A ‘very singular and involving interpretation’ of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Gustav Mahler
LABELS: Tudor
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Das Lied von der Erde
PERFORMER: Roberto Saccà (tenor), Stephen Gadd (baritone); Bamberger Symphoniker/Jonathan Nott
CATALOGUE NO: 7202 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Why has no previous baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau for Bernstein included, ever convinced me that Mahler’s option for an alternative voice-type to a mezzo in three of his song-symphony settings really works, while the little-known name of Stephen Gadd proves the exception? Much of it has to do with the natural balances between voices and orchestra on this seemingly effortlessly-engineered last instalment of Jonathan Nott’s Bamberg Mahler cycle. Both tenor and baritone sound simply like two more instruments in Mahler’s very careful texturing, the ones which carry the greater impetus of heartache words.

Both Gadd and Roberto Saccà tend to a wide vibrato at times. But it’s under control, and Saccà strikes me as ideal: in the little miniature ‘On Beauty’ where I’ve never heard a lighter touch or more delight in the text, not even from Wunderlich. He’s a lyric with Helden potential, keeping it fresh where Kaufmann, on Nott’s other recording of the work (reviewed left), can sound older and more worn. Best of all, Gadd injects real, tearful emotion into the great releases of the ‘Farewell’ – I was more moved here than by Kaufmann. In the Bamberg orchestra, Nott has a team of players responsive to his every nuance; I even prefer the Bamberg winds to their Vienna counterparts. They’re just a little more ‘speaking’ – and that’s the great virtue of this very singular and involving interpretation as a whole.

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David Nice