Here’s a must-have for Mahler fans: Das Lied von Der Erde, performed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, with Gerhild Romberger (contralto) and Robert Dean Smith (tenor), conducted by Iván Fischer (Channel Classics). Fischer’s Mahler cycle draws to a blazing close – says Fiona Maddocks in her critical review published in The Guardian.
Fischer began his cycle of Mahler symphonies with his own Budapest players 15 years ago. This hour-long work, a visionary fusion of song and symphony, completes the project. The six orchestral lieder, exploring hedonism, youth and beauty, loneliness and a farewell to life, demand absolute conviction and stamina from every quarter.
The BFO’s playing makes this a standout performance. It’s fresh and irrepressible, woodwind reedy and nasal, horns bright and heroic, strings brilliant, with the final “Der Abschied” a half-hour’s music of draining intensity. Of the tens of recordings available, with every great singer, from Christa Ludwig to Janet Baker to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau or, performing both vocal parts, Jonas Kaufmann, Mahlerians will have their favourites. Romberger and Smith are powerful and expressive. Look out, too, for the new recording on Pentatone by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, also with Smith and, exceptional in this repertoire, Sarah Connolly.