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MAHLER Des Knaben Wunderhorn & Symphonie No. 10: Adagio

Magdalena Kožená
Christian Gerhaher
The Cleveland Orchestra/
Pierre Boulez

DG CD 000289 477 9060 [Live at Cleveland, 11 February 2010; 73 mins]


This CD, received after several days sitting at the feet of Boulez with his Academy at Lucerne, has a gorgeous, sonorous account of the surviving Adagio of the unfinished 10th symphony (Boulez considers the various completions 'poor'), and it sounds very much a close-miked recording, rather than a concert experience.

A dozen songs are divided between Magdalena Kožena, who has the fewer (although, heard live, she apparently impressed the better) and Christian Gerhaher who sounds strained just very occasionally, but dominates these accounts with his colourful and dramatic delivery. Maybe there was some generous "patching' after the concert?

But most peculiar is it that in the three duets Gerhaher takes on the female roles too; what a wasted opportunity...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No.1, Symphony No.3
Wiener Philharmoniker/Boulez
Christian Tetzlaff, violin

Deutsche Grammophon DG - 4778771: [49 mins; £21.25]

"Song of the Night" is not really a symphony to usual connotations. I am not your best adviser on the extreme "oriental chromaticism / impressionistic modernism" of this choral Third Symphony. It is just not to my taste; my preference is for the composer's later music, such as the Stabat Mater and some of the songs (I produced an LP of the Twenty Children's Rhymes long ago...).

I spent the beginning of "Song of the Night" trying to decide what language the choir was singing in (Polish, it transpired), only to learn later than for the first performance the choral part was taken by an organ; probably just as good, as there is no significant word-setting.

The violin concerto, lushly orchestrated though it be, is more acceptable because one can focus on Christian Tetzlaff’s intense soloing (well recorded, not too forward); but, as The Independent says, "a little Dionysiac ravishment goes a long way"...

The disc is lavishishly presented in a hard booklet and is ridiculously overpriced... If you must have it, wait for a re-issue in due course !