06a_mahler_4_ruckertMahler - Symphony No. 4; Ruckert-Lieder

Magdalena Kožená; Lucerne Festival Orchestra; Claudio Abbado

EuroArts 2057988





06b_mahler_knabenMahler - Des Knaben Wunderhorn; Adagio from Symphony No. 10

Magdalena Kožená; Christian Gerhaher; Cleveland Orchestra; Pierre Boulez

Deutsche Grammophon 477 9060

These two exceptional performances can be counted among the crown jewels of the flood of recent discs celebrating the legacy of Gustav Mahler. The mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, an artist of exceptional intelligence and sensitivity well known for her artfully calculated interpretations, features in both of these items. Kožená is at her best in her performance of the Rückert-Lieder with the superb Lucerne Festival Orchestra. This hand-picked ensemble of Europe’s finest musicians meets each summer under Claudio Abbado’s direction and possesses a clairvoyant ability to respond instantly to his minutest gestures. Their stunning live performance of the Fourth Symphony captured here on a EuroArts DVD is a miracle of gracefulness, though the macabre sarcasm of this most accessible of Mahler’s symphonies is equally pointed. The highlight of this disc is the beautifully paced third movement, which flows seamlessly into the bucolic vocal finale.

Ms Kožená is joined by the admirable baritone Christian Gerhaher in twelve selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn song cycle on the Deutsche Grammophon label. This is a live performance with The Cleveland Orchestra and completes the cycle of Mahler’s orchestral works recorded by Pierre Boulez over the past 15 years with various orchestras. Unfortunately the rustic charms and barnyard humour of these early songs of Mahler’s do not seem particularly well suited to the über-urbane Boulez, who adapts some curiously strait-laced tempos and, with the exception of Gerhaher’s chilling account of the militant masterpiece Revelge, delivers a generally mundane though admirably dapper performance. Boulez redeems himself utterly however with his supple, near-ideal rendition of the posthumous Adagio from the incomplete Tenth Symphony. This highly chromatic, searching movement culminating in a shattering, ten-note dissonance points to the future and as such is clearly dear to his heart. The Cleveland Orchestra yet again distinguishes itself as the finest band in the land.


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