MAHLER: 12 Lieder from Des Knaben Wunderhorn; Adagio from Symphony No. 10 – Soloists/ Cleveland Orch./ Pierre Boulez – DGG

by | Apr 3, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

MAHLER: 12 Lieder from Des Knaben Wunderhorn; Adagio from Symphony No. 10 – Magdalena Kozena, mezzo-soprano/ Christian Geraher, baritone/ Cleveland Orchestra/ Pierre Boulez – DGG 4779060, 73:24 [Distr. by Universal] ****:
This is the last installment of Pierre Boulez’s DGG Mahler cycle, begun 15 years ago. It has been a fairly successful traversal of the main Mahler monuments, though Boulez has always had his detractors. I know of few people who consider his cycle “the” one to have, though if you read any number of separate reviews you might come away with the impression that it is one of one the best. In my opinion it is decidedly not—I think Boulez underestimates much of Mahler’s emotive influences and reliance of the folk element and makes too much of his parody and sarcasm—but it would be foolish to assert that this composer/conductor doesn’t have anything to offer.
In terms of Des Knaben Wunderhorn the interpretative challenges are much less than the symphonies. Mahler made use of this music for his entire life, and Magic Horn is simply a collection of independent miniatures, albeit ones of often advanced harmonic provenance and extraordinary melodic sensibilities. It’s rarely the conductor that makes the difference, and always the singers. I can’t say that what I hear here is better than my previous favorites, Popp/Schmidt with Bernstein (also on DGG) and the classic Schwarzkopf/Fischer-Dieskau on EMI (still the absolute best I think), but it does have a lot to offer, especially Magdalena Kozena’s glowing mezzo, a natural Mahler singer, as anyone hearing her recent DVD with Abbado in the Fourth Symphony can attest. Geraher is not bad by any means, but not especially competitive with the other two recordings I mentioned. The singers are also miked fairly closely, giving the whole a somewhat artificial ambiance.
But it is the reading of the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony that I find most affecting. My introduction to this work was Bernstein’s New York Columbia recording, as searing as any on the market and still sounding great, and probably the one have even now. But Boulez, who like Bernstein rejects any attempts at completion of this symphony as unwise and unwarranted, seems the perfect choice for this post-romantic, pre-Schoenbergian, almost atonal and expressionistic score. He does not disappoint, gauging the Adagio’s tempo relationships and dramatic content perfectly. This is a wonderful reading.
However, those in possession of the Szell or Bernstein Wunderhorn and are happy with an already-owned Tenth of whatever derivation might not find this mandatory, even with the very fine sound and spectacular playing of the Cleveland Orchestra. But you would be missing a really great Tenth
— Steven Ritter

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01