Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sunday Classics: Mahler's "military" songs -- (2) Blow, trumpets, blow


From the same performance as last night's Fischer-Dieskau performances, Brigitte Fassbaender offers a significantly more persuasive account of the haunting song "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen," again with Hans Zender conducting the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, April 1979

Where other composers such as Bela Bartók became increasingly interested in their native music as they grew older, Mahler seems to have absorbed the music of his homeland into his very cells at an exceedingly early age and seems then to have taken no further conscious interest in it. Instead, he built instinctively on the most powerful and primitive sources of expression throughout some of the most complex and sophisticated structures yet conceived by the Western musical mind. Perhaps that is one reason the strong appeal of Mahler's music continues to grow in our increasingly complex and often baffling age.
-- from Jack Diether's liner note for the Ludwig-Berry-Bernstein recording of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs

by Ken

This is the paragraph from Jack Diether's liner note which I quoted in last night's first part of this glimpse at Mahler's "military"-themed settings from the folk-poetry anthology Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn), where we focused on two of the shorter, less grave military songs, "Trost im Unglück" ("Comfort in Misfortune") and the "Lied des Verfolgten im Turm" ("Song of the Prisoner in the Tower"). I said last night that when we put the two paragraphs together, we would have "as good a description and summation of Mahler's art and particular genius as I can imagine in two paragraphs." (For those disinclined to click through to last night's post, we'll put those paragraphs together in tonight's click-through, though of course you'll have to click through to get to that.)

Tonight, as promised, we hear the longer and graver "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen" {"Where the Lovely Trumpets Blow"), Mahler's chiefest gift to the female soloist among the dozen "standard" Wunderhorn-group songs that aren't part of a symphony -- thereby excluding the luminous "Urlicht" ("Primal Light"), which found a place before the Finale of the Second (Resurrection) Symphony, of which we've actually heard quite a few performances, including three by Maureen Forrester: a grainy black-and-white videowith Glenn Gould conducting (!) and then performances from 1958 and 1987, from recordings of the Resurrection Symphony conducted by Bruno Walter'and Gilbert Kaplan, respectively. That post, by the way, offered Forrester singing large quantities of Mahler, including two Wunderhorn songs, "Antonius of Padua's Fish Sermon" and -- of all things! -- "Wo die schönene Trompeten blasen.").

Both of the masterly songs we're working toward tomorrow, "Revelge" ("Reveille") and "Der Tambourg'sell ("The Drummer Boy"), are pretty nearly the exclusive province of male singers, normally baritones and bass-baritones. "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen," of very nearly comparable stature, is just as near-exclusively female turf. (In further compensation, "Urlicht" itself is often performed as part of the Wunderhorn "set.")



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