Beautiful and tragic Lieder recital
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 09/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are having a bad day and you're feeling depressed, you might not want to reach for this DVD. This recital of Mahler's beautiful but often tragic song cycles with orchestral accompaniment might just drive you over the edge. I'd prescribe Mozart for those days. But for every other occasion, this splendid DVD may be exactly what you need. Containing all of Mahler's mature song cycles (except for Das Lied von der Erde), they are magnificently sung by Baritone Thomas Hampson, Soprano Lucia Popp and Baritone Walton Groenroos and stunningly accompanied by the preeminent Mahlerian Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic.
Of course, Mahler's lieder are the seedbed of his monumental symphonies. You will recognize melodies later used for the symphonies 2-4, for example. This can make it hard to judge the song cycles in strict isolation since we are constantly reminded of something much vaster just over the horizon. I like the symbiosis between Mahler's works; it helps that they're works of genius. With Bernstein as conductor, he naturally imparts that vast scale to these relatively intimate lieder. It gives them additional resonance.
Hampson performs the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), the Ruckert Lieder and the Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic. His tone is round and beautiful, his diction crystalline. Emotionally, however, he is somewhat reserved. He doesn't experience the emotions of these songs, he recreates them. If you demand emotional authenticity in your lieder, real tears streaming down the singers face, you may be put off by Hampson's emotional distance. I find that the poetry of these songs provides more than enough emotion for my tastes. The accompaniment of the Vienna Philharmonic is superb, as expected. This is a great orchestra and the sound of the Musikvereinssal in Vienna, recorded in 1988 and 1990, is splendidly recaptured in this recording.
Lieder nach Gedichten aus 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn' or Songs to poems from 'The Youth's Magic Horn', containing as they do so much music later used in the great Symphony No.2, will always be an addendum to the symphony for many. It helps to really throw yourself into them. Lucia Popp and Walton Groenroos do exactly that. They experience the emotions, not just recreate them, making for an interesting comparison with Hampson's performance. Since they're children's songs, this is easier to do and there's no danger of slipping into a maelstrom of bathos. The Israel Philharmonic is a younger, more enthusiastic orchestra with many women instrumentalists, as opposed to Vienna's older, all-male band. The 1984 performance seems quicker. The recorded sound is somewhat dry though not unpleasant. It is crystal clear in the DVD's DTS 5.1 format. The total time of this Region 0 worldwide disc is 127 minutes. There are the usual menus, languages and DGG trailers.
No doubt these performances will someday be surpassed. Until then, I don't think you can do better than these recordings of Mahler's gorgeous songs. Strongly recommended.
I took Mike Birman's recommendation...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 10/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...and bought this DVD. I'm completely glad I did, but I have slightly different thoughts about it from Mike's.
First off, I've never been persuaded by Leonard Bernstein's interpretation of Mahler. Now, watching him wield the baton as if from the bassoonist's chair, I know why. He conducts the orchestra color more than the music. He grabs for every attack and pounces on every fermata. He disassembles the music rather than developing it. If you care to hear Mahler as I think it should be conducted, get the performance of Kindertotenlieder by Barbirolli on CD.
Well, you may be asking, why am I giving this DVD a five-star recommendation? It's the whole package! It's a deep and satisfying pleasure to watch and hear, even if one quibbles with the interpretation. Thomas Hampson is the most expressive and musical Mahler singer active today, rivaled ever only by Janet Baker. He has amazing control of his dynamics, producing both his darkest and his lightest tones at any volume, singing with amazing pianissimo when he chooses and yet penetrating through the orchestra. I've heard him perform the same miarcle in live concerts. I have to disagree with Mike about his expressiveness; with Bernstein cueing him on, he seems almost to over-emote at times, but I don't mind, given the perfection with which he shapes his lines. Lucia Popp has a glorious voice, and uses it both coyly and boldly in the Wunderhorn Lieder. Her singing of 'Wo die schoenen Trompeten blasen' is worth the time and money for the whole DVD. I'm not so taken with the voice of Walton Groenroos, but he carries his weight musically and expressively. The DVD has excellent audio and video technology. Very highly recommended!"
GUY HUTCHINSON | 01/21/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed this DVD enormously and I play at many times. I am sad that Thomas Hampson was not used in the songs of the magic horn.Groenroos' voice was a great disappointment especially after hearing T.H whom I think is magnificent!Although the recording is over 30 years old and still comes up beautifully"