RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR
‘Jurowski stands back from the score, marvelling at its intricacies while respecting the stillness and balance’
Edward Seckerson welcomes a splendid account of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, with glorious singing and orchestral playing under the superb guidance of Vladimir Jurowski
Mahler Das Lied von der Erde Dame Sarah Connolly mez Robert Dean Smith ten Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski Pentatone F Í PTC5186 760 (63’ • DDD/DSD • T/t)
This is a performance of such distinction that regardless of one’s personal view of the piece – that is, exactly how objective or subjective you want or need your Mahler to be, and whether you favour an alto or baritone voice – it must be considered a prime contender for anyone’s library.
It was recorded in 2018 in Berlin’s Philharmonie and offers the kind of forensic balancing and clarity that only an expertly engineered recording can achieve without drawing undue attention to itself. Clearly Jurowski is of the opinion (and Adám Fischer essayed this very point in the booklet notes for his recent Düsseldorf recording – AVIMusic, 6/19) that given the symphonic nature of the piece, the solo voices – ie the singers – are an integral part of the orchestral texture and in ever-shifting dialogues with their ‘instrumental’ counterparts. So the singing voices aren’t soloistically spotlit but rather subsumed into the orchestral sound, so we get a wonderfully subtle interplay between the many ‘voices’ in this aural canvas, with Jurowski illuminating the texture from within, as it were, with all the finesse required of a seasoned watercolourist.
Listen to the solo cello in ‘Der Einsame im Herbst’ reach out and shroud the alto voice with the line ‘a cold wind forces them to bow their stems low’ – the chill of the image finding solace in the warmth of their exchange. ‘I weep in my solitude’, says the poet, and solo bassoon and oboe, again in their immediacy, eloquently convey what the singing voice and words alone cannot. Then there are the animated figurines busying themselves in the porcelain pavilion of ‘Von der Jugend’ and the astonishingly improvisatory oboe plaints of ‘Der Abschied’, which are tangible in ways they never can be in the concert hall. In short, I cannot imagine a more revealing exposition of Mahler’s instrumental colorations. Everything stands in such sharp relief. And because there is literally nowhere to hide, the soloists of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra are revealed for the outstanding artists they individually and collectively are.
Let me celebrate the singers now. You get none of that hard-pressed ‘fudging’ from Robert Dean Smith in the notorious tenor PHO T O G R A P H Y
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22 GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2020