Lied von der Erde
MAHLER: Das Lied von de Erde.
Two valuable issues for the Mahler collector. I didn't realize that at the time Decca/London made their historic recording of Das Lied von der Erde May 15 & 16, 1952 in the Musikverein there also was a concert performance the next day. And here we have it, thanks to TARA. Ferrier's performance is utterly magnificent both in the recording and live performance. One might say that the concert performance is even more sadly emotional than what is heard from the recording sessions; the famed artist died from cancer the following year and she was well aware of her impending death when this recording was made. There are a few minor orchestral mishaps, but t these are of no consequence. For a broadcast, the sound is very fine, clear enough that a few coughs are audible - from the soloists, conductor or audience? We cannot tell. Ferrier had made her American debut performing this music with Walter and the New York Philharmonic in 1948, preserved in the huge NYP Mahler set (REVIEW). And Bruno Walter had a long association with this music. He gave the world premiere in Munich in 1911, the same year the composer died, and, in addition to the NYP 1948 recording just mentioned, there is a live recording from Vienna in 1936 with Kerstin Thorborg and Charles Kullman (REVIEW), and a 1960 NYP recording with Ernst Haefliger a superb tenor soloist, Mildred Miller not up to the demands of this music.
I once owned the London/Decca LPs of the 1952 recording, also its first official CD release, in London's Historical Recording series (414 194), a disappointing transfer that missed the warmth of the original LPs. Since that time this recording has been issued in another transfer in London's Legendary series (466 576) which I have not heard, coupled with the three Ruckert-Lieder (Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, Ich atmet' einen linden Durf, Um Mitternacht) which are also included on the budget-priced Naxos issue. These were recorded three days after the live performance of Das Lied, May 20, 1952. The last of these, Um Mitternacht, according to CD notes "was an all-or nothing effort, with Walter in tears and the soloist in excruciating pain." Mark Obert-Thorn's transfer is far superior to the CD issue I'd heard. Neither CD includes texts, not too much of a problem as surely collectors will already have them on other recordings. Both of these issues are highly recommended.
R.E.B. (May 2003)