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Das Lied Von Der Erde

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1. Allegro Pesante: The Drinking Song Of Earth's Misery
2. II. Der Einsame Im Herbst: Autumn Loneliness
3. III: Von Der Jugend: Youth
4. IV: Von Der Schonheit: Beauty
5. V. Der Trunkene Im Fruhling: Allegro: The Drunkard In Spring
6. VI. Der Abschied: The Farewell
7. Rudolph Kempe In Conversation With Gillian Widdicombe

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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Yet another outstanding Das Lied with Baker Nov. 14 2005
By L. Johan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Rudolf Kempe's Gustav Mahler interpretations are not well represented on record. On record, he is, however, a famous interpreter of Richard Strauss. This live recording from 1975 - less than a year before Kempe's death - shows his equally masterly grasp of Mahler's most complex score, which he lets speak for itself. Thus there are interesting orchestral details on this recording, seldom heard on other accounts. Only in that respect, this is a remarkable recording.

But the most interesting feature with this disc is the soloists represented. Ludovic Spiess is excellent for the tenor part, even if the recording apparently puts him a bit too far from the microphone. But this is a minor problem - the sound is more than adequate, and Spiess is no second-rate option for the work. Indeed, I found his performance as gripping as, say, Patzak for Walter. Further, this is yet another recording with Janet Baker for the mezzo/alto-part. There exist three other recordings with her in Das Lied, which means that we now have four Baker versions:

1. Kubelik, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Kmentt & Baker, 1970 live (Audite).

2. Kempe, BBC Symphony, Spiess & Baker, 1975 live (BBC legends)

2. Haitink, Concertgebouw, King & Baker, 1976 studio (Philips).

4. Leppard, BBC Northern Symphony, Mitchinson & Baker, 1977 live (BBC - nla).

Of these recordings, I hold Kubelik's to be the finest, even for the Baker performance. Haitink's interpretation is overall less convincing, and King - well, he is, in my view, too much a Heldentenor for this work. Leppard has Mitchinson who performs far better for Horenstein (BBC legends), a less preferrable BBC orchestra, and the recording is not in the best possible sound. But the Kempe recording comes close to the Kubelik standard - I would not like to be without the conductor's idiomatic and close reading, nor would I like to live in a world without Spiess' very moving performance, perfectly matched by Baker's precise tone. So it is difficult to say which one to recommend. Collectors need both, for reference. The Kubelik recording has better sound, and an excellent Kmentt in top form for the tenor part. Nonetheless, the BBC recording is very fine as well, even if Spiess sounds a bit recessed due to a small technical mistake.

In sum: if you love this work you need this record.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A weak tenor, but that hardly diminished the great Janet Baker in a signature role Sept. 25 2011
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
People would be mystified by an auto review that claimed that a Toyota Tercel equaled a Mercedes, and I feel the same way to read a London Times review that reads, "This 1975 Festival Hall performance must be one of the greatest on disc." Really? did this reviewer - and the lad reviewer here - respond to tenor Ludovic Spiess as a great Mahler interpreter? That would mean disqualifying his scrawny voice, strained singing, iffy intonation, and lack of power, which are all glaringly evident. Spiess is well and truly forgotten for good reason.

What's left is Janet Baker and Rudolf Kempe, and here the news is much better. Baker was renowned for her interpretation of Das Lied von der Erde, which she took around the world. Unfortunately, she wasn't in best voice by any means when she made her only commercial recording of the work in 1979 with an ill-suited Haitink as accompanist (Philips). An early BBC release with John Mitchinson as tenor - better than Spiess by miles but no prize - had second-rate conducting and dated sound. anew benchmark was set when Audite released a lovely reading with the admirable Waldemar Kmentt as tenor. The stars seemed mostly aligned: Baker was in excellent voice, and the only thing that made me squirm was Kubelik's impatience, particularly in the great final Abshcied, which lost some of its depth and resonance taken at his quickened pace. If you have a singer who can sustain a long line at a true Adagio, you should thank your stars and not rush her.

Kempe is gentler and more patient; we don't have much Mahler form him, but he shows a kind of Bruno Walter humanism and tenderness in Das Lied. Don't expect sharp contrasts or dramatic tension, however. Klemperer had much more to say a decade before when he recorded the score on EMI. It's also a slight drawback that the miking is somewhat distant. We don't know what Kempe would have accomplished with the BBC Sym. had he lived longer - this concert took place the year before he died at 65 - but they are not in the same league as Klemperer's New Philharmonia. The high point is the long orchestral interlude in the last song, which I must say is beautifully done.

In the Abschied, which takes 31 min. fully half the length of the whole work, Kempe is certainly not impatient, and much of the time he graciously defers to his soloist. No bad ting, since Baker's reading is quite sublime, as fine as any she delivers on disc. I've herd her be more intense, but everything here is deeply moving. On balance I would choose the Kubelik version as being more balanced, thanks to a better tenor, but Baker's devotees will gain enormous pleasure from this recording.

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