This is a reissue of Mahler performances delivered in Cologne in 1992 and 1993, and Thomas Quasthoff, just on the verge of international fame, was in phenomenal voice. The upper extension of his beautiful, expressive bass-baritone is thrilling, in perfect control. Artistically, he only grew stronger, as evidenced by his searing reading of 'Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen' under Boulez (DG), but this earlier interpretation comes close, and there's no comparison so far as vocalism is concerned. The WDR orchestra plays well under the rather prosaic leadership of the late Gary Bertini (a native Russian who emigrated to Palestine as a child in the 1930s)– both are good enough, and the recorded sound is excellent. In all, this is a shattering reading by Quasthoff that should be heard by every lover of Mahler.
"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'.
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.
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
This 16-disc set contains what is without a doubt the most distinguished collection of Mahler performances ever to have been assembled in one place. DG has sensibly collected all of Bernstein's Mahler for Polygram labels, including the London "Das Lied von der Erde," and all of the orchestral song cycles: "Song of a Wayfarer," "Kindertotenlieder," "Rückert-Lieder," and "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." All of these recordings have been issued separately to general critical acclaim, and despite a veritable warehouse of new Mahler discs in the '90s, Bernstein's versions by and large still reign supreme.
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.
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.