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MAHLER, Maureen Forrester, Richard Lewis, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner

The Songs of the Earth / Das Lied von der Erde

Das Lied von der Erde
  • Maureen Forrester - contralto
  • Richard Lewis - tenor
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra - orchestra
  • Fritz Reiner - conductor
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109.00 PLN

SACD Multi-CH:

Nr kat.: 886970828123


Review by James Leonard [-] Never has Mahler's symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde seemed so operatic as it does in this 1959 RCA recording by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with tenor Richard Lewis and alto Maureen Forrester. Lewis sounds heroically defiant in the opening Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde and brashly amusing in Der Trunkene im Früling, while Forrester sounds heartbreakingly lonely in Der Einsame im Herbst and radiantly transcendent in the closing Der Abschied; both singers sound like characters in an imaginary opera belting out arias to shake the rafters and rattle the last row of the balcony. The strong-willed Reiner and the big-toned Chicago Symphony accompany Lewis and Forrester only in the sense that the focus is always on the singers, but Reiner's accompaniment is itself highly dramatic in that it progresses through a series of emotional set pieces to an overwhelming climax. Recorded in stunningly immediate stereo sound in the days just before the so-called Mahler Revolution of the '60s, Lewis, Forrester, and Reiner's Das Lied sounds much less like Beethoven meets Wagner and more like Verdi meets Puccini. If the idea of Lewis as a German Pinkerton and Forrester as an Austrian Cio-cio san sounds appealing, this is the performance for you. Das Lied neophytes might consider Walter's lyrically impassioned 1937 recording with Thorborg, Kullman, and the Vienna Philharmonic or, if sound is an issue, Klemperer's symphonically stoic 1964-1966 recording with Wunderlich, Ludwig, and the Philharmonia. Recorded on 9 November 1959 at Symphony Hall (now Symphony Center), this recent issue of a classic performed of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde translates the then state-of-the-art RCA “Living Stereo” sound for the LP vinyl medium to the enhanced sound currently available in SACD format. Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) Maureen Forester, contralto; Richard Lewis, tenor, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, conductor. RCA Red Seal 88697-08281-2 [SACD] $11.99 Click to buy Printer Version Send to a Friend As John Newton comments in the notes about the audio technology used in this new release, the quality of the original record was excellent from the start, and that allows for enhancements, rather than restoration in bringing the almost legendary American recording to the twenty-first century. The razor-blades that sound engineers used in 1959 to edit tapes were the best tools available then, but such physical means have given way to digital ones, and the results are evident in this fine issue. When RCA originally released this recording of Das Lied von der Erde, relatively few recordings were available on LP, but those included the monumental performance of Kathleen Ferrier and Julius Patzak, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Bruno Walter. Comparisons of these two great recordings are futile, but they represent two of the finest performances of Das Lied von der Erde on disc. Ferrier’s performance is unquestionably moving, and Forester represents another impressive interpretation of the part. It is fortunate to have the fine recording with Ferrier and Patzak conducted by Walter, the musician responsible for the premiere of Das Lied von der Erde after Mahler’s death. With Reiner’s recording, though, both singers would continue with their careers for years to come. Forester and Lewis would appear again in Das Lied von der Erde in a concert on 16 April1960 at Carnegie Hall, in a performance of the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra led by Bruno Walter. That performance is available on CD, but does not have the sonic presence of the one with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Almost a decade later, in 1967, Forester and Lewis would also recording Das Lied von der Erde with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Georg Szell, but those later performances are not esteemed as highly as the one with Reiner and now reissued in SACD format. While Reiner’s name is not often included with others of his generation when it comes to performing Mahler’s music, his interpretation of Das Lied von der Erde stands out among his efforts as an impressively persuasive. He brought to the score the virtuosity of the Chicago Symphony and with it came the fine sonic ambience of Orchestra Hall and the recording techniques of RCA, which were the most advanced of the day. The result is a vibrant orchestra sound, with the individual colors of the ensemble emerging readily under Reiner’s leadership. Without a question the Chicago Symphony has a fine blend, but it is possible to hear more distinctly some of the specific sounds in Mahler’s score. From the outset the sound is vibrant, with the horns in the opening passage ringing out the repeated notes that signal the gesture with which the piece begins. Likewise, the characteristic hollow sound of the woodwinds that follows demonstrates the reason that Mahler used those colors in the passage. The eighth-note figures that underscore the vocal line are articulated cleanly, with appropriate separation between them, and the sudden entrances that punctuate some of the phrases in the first piece have a nice resonance. With Lewis, his performance of the ”Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde” is impressive, with his diction matching his fine expression, with the descending slide that occurs near the end of the movement beautifully executed. It is unfortunate that some passages of “Der Trunkene im Frühling” (mistranslated in the liner notes as “Wine in Spring” as is “Der Einsame im Herbst” as “Autumn Loneliness” rather than “The Lonely One in Autumn”) show some strain. With the middle of the three tenor pieces, “Von der Jugend” (“About Youth”) the understated tone is entirely appropriate to this number and Lewis conveys the sense of youthfulness implicit in the text. Maureen Forester brings a full, rich, dark sound to the contralto pieces, and her vibrant voice never blurs. The open tones at the beginning of “Der einsame im Herbst” are engaging, as she blends well with the orchestra as if she were part of a smaller ensemble. This recording captures the sound well so that it is difficult to mistake her distinctive voice in this setting from Hans Bethge’s Chinesische Flöte. Yet with “Von der Schönheit” (“About Beauty”) Forester captures the sense of drama by differentiating so well between the introverted opening section and the more assertive central portion of the song. The full rein of the Chicago Symphony is evident in the middle of the movement, which stands out for its bold statement of exoticism. Yet both Reiner and Forester restrain the ending appropriately and masterfully. In many ways, though, “Der Abschied” poses musical and interpretive challenges for even the finest performers, which Reiner and Forester meet with remarkable style and conviction. After the percussive opening of the movement, Forester is almost subdued in presenting the text. She builds on that opening gradually, and as the first part of “Der Abschied” ends, she is fervent, with a warm, rich approach that stands in contrast to the earlier portion of the movement. In the second half of the movement Forester moves away from this and makes audible the sense of confident resignation found in the text. Her intonation of the final portion of “Der Abschied” is convincing, with Reiner’s command of the Chicago Symphony evident in the finely played conclusion. With over 50 recordings of Das Lied von der Erde available on CD, a number of fine performances are available. The release of this particular one, though, makes a classic interpretation available for new audiences to enjoy. The already fine sound of the original LP is reinforced in this newly issued CD, which does not merely present what was on the famous LP, but is a reshaping of the original recorded sound. As familiar as the LP may be to some, the CD merits attention, not only as a classic recording, but as a perpetually effective one. James L. Zychowicz Mahler from a Master Conductor Virginia Opera Fan | Falls Church, VA USA | 08/07/2007 (4 out of 5 stars) "First, Amazon's headnote on this new issue is incorrect. The tenor is the late Richard Lewis, not William Lewis. OK - Reiner was not a Mahler acolyte, in contrast to his near contemporaries Walter and Klemperer, and Mahler does not constitute a large portion of his discography. In common with his Chicago recording of Symphony No. 4, his Lied is objective and finely detailed. He allows the music to speak for itself and the Chicago Symphony of 1959 is in great form. If you like Klemperer's austere EMI version with Ludwig and Wunderlich, I think you will like this one as well. Based on a couple of listenings, I think this recording takes a backseat Klemperer's rare combination of interpretation, orchestral excellence and not least, unbeatable soloists in Ludwig and Wunderlich. Having said that, the re-issued RCA is a wonderful memento of the artisty of Maureen Forrester and her many decades service to this music. Richard Lewis is also outstanding, with something of an edge in the two drinking songs. No texts or translations are provided." A Gripping Performance, But... David Schwan | Chicago, IL United States | 08/08/2007 (5 out of 5 stars) "I gave this new SACD version a five-star rating, but would really like to give it something like four-and-a-half. The only reason is no text is included. Louis Biancolli's notes, apparently from the original issue are here, but it would have been wonderful to have had the poems Mahler used as the basis for this extraordinary music. If that would have ended up making the CD booklet too thick, why didn't RCA/BMG set up a Website to download the text, like they did with their SACD opera reiusses? This is my only reservation about this recording, however. I found it to be absolutely riveting and the DSD/SACD remastering is superb. In fact, you can almost feel the presence of the performers, especially in the final section, "Der Abschied". While Fritz Reiner isn't generally recognized as one who tirelessly promoted Mahler's music, he had a perfect feel for it and performed it throughout his career. His Mahler 4th (also on SACD) with the Chicagoans and Lisa Della Casa as soloist is marvelous. There are also stories circulating that Reiner almost recorded the Mahler 1st in Chicago, but the plans were scrapped for some reason. Back in his days in Pittsburgh he recorded the "Songs of a Wayfarer" in the 78rpm era. I don't think Reiner ever did a "bad" recording in his life. Every one I've heard has never been less than excellent and some are definitive. So, despite my disappointment that there's no text in this latest from RCA's great SACD series, I do highly recommend this CD." A first-time CD release ON THE LIVING STEREO SERIES, not on Sam | 10/08/2007 (4 out of 5 stars) "May I first correct what previous reviewers have understood from the front cover - this is the first time this recording appears on the Living Stereo series, but it had been available on CD from the late 1980s on the RCA Fritz Reiner Edition (and had never been deleted!). It was probably the only one Reiner recording in this case - for instance when making it to CD, his Mahler 4th was immediately released on Living Stereo without going through the Reiner Edition first. And all of the Reiner Edition titles (Alexander Nevsky, Bartok, Johann and Richard Strauss...) had since been rereleased on Living Stereo... except this one. This is an austere performance, almost desertic in its desolation. But what is missing here is some flame and wit that is unmistakably Mahlerian and that you recognize at once - the same could be said about Reiner's Mahler 4. The soloists are nothing to write home about either: Maureen Forrester had usually a better voice, and as to Richard Lewis... he is one of these harsh tenors that have unexplainably been systematically chosen in recordings of Das Lied von der Erde (with Fritz Wunderlich in Klemperer's recording an obvious exception) - maybe to provide a stronger contrast between these drunkard's songs and the more lyrical movements sung by the contralto? Even after the remastering the sound is still much drier than in Mahler's 4th, though Das Lied was recorded one year later. So, despite of its historic significance, this recording is hardly a primary recommendation for Das Lied - Walter, Klemperer and Bernstein have a much more natural Mahlerian feeling."