Author Topic: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"  (Read 1990 times)

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Offline EigenUser

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Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« on: June 29, 2014, 01:49:30 AM »
Is anyone here a fan of these songs? I don't usually like songs that much, but these are really nicely done and they shed some light on his symphonic work as well because there are crossovers. Some are blatantly obvious like the 4th movement of the 2nd symphony (or the 3rd movement, for that matter), whereas others are much more subtle. For instance, he quotes "The Praise of the Lofty Intellect" in the 9th as a "screw you" to critics who said he lacked basic standard compositional training, and then he goes on to write the highly contrapuntal and complex 3rd movement.

My favorite is the hilarious "Saint Antonius of Padua's Sermon to the Fishes", which is essentially the same piece as the scherzo of the 2nd symphony. The lyrics are about Saint Antonius going to preach at a seaside town, only to find the church empty. So, he goes to the ocean preaches to the fishes, who all come swimming to listen. They are fascinated by the sermon ("The carp was never present for a sermon so pleasant!") and all listen attentively. In the end, though, they don't change their ways ("The crab still walks backward, the carp still a glutton, the flounder still awkward; the sermon, though pleasant, remains forgotten, their sins are not lessened!"). Sounds awfully familiar to humans, doesn't it? The "Rhine Legend" is also a favorite of mine.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2014, 03:05:52 AM »
I love most of them! As a relative beginner 20 years ago I preferred Mahler's songs to his symphonies and I still think they are a very important part of his oeuvre. You already pointed out the importance of these songs for the first 4 symphonies and also some of the others. (Although I thought "Lob des hohen Verstandes" (an ass a judge prefers in a singing contest the cuckoo to the nightingale) was quoted in the finale of the 5th symphony.

Apart from the "standard" 12 or 13 Wunderhorn settings there are more among the early songs. A few of these have been orchestrated by Berio (recorded by Hampson/Teldec and by now also some others, I think) and they are worthwhile also in the piano version.

My favorites are "Revelge" (ghost soldier), "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen" (ghost lover), "Der Tamboursg'sell" (depicting a soldier on his way to execution), pretty dreary, I know, but they are spooky and very moving. I think "Revelge" and "Tamboursgsell" share some mood and motives with the funeral march bits in the 5th and 6th symphony.

I think the first symphony has mainly connections to the "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" (Texts by Mahler, but in "Wunderhorn style"), although the Laendler/Scherzo second movement may have similarities to some of the early Lieder (Ringelreihn/Maitanz im Grünen (May Dance))

As you said, the 3rd movement of the Resurrection symphony is based on the "Fischpredigt", the 4th is "Urlicht", also a Wunderhorn setting
The 3rd symphony has again one explicit Wunderhorn setting (Bimm bamm chorus) and one allusion, the 3rd movement's main section is based on the early "Ablösung im Sommer" (Cuckoo fell to his death).

The 4th symphony has of course "Das himmlische Leben" as finale.






Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2014, 12:30:34 PM »
These songs were my introduction to Mahler, and the first Mahler disc I owned (the classic Szell recording with Schwarzkopf and Fischer-Dieskau). It's still one of my favourite records.

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Offline knight66

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2014, 11:45:05 PM »
I have been listening to them for a generation and never tire of them. The military is so wonderfully rammed up against bucolic or romantic songs. I do like the Szell a lot, but my favorite recording is Wyn Morris conducting Geraint Evans and a young Janet Baker. Her breath control is astounding and her tone, tender and fun filled as required.

Mike
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2014, 12:52:39 AM »
Morris/Baker/Evans was my first recordings of those. It is a little rough in spots, but brings out the characteristics very well. Evans is linguistically challenged, but quite expressive.
Another great one is Forrester/Rehfuss on Vanguard. It was reissued in a twofer with one of Abravanel's symphonies.

Both may not be to easy to find nowadays.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline knight66

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2014, 06:24:12 AM »
Yes, Evans is what I would call bluff, a bit rough and ready. But I think Morris catches the fantasy and Baker is terrific.

Mike
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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2014, 06:57:05 AM »
My understanding of the Knaben Wunderhorn has been complete confusion so maybe it is time to put my thoughts in order. Part of the problem is that early songs by Mahler were taken from this collection. Wiki to the rescue:

"The settings of Des Knaben Wunderhorn by Gustav Mahler are orchestral songs and voice and piano settings of poems from Des Knaben Wunderhorn ('The Youth's Magic Horn') a collection of anonymous German folk poems assembled by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano and published by them, in heavily redacted form, between 1805 and 1808.
10 songs set for soprano or baritone and orchestra were first published by Mahler as a cycle in 1905. but in total 12 orchestral songs exist, and a similar number of songs for voice and piano.

Lieder und Gesänge is a collection of fourteen songs with piano accompaniment by Gustav Mahler. The title of the collection is sometimes given with the addendum aus der Jugendzeit (from the early days), but this addendum is not by Mahler...The title might also simply refer to the source of the major part of the lyrics, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn). The songs were composed from 1880 to 1889 and published in three booklets in 1892.

Vol. 1 (composed 1880/81)
Frühlingsmorgen - Spring morning (Richard Leander)
Erinnerung - Memory (Richard Leander)
Hans und Grete - Hans and Grethe (Gustav Mahler)
Serenade aus Don Juan - Serenade (Tirso de Molina)
Phantasie aus Don Juan - Imagination (Tirso de Molina)

The nine Wunderhorn settings therein were composed between 1887 and 1890, and occupied the second and third volumes of this three-volume collection.

Vol. 2
Um schlimme Kinder artig zu machen - How to make naughty children behave
Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald - I walked with joy
Aus! Aus! - Out! Out!
Starke Einbildungskraft - Strong Imagination

Vol. 3
Zu Straßburg auf der Schanz' - On the ramparts at Strasbourg
Ablösung im Sommer - Changing of the summer relief
Scheiden und Meiden - Parting is painful
Nicht wiedersehen! - Never to meet again!
Selbstgefühl - Self-esteem
 
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Songs of a Wayfarer (1885) is supposed to be Mahler's first actual cycle but has some Wunderhorn: "The lyrics are by the composer himself, though they are influenced by Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of German folk poetry that was one of Mahler's favorite books, and the first song is actually based on the Wunderhorn poem "Wann [sic] mein Schatz"."

Mahler began work on his next group of Wunderhorn settings in 1892. A collection (not a 'cycle') of 12 of these was published in 1899, under the title Humoresken ('Humoresques'), and formed the basis of what is now known simply (and somewhat confusingly) as Mahler's 'Songs from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"'

The titles in this 1899 collection are:

"Der Schildwache Nachtlied" – The Sentinel's Nightsong (January/February 1892)
"Verlor'ne Müh" – Labour Lost (February 1892)
"Trost im Unglück" – Solace in Misfortune (April 1892)
"Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?" – Who Thought up this Song? (April 1892)
"Das irdische Leben" – The Earthly Life (after April 1892)
"Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt" – St. Anthony of Padua's Sermon to the Fish (July/August 1893)
"Rheinlegendchen" – Little Rhine Legend (August 1893)
"Lied des Verfolgten im Turm" – Song of the Persecuted in the Tower (July 1898), see: Die Gedanken sind frei
"Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen" – Where the Fair Trumpets Sound (July 1898)
"Lob des hohen Verstandes" – Praise of Lofty Intellect (June 1896)
"Urlicht" – Primeval Light (1893)
"Es sungen drei Engel" – Three Angels sang a sweet air (1895)

"After 1901, 'Urlicht' and 'Es sungen drei Engel' were removed from the collection, and replaced in later editions by two other songs, thus restoring the total number of songs in the set to twelve. The two new songs were:

"Revelge" – Reveille (July 1899)
"Der Tamboursg'sell" – The Drummer Boy (August 1901)"

I hope all this didn't take too much space. Any thoughts on the above?
ZB
« Last Edit: July 06, 2014, 10:11:25 PM by zamyrabyrd »
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Offline knight66

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2014, 11:54:18 AM »
Thanks for laying all that out. I was dimly aware that what are commonly called the Wunderhorn songs formed only part of the work inspired by the poems, but I have never read the sequencing in an organised way. We know that as well he quoted tunes and therefore ideas from the collection within the earlier symphonies.

Mike
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2014, 12:42:56 PM »
The two latest songs were published with some of the Rückert settings, AFAIR.
In any case most recordings contain the 12 usual songs as you describe in your last paragraph. Some also have in addition Urlicht, or Das himmlische Leben (4th symphony).

The early "Lieder and Gesänge" are recorded less frequently, often only a few settings as fillers.
Berio orchestrated 10 of them, "Erinnerung" in two settings, "Ablösung im Sommer", "Zu Strassburg...", "Nicht wiedersehn!", "Um schlimme Kinder...", "Hans und Grete (= Maitanz im Grünen), "Ich ging mit Lust", "Frühlingsmorgen", "Scheiden und Meiden", "Phantasie"

The disc with Hampson singing these Berio arrangements contains also two further Lieder from 1880, apparently only published in 1991: "Im Lenz" and "Winterlied" (lyrics by Mahler in Wunderhorn-style).
Roland Hermann recorded the three volumes in the order given by zamyrabyrd for Claves

Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2018, 11:50:29 AM »
Let's consider the question of recordings. These are the two I have:

(the classic Szell recording with Schwarzkopf and Fischer-Dieskau).

Another great one is Forrester/Rehfuss on Vanguard.

I like the Szell overall, but there are points where Schwarzkopf's performance makes me cringe a little. I got the Vanguard recently, have listened to it a bit, but so far don't see what the big fuss is about. Probably I need to listen more intently.

In the meantime other recordings have come out: Chailly, Nagano, Boulez. Any thoughts on these?

I feel a slight sense of frustration, because I have a hard time defining just how I want to hear these songs. If it sounds too operatic or Lieder-like, it puts me off somehow, even if I can admire the performance. I think I would like something more reminiscent of folk singing, given the origins of these songs. Does this make sense? Any ideas?
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Offline Jo498

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2018, 12:10:05 PM »
The Vanguard is very "natural" as far as I recall (not folksy, just straightforward compared to Fi-Di, Schwarzkopf etc.), maybe a little to "normal" for what you are looking for. I have not heard any of the more recent ones you mention. But I don't expect any of them to be like folk singing and I think this would simply be wrong. The texts  are pseudo-naive but still clearly art songs and should be sung that way.
Try to find Evans/Baker/Morris. Especially Evans is a little rough (and sometimes his diction/pronunciation sucks) but very emotional and "direct".
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline LKB

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2018, 01:22:28 PM »
Let's consider the question of recordings. These are the two I have:

I like the Szell overall, but there are points where Schwarzkopf's performance makes me cringe a little. I got the Vanguard recently, have listened to it a bit, but so far don't see what the big fuss is about. Probably I need to listen more intently.

In the meantime other recordings have come out: Chailly, Nagano, Boulez. Any thoughts on these?

I feel a slight sense of frustration, because I have a hard time defining just how I want to hear these songs. If it sounds too operatic or Lieder-like, it puts me off somehow, even if I can admire the performance. I think I would like something more reminiscent of folk singing, given the origins of these songs. Does this make sense? Any ideas?

Aside from the Szell/Schwarzkopf/DF-D recording ( a must-have imho, though l also have always had reservations regarding the soprano songs ), l enjoy the Haitink/Norman/Shirley-Quirk effort from the 1970's.

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=7867

Humming,

LKB
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2018, 03:00:21 PM »
I've never quite understood the antipathy to Schwarzkopf in the soprano songs. The "mannered" epithet is like a mantra people keep repeating, without actually listening to what she's doing.

Off topic, but it's the same mantra people keep repeating about Callas's supposedly flapping top C in O patria mia on her studio recording of Aida. Well, it may not be dolce, as marked in the score (only Caballe really manages that), but it's actually pretty solid, more secure than Hatziano on the new Pappano, and in tune, unlike Tebaldi, who is flat (though nobody ever mentions that).
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Offline André

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2018, 03:37:34 PM »
The Vanguard is very "natural" as far as I recall (not folksy, just straightforward compared to Fi-Di, Schwarzkopf etc.), maybe a little to "normal" for what you are looking for. I have not heard any of the more recent ones you mention. But I don't expect any of them to be like folk singing and I think this would simply be wrong. The texts  are pseudo-naive but still clearly art songs and should be sung that way.
Try to find Evans/Baker/Morris. Especially Evans is a little rough (and sometimes his diction/pronunciation sucks) but very emotional and "direct".

The Prohaska (Vanguard) recording is my favourite version. Much as I love Forrester’s singing to pieces, it’s Rehfuss who makes this recording through his nonpareil storytelling talent. His verbal acuity is specific, not generic, and never too knowing or avuncular.

That being said, the Morris recording is too far down memory lane to pass judgment. Since I heard it many moons ago I’ve come to love his interpretations of the symphonies (well, some of them, as he never went for a complete set). So maybe I’ll catch the bug on this version upon reacquaintance. Plus, I love Janet Baker, so... :)

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2018, 03:47:11 PM »
I'll have to give the Prohaska a more detailed listen, since praise for it is virtually unanimous among Mahler fans.

One question: what's  the actual orchestra playing on this? My copy credits the "Orchestra of the Vienna Festival" (whatever that is), but other issues credit the Vienna Symphony or even Vienna State Opera Orchestra (which would be the same players as the Vienna Philharmonic, right?).
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Offline André

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2018, 04:37:15 PM »
My understanding is that it’s a pickup orchestra drawn from various viennese bands as well as free lance muscians.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2018, 01:09:18 AM »
The name is obviously made up. ;) It could be a pickup orchestra, it could be the Volksoper orchestra, it could even be taken from the pool of the Staatsoper but incognito for contractual reasons. The Vienna Philharmonic is not identical with the orchestra of the Staatsoper but an elite subset of it. All members of the Philharmonic are also members of the Staatsoper but not vice versa.

I have to listen to the Prohaska/Rehfuss/Forrester again. Because the Morris/Baker/Evans was my first recording of this music and the one I listened to by far the most often, it is the only one that is "present" in my mind without having listened recently.
It might not be easy to find on CD, I only seen an outrageously priced issue (I'd better make a backup to be sure my copy stays alive), maybe easier on vinyl.

ASIN: B000FVKHS4

There are cheaper options, probably in identical sound but the above is the one I have
ASIN: B00000E05Q
ASIN: B000000TJZ
download:
ASIN: B01LXG9RIK
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Biffo

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2018, 02:22:57 AM »
Like several other contributors the Szell/Schwarzkopf/Fischer-Dieskau version was my first introduction to DKW. My reaction to both singers has varied over the years. I still think they are incomparable in some songs but occasionally I have problems with Schwarzkopf. The other controversial aspect of this (and some other recordings) is the decision to perform some songs as duets. This was not Mahler's intention, the songs are narrations. Schwarzkopf and F-D are great fun in in the comic 'duets'  but I prefer 'Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen' to be sung by a single singer, preferably a baritone. Having said that, Maureen Forrester is my favourite performer for this song (with Prohaska).

Mahler wanted DKW to be performed with a chamber orchestra in a small hall though this rarely happens. In early 1905 Mahler gave 'Ein Lieder-Abend mit Orchester'. From the surviving parts it seems the orchestra had no more than 36 members. Seven songs from DKW were sung by two baritones and a tenor; the tenor (Fritz Schrodter) was their solely to sing 'Revelge' - the only song Mahler wrote for a tenor. In the second hald Friedrich Weidemann (baritone) gave the first performance of 'Kinertotenlieder'. This was followed by the two baritones singing the four Ruckert songs that he had orchestrated; the concert concluded with Weidemann singing 'Um Mitterancht'. A few days later the programme was repeated but with the addition of a soprano to sing three more DKW songs.

Thomas Hampson -my faourite Mahlerian singer - has recorded all 14 of the orchestral DKW songs (the usual 12 plus 'Urlicht' and 'Das himmliche Leben' ) with the Wiener Virtuosen (players drawn from the Vienna Philharmonic). It is an excellent album but I wish Hampson had recorded it earlier as I think his voice is showing signs of wear (2011). The record cover incorrectly claims this is the first 'chamber-sized' performance.

Riccardo Chailly and a chamber-sized Concertgebouw Orchestra beat Hampson to it in 2002. Chailly has the excellent Gosta Windbergh (tenor) to sing 'Revelge' and Mathias Goerne to sing the baritone songs. From past discussions I know that others like Barabara Bonney's contributions more than I do. An excellent recording even so.

It is a shame that Morris/Baker/Evans isn't more readily available; I managed to track it down on a secondhand LP.

The cover of the Vanguard Classics version of the Prohaska performance has 'Vienna Symphony' on the cover and 'Orchestra of the Vienna Festival' on the back. I am sure it is, as others have said, a pick-up orchestra.

Enough for now!

Offline Jo498

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2018, 02:33:48 AM »
Another of the small flaws of Evans/Baker is that some songs are performed as duets although not "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen" (Baker)
As duets: Lied des Gefangenen (Die Gedanken sind frei), Der Schildwache Nachtlied (Ich kann und mag nicht lustig sein), Trost im Unglück (Wohlan die Zeit ist kommen), and Verlorne Müh (a piece I really dislike, it is beyond silly and the pseudo-dialect, probably an approximation to an actual ~1800 dialect but it is certainly too close to normal German to be a plausible rendition of a real dialect that would be much further from High German, makes it worse).

I am so ingrained on Revelge with a baritone that I can hardly imagine it with a tenor.

As for Hampson in fresher voice, he did a complete version with piano in the 1990s (?) His most valuable Mahler for me are the Berio orchestrations of the early Lieder.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2018, 02:35:22 AM by Jo498 »
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Biffo

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Re: Mahler's "Des Knaben Wunderhorn"
« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2018, 03:32:00 AM »
Another of the small flaws of Evans/Baker is that some songs are performed as duets although not "Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen" (Baker)
As duets: Lied des Gefangenen (Die Gedanken sind frei), Der Schildwache Nachtlied (Ich kann und mag nicht lustig sein), Trost im Unglück (Wohlan die Zeit ist kommen), and Verlorne Müh (a piece I really dislike, it is beyond silly and the pseudo-dialect, probably an approximation to an actual ~1800 dialect but it is certainly too close to normal German to be a plausible rendition of a real dialect that would be much further from High German, makes it worse).

I am so ingrained on Revelge with a baritone that I can hardly imagine it with a tenor.

As for Hampson in fresher voice, he did a complete version with piano in the 1990s (?) His most valuable Mahler for me are the Berio orchestrations of the early Lieder.

'Verlorne Muh' is apparently in a Swabian dialect. How accurately it is transcribed by von Arnim and Brentano or sung by the various singers I have no idea.

I have a 1989 disc of Hampson singing Wunderhorn songs from Mahler, Brahms, Strauss, Schoenberg and others - a fine recital. I also have the Berio disc you mention. I will have to check out the complete Mahler DKW with piano.

I am also used to hearing Revelge with a baritone - Fischer-Dieskau is imprinted on my brain - but it is good to hear it with a tenor as Mahler intended.

Mahler once said that all his songs were conceived with a baritone in mind and Friedrich Weidemann was one of his favourite singers but I think you have to take the remark with a pinch of salt.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2018, 06:00:45 AM by Biffo »