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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Das klagende Lied: Der Spielmann und Hochzeitstück (1880) [36:30]
Blumine (1885) [6:17]
Symphony No.10 - Adagio (1910) [25:50]
Manuela Uhl (soprano), Lioba Braun (alto), Werner Güra (tenor)
Czech Philharmonic Chorus Brno*
Beethoven Orchester Bonn/Stefan Blunier
rec. 14-16 May 2012, Bonn, Germany
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 937 1804-6 [68:40]

This MDG CD from the Beethoven Orchester Bonn and Stefan Blunier combines Mahler’s earliest orchestral works with his last. As so often in musical matters, there are decisions that need be made about versions and editions, and what is on offer here in this regard may well determine how much appeal the disc will hold.
 
To begin at the end: Blunier conducts just the first movement Adagio of the Tenth Symphony, which Mahler himself completed, unlike the remainder of the work. There are countless versions of the full symphony as realised by the likes of Deryck Cooke, Rudolf Barshai and Clinton Carpenter, but these take up an entire CD to themselves. Be that as it may, the Adagio of the Tenth works well as a ‘complete’ piece and has been recorded as such by Bernard Haitink and Leonard Bernstein, among others. Nor is it inappropriate to link Blunier with this exalted company, since his Bonn orchestra plays splendidly and his reading captures the ebb and flow, and occasionally the sense of crisis, of Mahler’s intense symphonic vision. As recorded here, with a wide-ranging dynamic, the violins sound thin towards the top of their range, but the climaxes are suitably powerful and the ending could hardly be more inward and sensitive.
 
In Das klagende Lied Blunier opts to omit the opening Waldmarchen movement, whereas most rival recordings include it. Among these the performances conducted by Riccardo Chailly (Double Decca 4737252) and by Michael Tilson Thomas (Avie SACD 82193 00172) are particularly fine, though it is a shame that Chandos have seen fit to delete the excellent version by Richard Hickox and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
 
Mahler completed Das Klagende Lied in 1880, at the age of twenty. This cantata for soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, chorus and orchestra, uses Mahler's own text based on an old German legend. Had he won the Conservatoire’s composition prize with it, instead of coming second, he might not have embarked upon his conducting career, his music may well have been very different, and so on. In fact, the work is thoroughly characteristic and has entered the canon of Mahler’s compositions. For a recorded performance especially, it seems a pity not to have the atmospheric Waldmarchen movement, though to be fair, what remains does sound perfectly well on its own without any undue sense of torso. In this performance the recorded sound is pleasing, and so too the contributions of the three soloists, among whom the soprano Manuela Uhl sounds particularly fine. 

Blumine
is the short second movement of the first version of the Symphony No. 1, which Mahler chose to excise after the premiere. It stands well on its own, a beautifully lyrical piece with a prominent role for the trumpet, and it is good to have this pleasing performance in the catalogue.
 
The presentation standards of the CD are high, with good documentation, but there is no libretto.
 
Terry Barfoot 


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