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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 7, No. 3

Das Lied von der Erde

by Wah Keung Chan / November 1, 2001

Version française...

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of Mahler’s death, many organizations are presenting Mahler’s last great work Das Lied von der Erde--The Song of the Earth. Chamber ensembles such as I Musici de Montréal (Nov 28) are turning to Arnold Schoenberg’s orchestration, which reduces each part to one player. The cycle is made of six songs alternating between tenor and mezzo. “The tenor has the drinking songs while the mezzo has the more reflective text,” said Canadian tenor Nils Brown, who will be performing at the I Musici performance. The tenor part is one of the most challenging in the repertoire, with the tessitura lying consistently in the break for the tenor, and requires a singer with superb legato. Because of the normal heavy orchestration, the part has often been miscast with inflexible dramatic tenors. The best recording is of Fritz Wunderlich in EMI’s Klemperer recording from 1965. “You can’t bark or shout,” said Brown who has already performed the Schoenberg version three times with Santa Fe Pro Musica and the Smithsonian Chamber Players in April 2001. “The key is in the text. Mahler set the text masterfully, he uses the consonants to overcome the vocal challenges,” Brown said. The first song “Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde” requires bravado, but for Brown, the third song is the most challenging, “It needs more nuance.” Said Brown, “The work appeals to me because of its theme of nature.”

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