Susan Platts, Charles Reid and Roderick Williams perform Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Das Lied von der Erde, both arranged by Schoenberg

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COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (arr. Schoenberg); Das Lied von der Erde (arr. Schoenberg)
PERFORMER: Susan Platts (mezzo), Charles Reid (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone); Attacca Quartet; Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573536  

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In 1918 Arnold Schoenberg founded the Society for Private Musical Performances to present all that was new – stipulating, significantly, no applause and without the ‘corrupting influence of publicity’. With these high ideals behind him, he arranged Mahler’s big orchestral song-cycles for chamber ensemble. A unique scent arises from these distillations, in music which touches the most raw nerve-endings of Mahler’s writing – nowhere more tellingly than in the long, last farewell of Das Lied von der Erde.

In these performances, from the Virginia Arts Festival of 2015, it’s a heady perfume. The Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, though light on forces, is heavy on nostalgia. Roderick Williams’s baritone bathes even in the sparse instrumental textures and in JoAnn Falletta’s slow tempos. Though rubato is not quite as idiomatic as it could be, Williams’s typical skill at drawing in the listener captures well the intimacy of Schoenberg’s arrangement.

Ensemble is more robust for the chinoiserie of Das Lied von der Erde. Charles Reid’s tenor voice – though sometimes tight at the top – has a cutting edge which energises the music, and makes for a nicely edgy characterisation of the ‘Drunkard in Spring’. Fine solo winds recreate an exquisite willow-pattern of an accompaniment for Susan Platt’s  smoky mezzo in Mahler’s responses to Qian Qi’s autumn elegy.

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Hilary Finch