Mahler, Then And Now

Tonight I’m covering the second installment of the Argento Ensemble’s “Mahler in New York” series, which pairs contemporary composes with chamber arrangements of Mahler. Tonight the feature is the Schoenberg/Riehn reduction of Das Lied von der Erde, and I’m expecting big things after Argento’s tremendous playing of Symphony No. 9.

During a break in this morning’s action (review, Bitches Brew), I dialed up Das Lied and discovered this gem:

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It had escaped my attention last year, probably because it was a download-only release. I hit play without knowing exactly what it was, and got to enjoy what is now an infrequent experience, hearing a familiar piece played in a new (and superb) manner. This is a new arrangement by Glen Cortese, done in 2006, and the ensemble on the record is Musica Saeculorum, a period instrument group.

There needs to be more period Mahler, if only so we can hear how the music sounds. When Mahler was composing and conducting, many of the instruments were what we now considering period types, the orchestral blend was different, the strings eschewed vibrato. That was the sound he heard, and that’s particularly germane because of the extreme value Mahler put into his orchestrations. Currently there is only one other period recording of Maher, Mahler: Symphony No. 4, which I strongly recommend.

It will take more than one listen to see how much Mahler is in this new Das Lied, but it is so refreshing, so vibrant to hear, the singing is terrific. I’m loving it.

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