There may be more famous recordings of this work - the George Szell recording comes to mind - but none have the emotional heft and power of this essential Bernstein performance. To hear Ludwig sing “Wo Die Schonen Trompeten Blasen” is nothing less than a shattering experience. Almost uniquely among available versions on CD, when there are contrasting characters, Bernstein treats the songs as dialogues, with both Berry and Ludwig - husband and wife at the time of the recording - taking part, further adding to the richness of this performance. (from Amazon.com)
This is the best Boulez recording in quite a while. He offers the canonic 12 Wunderhorn songs, meaning no Urlicht and no Das himmlische Leben in the original orchestration before it became the finale of the Fourth Symphony. You won't miss them. None of the songs are done as duets, and you won't be bothered by that either. The singing is exceptional: Magdalena Kozená combines a sweet timbre with plenty of personality and attention to the words; Christian Gerhaher's light, somewhat grainy baritone may not be to all tastes, but his unfailing musicality and his gusto (singing but never shouting) in the big "military" songs carries the day.
"This is Anne Sofie von Otter at her most hallowed, and Quasthoff is as quietly witty in the fables as he is harrowing in the military doom-songs. Unsurpassable…" ~BBC Music Mag
"…unquestionably, no performer has ever had a more comprehensive knowledge of the manuscript sources (…) Instrumentally speaking, the results are fabulous (…) a deeply considered issue." ~Grammophone
Stephan Genz's light, warm and cultured baritone is especially fine in reflecting the ghost voices and moonlight serenades of Mahler's folk-inspired anthology. Yet more attack is surely needed for the prisoner in the tower and the what should be the increasingly desperate pleas of the starving child is 'Das irdische Leben'.
If you have Bernstein/Ludwig/Berry performing this music and you buy this new version, you'll have all you need for Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Riccardo Chailly offers the most fabulous orchestral playing imaginable: those celebrated Concertgebouw winds have a field-day with Lob des hohen Verstands and St. Anthony of Padua's Fish Sermon. In Revelge the big martial buildup at the center of the song is positively terrifying in its violence. Equally terrifying in its quiet, oppressive dread is Der Tamboursg'sell. Enough of this: you won't hear these songs better played or conducted anywhere. David Hurwitz, classicstoday.com
I don't see this as an opportunity to rehearse details of the oft told tale of all the similarities between Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein. In summary, then : the conflict between composing and conducting; the Jewishness and sundry other bits of prejudice; Vienna and New York as significant centres of influence and intrigue; overwork and self-neglect as contributions to an early death. All of that, and more, is easily available from other sources.
This new remastering by Andreas K. Meyer is nothing short of sensational. Some of the finest performances of Mahler & Bernstein, it's amazing how much detail Sony/CBs can get from this stunning SACD!
There are compelling reasons for acquiring this collection of recordings made in Vienna and New York in 1968. First, there is the intensely characterful singing of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and of Christa Ludwig, one of the great Mahler interpreters. Then there is the double fascination of hearing the songs with piano accompaniment played by Leonard Bernstein, who at that time was very much into enacting the role of Mahler's self-appointed representative on earth. Richard Osborne; Gramphone, March 1992.
In his 1995 BBc television essay examining the roots of Mahler's inspiration Leonard Bernstein talks, plays, and conducts the London Symphony, Vienna, and Israel Philharmonic orchestras. "Mahler himself is the doomed little drummer boy from the Knaben Wunderhorn longing for redemption… An exciting voyage of discovery". (Süddeutsche Zeitung) .
"Fascinating… Bernstein manages to explain even the most complex musical concepts clearly and graphically". (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)