustav Mahler
LABELS: Signum Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler Totenfeier
WORKS: Totenfeier; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
PERFORMER: Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Vladimir Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD259
Don’t be misled by the CD’s short duration into thinking you’re getting less than the full measure of live music-making: Vladimir Jurowski brings Mahler’s tragic worlds – both cosmic and human – alive with incomparable vividness. It would be hard to better his LPO account of the full Resurrection Symphony (reviewed August 2011). But Jurowski reverts to Mahler’s earliest draft of the first movement, Totenfeier, which brings a different kind of edge to the funeral rites. That’s instantly apparent from the outset – in the furious string tremolos and the woodwind’s bite – though a softer effect is achieved in the brief idyll that launches the development. It’s only then that you begin to hear Mahler’s truly unorthodox way of unleashing fire and brimstone; elsewhere, you’ll notice how he later revised his orchestration, highlighted in this recording by its exemplary clarity of textures.
Detail leaps out in the fine balance of the Wayfarer Songs, too. Sarah Connolly holds her own against the orchestra’s briefly raised voice here. She begins almost as earthily as the peasant band playing at the wedding of the lost sweetheart, but finds all the introspection Mahler could wish for as bright morning ebbs away in the second song. Sweet oblivion beckons at the end.